When Life Gave Me Lemons I Grabbed Tequila and Salt
Over the last few years, life beat the crap out of us.
The Hits Kept Coming
Punch #1: A&P, the company that owned Pathmark - where Frankie had been a manager for nearly 20 years - announced it was going bankrupt in 2015. Key Food eventually bought the store Frankie worked in but slashed every full-time worker's hours to part-time. That was a huge financial hit. Adding insult to injury, they cut family medical benefits. Unable to afford (the ironically named) Affordable Health Care, the girls and I went without medical insurance for about two years.
Punch #2: Without medical insurance, we had to go to the emergency room rather than a doctor whenever the girls got sick. Why you ask? Because we couldn't afford the upfront, out-of-pocket, doctor fees. So, we accumulated an obscene amount of medical debt thanks to multiple bouts of strep throat, scarlet fever, bloody noses that needed cauterizing, one sprained ankle, and one broken ankle. We are now up to our eyeballs in medical debt. Sadly, we are not alone. Millions of families were forced into the same boat once Affordable Health Care was put in place. We were fairly lucky in that we lost our insurance right when the penalty was waived.
Punch #3: This was the biggest hit and the one that sent us spiraling downward. It also results in lasting damage. We were supposed to move to Florida back in July 2015. We put our house on the market, and it sold within 35 minutes - at the full asking price. Excited, thrilled, and hopeful, we used what little money we had left to drive to Florida to scout houses. Frankie had a great job waiting for him, and we found the perfect house, priced right in our budget, and only twenty minutes from the beach. We returned home, packed up most of our house...and just. like. that. the people we trusted the most who held the key to our relocation, pulled the rug out from under us. We faced losing our home and multiple lawsuits (we were already under contract with buyers). Thankfully, the family, realtors, and lawyers were sympathetic when we explained what had happened. We were released from our contract but had to, of course, reimburse the buyers for the cost of having the house inspected. Losing Florida, losing the job opportunities Frankie had secured, is a hit that keeps on punching. Even now, over two years later. Frankie had to pass up yet another career opportunity in Florida - something he had applied for, and we were banking on, the day our house sold. Even if he were to accept this once-in-a-lifetime career opportunity, we could never make it work because we could never sell our home in time to meet the hiring deadline.
Sometimes I lie to myself and tell myself we will find a way to get our family to Florida, but that's all it is. A lie. Every day for my husband is one of stress and misery. I'm watching him slowly crumble, and there's nothing I can do to help him. We try to look at the good in our lives. We hadn't lost our home. Our health insurance may be mediocre and has an astronomical deductible, but at least it's something. I'm lucky enough to have a great job, one I adore, working for a company I've loved since I was a kid. Our girls and happy and healthy. We are fortunate in many ways. But that doesn't soothe the sting of having our ideal future - one we had wanted for years - slip right through our fingers.
One day, we will get to Florida. Of course, we'll be in our eighties or nineties when we get there. But hey, that counts, right?
I've come to resent when someone says "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade". As if it's that simple. Sorry, but real life doesn't exist inside an inspirational quote. Maybe if Frankie and I didn't have two children to worry about, we would be swimming in lemonade. But more important than ourselves, are our daughters. Making sure they have a home, and food, and good schools, and security... That's what matters most to us. So while we ache to say "screw it!" and sell our house and relocate to Florida, we can't because we have two people who depend on us to make the best decisions for our family. We are parents. We have to play it safe. My husband, who left Key Food and took on a job he calls “a young man’s job”, has to work himself, literally, to the point of falling apart so we can pay our bills, keep our daughters protected with (kinda crappy) healthcare, and allow them access to good schools to maximize their education opportunities. So, when he comes dragging his tired butt home after a 12+ hour shift spent in the cold, and rain, and ice, and snow, with his perpetually bruised toes and mangled middle finger, we sit back and add some vodka to those damn lemons.