When the military denied my request for financial help, it was like putting a dagger in my back. I spent almost 30 years in the air force. When Sadaam invaded Kuwait, I had to explain to my son that if we go to war, I could be sent on active duty, and we would have to find somebody to take care of him. His whole face just dropped.
What the children of military go through stays with them their whole lives. That’s why I get angry when people say I’m pampering my son. Since he got laid off after the economy went down the toilet, I have helped him out. But he has essentially become my caregiver. It’s cheaper to pay my son’s bills than to hire a full time caregiver.
We used to be comfortable. But supporting two households is a real struggle. I don’t buy big fabulous things, but my monthly VA benefits and social security are no longer enough. I have already used up my savings to keep us from becoming homeless and one month, I came within three and a half hours of losing my son’s house. And although I feel embarrassed to ask for help – I was the one always helping others – I begged the bank, saying, ‘look we’re doing the best we can. I don’t want it to go into foreclosure,’ and the bank came through. There are months when I have to skip paying certain bills, but we can catch up when my son picks up part-time work. My medical is pretty well taken care of by the VA, but I can no longer afford food like I used to. Where previously I made some fairly tasty dinners and might have two or three chicken thighs in a meal, now make soup out of them and spread it over the week. I can’t get food from the local food pantry because it doesn’t carry lactose and gluten-free foods and that’s what my doctor told me I had to eat.
Feeding my young grandson properly is the priority, so I have to find things that I know fill me up. I’ll eat peanut butter and celery for lunch rather than fix myself a real meal. You can get a bunch of celery for $0.88 and a jar of peanut butter for $1.50 at the military commissary. Three jars of peanut butter last me about a month. I guess my body will adapt to eating less and I can get nutrition from the vitamins the doctors have me taking for my medical problems.
My son is trying to very hard to get a full time job, but hasn’t. He is trying to get into the solar business, and if he does, we will be ok again. I would like to eat something besides peanut butter and celery. But I look at reality. My goal is to get out of debt so that when my time comes, my children won’t have to worry about it. I would like to be able to say I left something for my kids – something for them to remember me by.