Early in 2012 my family and I were happy and excited to welcome a new grandbaby, but three weeks after delivery, my daughter was back in the hospital with MRSA. She proudly serves in the US Air Force and with a school age son for her husband to take care of, there was no one to help her with the baby in the hospital. Thank goodness for the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), I could care for my daughter and granddaughter without worrying about losing my job, and well, missing a couple of weeks of work would hurt, but wouldn’t kill me, I had credit cards and savings.
However, two months later, I was knocked over by a horse and stepped on. While I avoided internal injuries, my hand was damaged and my specialist advised that now was the time for surgery. Another two months off work, still protected by FMLA and on short term disability, I was able to get 66% of my average income. So although I was starting to feel the strain, I still knew I was one of the lucky ones.
One month after I returned to work, my father took a turn for the worst, and his condition required heart surgery. The surgery was deemed a success, but my father took longer than expected to come out of the anesthesia, and it became obvious that he had suffered catastrophic brain damage. Knowing his wishes in these circumstances, I arranged for him to be discharged under hospice care at home, with myself as his primary caregiver. Thus began our final journey together.
During this time, I had no income, as FMLA only protected my job. I cashed out my 401K in order to buy groceries and gas. I had to pay bills with my credit cards, and even sold all my jewelry and other valuables to try and make it through, but this was nothing compared to the pain of watching my dad fade away. This is what families DO. They care for each other and support each other by any means necessary. Just as he held my hand as I took my first steps in this world, it was time for me to hold his hand as he took his first steps into the next.
My father lived just long enough for me to lose my job. My family now lives in an RV because we could not and still cannot afford at the cost of rent/utilities and deposits. My daughter has been forced to move in w/friends so that she could continue to go to her local school. Since we were technically homeless, I knew she at least got one good meal a day there. It took another 5 months to get a job and get back to work.
In this economy, I still consider myself one of the lucky ones, but I went 8 months without a single paycheck, and my bills are no longer manageable even now that I have an income. During those 5 months I couldn’t get unemployment b/c my termination was “voluntary” I didn’t qualify for food stamps because of the income from the sale of the house, and because I didn’t have adequate food preparation facilities. Three months of paid leave would have made a huge difference, but now bankruptcy looms.
For the price of two meals at McDonald’s a month, a fund can be set up and administered to assist people like me; people who are caring for a dying loved one, an ill child, a returning veteran, so that they CAN pay their rent and buy food.