Thursday, November 29, 2012

On Set Backs

We can surround ourselves with memories of the past, but life will move on anyway.

  When I was a child in church and the minister would say, that Earth is not our home, I used to think that he was just plain crazy.  In rural counties in the 1960s, people worked hard. They sent their children to a neighborhood school.  Husbands and wives raised their children together. Gasoline was 54.9 cents per gallon, and cheaper if you drove out farther.  Out in the country, there were still a few old machines which dispensed a small green bottle of coca cola for ten cents.   Soda was a slice of Heaven for a kid, because it was a rarity.  Most of us had soda on birthdays, Christmas, or if we were sick. People protected their children for the most part, keeping them safe until they too could take their places in the world and protect their own children.  Of course, there were reasons for this.  America's memory of WWII still existed. My father's generation had fought a war in which the very existence of our way of life was threatened..  They wanted their children and grandchildren to grow up and feel safe, and I realize that I was very much a beneficiary of this.  There was also a feeling that communists wanted to alter or destroy our good way of life in the US, and so people were afraid to disappoint God and lose his favor.  Most families we knew were intact and were loving. When a parent died, the entire town would rally around a family and take the son to ballgames, and the daughter out to buy clothes before school started.  People helped each other.  When my mother had pneumonia, other rural owners and farms brought eggs, casseroles, whatever they could to try to help.  They brought toys to occupy my brother and I, so we could let my mother recover.  It seemed to me that life was very good, and so were people, and that trials would come, but that also as the minister said, we would be enveloped in safety and that when trials would come, God would be there to make sure that our learning was not more than we could manage.
                     Well, the exuberance of youth is not foolish.  It exists because it's what we need in order to go out into the world and make a life in the face of a world which I realize now, is  really not our home. God has built in the cockiness of youth because it allows us to learn to be everything from neurosurgeons to pilots before we think too hard about how difficult and how unwise some things are.  Hopefully, by the time you are a professional fighter pilot or a neurosurgeon and your exuberance of youth leaves you, you have some judgement in its place.  My exuberance of youth was spent learning to be a nurse, and then a young wife and mother of two small children, who decided that in the 1980s, her family's opportunities would be better in the South than in the cold and expensive Northeast.  I did not awaken to many of the realities of life for many, until I was firmly placed in Virginia as a young homeowner.
                      Set backs come in every life. Some of them, like the loss of a grandparent can be foreseen, and anticipated, and others strike us out of the blue.  There have certainly been set backs in my own life in addition to the anticipated variety.  Our third child being born a preemie and then having repeated apnea was a challenge.  The financial challenges of that experience, even with insurance were frightening.  Our young daughter developing juvenile autoimmune diabetes following a virus, was another faith shaking difficulty.  The trials of life when our eldest son developed Crohn's Disease and could not attain a remission also changed our family life for the duration.   I was very lucky however, in that I have never known a blinding loss until my late forties when our youngest son died when he was 12 of uncertain causes.  The eventual theory, the result of multiple autopsies is that he experienced a heart rhythm disturbance, as do an increasing number of children and young adults, who often are playing sports when they die suddenly.  This particular family set back has been life defining, and I am not sure that we ever really get over set backs of this magnitude during our time on Earth.  We just learn that we must move forward, if just for those we still love.

Make sure that your bathroom is comfortable enough to grieve in, because in this life, we will sometime.

                     Financial challenges are much more a part of life now, than I believe they were for the contemporaries of my parents in the 1960s.   People were frugal then, but it was easier to get a start, and perhaps people knew how to help one another better than they do today. When I was a child, I never knew anyone on welfare or anyone who had lost a home.  When a girl in our church had a baby out of wedlock in the 1960s, the church condemned what she had done because she had potentially condemned that child to a life without one of his parent's support, and then they promptly embraced the girl, and gathered to provide all of her needs, until several years later when she actually married the child's father.   Now, much of our country has lost its way.  Throngs of people collect welfare and still have their hair and nails done.  Some view Medicaid as their health insurance, the same as any other.  Sometimes the people who are long term foodbank users have later model Mercedes Benzes.  I now know people who not only collect welfare and foodstamps, but who desperately need it. I have gone from never knowing anyone who ever lost a home, to knowing many who have lost a home to foreclosure.  I know an increasing number of people who have walked away from a home.

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                    Financial challenges come to us all eventually, either in youth, middle or old age.  Of course, frugal and careful living can decrease the chances of feeling this for a long time, but cannot immunize us from financial loss or financial challenges.  My family should be so much more financially secure than we are, but health issues, a long term sluggish economy and changes in opportunities have stopped our assets from growing in value, and made others worthless.   A few years ago, when my mother died, she left her home to my biological brother, who was unable to come to sell it from out of state.  In order to help him, I bought it, in order to liquify his cash and help him get a start. I thought my mother would have appreciated this chance for him.  I thought it likely that I could resell, either without any loss, or with a minimal one.  Just after, the economy crashed, and the property has not only continued to diminish in value, but its taxes, homeowner's insurance, maintenance and repairs have continued to soar.  I need to sell as no one here needs to be in that town.  And so, I must sell at what is a terrible loss, and that's if I can sell at all.
                      Of course, my loss pales in comparison to the losses of some of my friends this year alone.  One lost her farm house when a rat chewed the wires in her upright freezer and caused a fire.  She had no homeowner's insurance.  Another friend lost the farm she was moving to, when a large wildfire swallowed her rural village leaving it as a burned out war zone, with her animals nowhere to be found.  One friend lost his health this year after his wife left him. His recovery is unlikely, although I did speak with him today and helped him to organize and schedule some urgent health appointments.
                      Set backs of every kind come in this life.  Some can be predicted, others cannot.  It's a good thing to be charitable. It's an important thing to be prepared in anticipation of  wide varieties of set backs.  It's important to give some thought to economic collapse, because more and more intelligent people, and not simply extremists, think this is a genuine possibility, both in Europe, and here in the US.


Matt said...

Nice post, Jane. Very thought provoking and all spot-on.

We've sang a song at church "This world is not my home, I'm just a passin' through"

At an ever increasing rate, I've come to feel lost in this world. Everything is backwards, it seems. What used to pass for common sense and knowledge is constantly frowned upon and the children simply aren't thought how to think for themselves any more and are thus completely unarmed when it comes to being taught some of the horrible things we see them do these days, one of which just came across the radio as I was writing this. Some kid just brought a real bomb to some school here in Lynchburg.

I would say "unbelievable" but I would be lying to myself.

JaneofVirginia said...

Yes Matt, I often say that I have lived too long. I don't really mean that I have, but I mean that I have seen so many things deteriorate that it frightens me. Public education has deteriorated at a frightening rate. The care people receive from nurses in a hospital, in many cases has crashed and burned since the early eighties. I remember when nursing schools were highly competitive and had strict entry standards, and I am not that old. I also remember when we had more clearly defined roles for nurses and physicians in terms of procedures. The last time I worked I did a number of things that used to be the purview of a physician. My mechanic in the 80s was a bright man. Now, I suspect that my car dealer not only does not do what I have asked, but that he tinkers with other parts of the car forcing me to bring in the car sooner than was needed. Almost every service is mediocre, and I'm sick of it. Michelle Obama might be proud of her country for the first time, but I am less proud of who we have become than I ever was before.

lotta joy said...

I haven't been online all week due to some doctor/surgery things of not much importance, but enough to keep me busy.

In the current times, so much is defeating our spirits. The news has been full lately of innocent animals being tortured unto death, with no sense of human compassion. It is not hard to learn to hate.

We seem to be surrounded by despondency and the only ones who are living without fear are the very ones you mentioned: the welfare recipients who did nothing to earn it, keep it, or manage it wisely. The rest of us are placed in too many positions of responsibility, and now we must plot and plan, hoping we can rise above the turmoil.

I know exactly what you mean when you say you've lived too long and I know it has nothing to do with wishing for death. It's a 'mind grieving' way of living.

The death of a child, and one so young, is beyond the realm of reasoning.

JaneofVirginia said...

Yes Lotta Joy, These can be heart trying times. I hope you are feeling well and recovering quickly. Rising Above the Turmoil sounds like a great book title. I send hugs and best wishes.

Anonymous said...

It may be a very odd observation, but your picture of the bathroom and commentary on making sure you have a comfortable one in which to grieve really resonated with me.
That's where I do my personal grieving, if there is anyone else in the house, I go to the shower. I can block the noise of my crying and let go.

I'm sorry for your loss of Angus. For some reason, certain times of year seem to have more losses in them, and as much as I love the fall, we've suffered the loss of many family members between late October and November.

God bless,

JaneofVirginia said...

Marie, I don't think that's an odd observation at all, but a watchful one. I don't think we need to have an expensive bathroom, or even a large one, but a clean one which is set up comfortably with the kleenex and bathroom comforts that help us to keep going. I remember that a bathroom can be a momentary sanctuary in tough times.
Fall and Winter are indeed times in which a lot of us pass. Those with chronic illnesses may be sickened and may pass during these times because they don't survive the viruses which are so common then. However, I try to believe that God has a time he calls us, and that he is demonstrating to us that a plan exists, and that he is following this plan.

Gayle said...

Very well said Jane, a thoughtful, thought provoking post.

JaneofVirginia said...

Thanks Gayle, and thank you for posting.