Alex, New York
When I left Ireland in 1961, coming to America was the bees’ knees. Even though much of my life gays had more challenges than we do today, I used to think, ‘Oh, life is fine, I can go on forever.’ Then all of a sudden I became almost a complete invalid. I never thought that someday I’d be like this – struggling to make ends meet, in a wheelchair because of a few strokes, unable to do things myself. I didn’t know what was going to happen to me. Sometimes, I didn’t care what happened to me. It’s very difficult to even talk about.
I spent a long while rehabilitating in a nursing home. It was depressing there and I just had to get back home to my apartment. Seniors should be able to live out the rest of their lives in their homes – to have things around them that are familiar. No matter how old we are, we always like to be a little independent, you know? I’m home now, but I can’t do much for myself in this wheelchair. I can’t manage to cook. I can no longer work at the antique shop. For a while, my situation really depressed me. I don’t have any family here in America. They’re all gone.
Now, five days a week I get Meals on Wheels delivered. It has been a godsend. Without it, I think I would have ended up in a nursing home for good because these meals are the only way I can get a balanced meal now, which I need to regain my strength.
Up until the strokes, my life was kind of wild for someone my age – 81. I found a lot of activities to do for free. But on my Social Security and pension from Chase, I have less than 200 dollars to spend on food for the entire month so I’d hang out at my church where there was a lot of filming going on all the time. They were always feeding the film crews, so there were always lots of leftovers. Otherwise, I was subsisting on toast and tea, cans of soup. Sometimes, I’d buy grapes.
If you have money, you can have a nice retirement. But if you don’t have it, you have to take what you get. I lost a lot of my investments in the crash of 2008. My brother in Ireland sends me a little money once in a while. If I stayed at Chase longer, if I would have learned to keep up with the technology, I’d have a little more money. Woulda, coulda, shoulda.
Now that my physical therapy has run out from Medicare, I’ve tried to get on Medicaid so I can continue recovering. I can’t afford paying for therapy on my own. But I’m told that I make too much to get on Medicaid, and yet I have too little. I keep a few dollars under my bed but that’s not enough. So, I’ll just have to wait.
I’m hoping to become a little more self-sufficient. I’m hoping to able to take my Rollator and go across the street and get something at the store that I want. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to walk on my own. But I’m going to do the best I can. What I see for next year is Alex being out again, and doing the things that he did a year and a half ago.