If my mom was still able to work, we’d probably be doing fine. She’s a certified nurse and used to have a good-paying job. But a C-section left her with lots of medical problems, and she’s not allowed to work. My dad lost his good-paying job and now works in the back at Krispy Kreme Donuts. I had to postpone college to help out my parents, but I’ve been looking for a job for six months and can’t find one. So we’ve become six people living on one income – my parents, my younger brother and sister, and my baby and me.
It’s hard for us, but somehow we get by. I mean, everyone helps everyone here in Zion City. Our landlord works with us when we’re late with the rent. There are months when my parents ask us to choose between having the lights on and running water, so our neighbor lets us take buckets of water from his house. We can’t put off paying my mom’s medical bills and her oxygen, so we struggle to get enough to eat – especially since losing our food stamps the last time my mom was in the hospital. She couldn’t get the paperwork in on time and every time she tries to reapply, something goes wrong. It makes a big difference that we get canned food and things like packs of noodles once a month from a food pantry. That’s pretty much what we eat since we can’t afford fresh foods from the stores around here (they have really high prices). When my dad gets paid, he’ll bring home chicken or hamburger meat and add Hamburger Helper and canned vegetables to stretch it out for a few days.
I worry about everyone in the household having something to eat. I’m like the backup parent, the person my little brother and sister lean on most of the time. At home, they come to me a lot and say, ‘Sissy, you know, I’m hungry.’ So I make sure they eat breakfast and lunch at the school programs. They eat a lot of meals at friends’ houses, and when they’re at a party, they’ll try to bring back a plate of food for my parents and me. They try to help out their best, being children. Sometimes my parents and I eat nothing but once a day. It’s not normal to eat once a day, but if you’re struggling, that’s the only thing you can do. At least we’re eating something. I make sure that my son eats and then I worry about myself. That’s just what a parent does. I take him to a lunch program to make sure he’s getting food. It’s an important program because it provides for people that normally can’t afford hot food throughout the week.
I just have to live day by day and do what I can. I still want to go to college and become a nurse. Then I’ll be able to get a good job and help out my parents with the bills. After all they gave me growing up, it’s more of a burden emotionally not to help them out than it will be financially.