Sunday, September 22, 2013


I recently said farewell to my dark green, '99 Ford Taurus, a nice comfortable car with chronic, terminal “health” conditions. It had been on life support for a while. A few months back I'd thought she was a goner, yet like Lazarus, I saw her rise from the dead, (the miracle mostly being that I was able to come up with the $417 repair cost!). Alas tho, her resurrection was short lived, and with a heavy heart I looked to receive the best possible payout for a “junked” vehicle. I thanked the old girl for sticking around as long as she did. “I know I got peeved at you,” I said as I sat in the front seat and baked in the hot Florida sun. I cleaned out my last meager belongings: my St. Christophers Medal, auto papers, maps and and other items. “It's not your fault that you were so poorly designed. You did the best you could,” then I closed the door for the last time. They came and dragged her away and I wondered if she'd be scrapped or fixed and I felt a great deal of empathy for the fate of the car whose faulty construct and tenacity to keep going were so similar to my own.

Afterwards I sat with the overwhelming realization that for the first time since I was 19 my personal transport was gone. Given my health and financial status I realized that I might never have another car again. Having had health problems my entire life, I never worried about getting “older”. I had long known what chronic illness and disability were like, but what appeared as the final loss of personal mobility was a heavy blow...especially at my age.

I'd already started riding the bus some time back (tho sometimes with great difficulty), with it's limited, long winded routes, and for the most part I could reach those destinations most necessary for survival. But what would I do if I had to evacuate, especially with two cats? How would I get to the one bank that didn't charge me a fee? How would I carry large heavy items? How would I get to my club store? Question after question came to mind and little worries began to swirl about inside my head, their black tendrils threatening to take root in my mind.... This isn't such a problem when you know a number of people, or an extended family lives nearby. But the occassional years of isolation from being totally incapacitated, gave me few to call upon and I suddenly was thrust into what must be a common denominator for those seniors who move to be near their kids but leave most everyone they know behind. When you have severe mobility issues or few to rely upon, your trips and visits often are relegated to necessities, and the days of fun and freedom wane like the golden strands on a graying blondes' head, fewer and fewer, their shiny glint ever duller in the sun.

Lost now was the ability to go to the beach and collect sea beans just before the hurricanes rolled in. Lost now were the days of running all my errands at once in a single time and gas saving day, sometimes stopping for a $1 taco or burger as a special treat....maybe even really splurging with a side of beans or fries for another buck or so. So much for going to Barnes and Nobel to check out the books and magazines and (if I'm lucky enough to have the funds) buy a rare gift card during the holidays. No more “days off” where on a rare occasion I'd take a day long vacay (the only vacay I ever get any more) and go from one thrift shop to the next, stopping for a taco and to visit some of the farther away libraries. Some times I'd spend little more than gas money and take my lunch and drink, but it was a rare self given gift to get away and enjoy myself for an entire day that offered the possibility of fun, even if all I had to spend were a few bucks. Then I felt an especially deep pang at the realization that no more would I be able to stop at Twisty Cone on my way home from my out of town doctor and purchase a sugar free ice cream....and it was sooooo gooooood! Tho the opportunity usually presented itself only a few times a years (if I had the money), sometimes I'd even get a small sundae (okay, yes, it wasn't totally sugar free as a sundae: my bad!). I sigh out loud just writing about it. My diet so restricted...but that was one thing I really loved that I could occasionally get away with. In that moment it seemed even farther, even more difficult to get to, I wondered if I'd ever go again.

I sigh again as I write this. The realization of the depth of my loss took it's toll for a little while. Then, like everything else in a “less than” life, I accepted it and moved on.

Todays Lesson: “Happiness can exist only in acceptance.” George Orwell

copyright Linda Matthews 9/22/2013

Update:  I was the lucky recipient of a "pay when I can" loan just before the government shutdown.  The timing was indeed fortuitous as I finally found just what I'd been looking for:  a 1993 Geo Metro with 109,000 miles (half from being towed behind a winnebago) for $2500.  I was the first caller right after posting, but for a much sought after vehicle that receives up to 47 mpg highway, it was quite strange that no one else inquired about it...that is until the government came back to life.  Bids came as high as $5000 but I'd been told that as first call I had dibs and am now a happy camper!

Saturday, September 7, 2013


I have awakened too late. I feed the cats, gulp down black coffee and run out to meet the bus while eating a bulk purchased protein bar. Today I want to try something new. Gone are the days of Sunday being a day off with the luxury of eating an entire bagel with cream cheese and banana, kicking back, drinking a cup of coffee, reading a Sunday paper and watching the Sunday morning debate shows. Now I will never again eat bananas or bagels because they make me seriously ill, I'll rarely buy a Sunday paper as it's a luxury I can no longer afford, nor have time to watch the morning debates as Sunday is now known as “Walmart Day”.

On Sundays there is a special bus with only a few runs, that goes straight to Walmart with no transfers. This is great because I don't want to haul a 25 LB bag of cat litter from bus to bus. Normally I would do this purchase on a car trip, but after a $500 auto repair job resulting in less than a two month reprieve, it seems likely that I may be permanently without a car. Today I will try the previously unthinkable: I want to see if I can bring a 25LB bag of cat litter home by bus.

Fortunately I arrive on time. Sunday morning can be rather crowded on the bus. It used to be that you could take a cart on the bus, but no more. Fortunately I have a handy cart that folds-up to the shape and size of a sizable laptop, but I still have concerns about this proposition: Will this small plastic cart be able to carry a 25LB load? And, will I, being 5'1” thin and anemic, be able to carry and lift it onto the small platform just inside the bus? I am uncertain, as I can slightly lift the bag awkwardly at best, and I have never tried to lift one that high. But I cannot afford to buy even 10LB bags of cat litter as the amount needed would be about 4.5 times more expensive. To survive on my income, all things must be thought out in this way. I need to at least try to do it.

I arrive at Walmart and I have an hour until the bus returns. I need groceries but the cat litter is likely all I will be able to handle. I go to the back of the store, pull out my plastic cart and unfold it. An elderly woman asks if I need help. I thank her and rudely drop the litter into the cart and try pulling it about. It does not fall apart and the bottom does not fall through. With great difficulty I lift the small cart and litter, getting momentary hung up over the top of the shopping cart, but I am able to do it. I wonder if I will be able to get it onto the small “leave your big stuff here platform” just inside the bus, and I hope that the bus doesn't take off while I am doing so.... I meander about. I buy a head of lettuce and some yogurt. I want to buy almond milk but it is too heavy. Same thing goes for potatoes.

I get a bit behind and rush out to the bus stop. No one is there which makes me nervous, but apparently they've all been waiting in the entryway watching through the glass doors for the bus. The crowd emerges fully loaded with bags, double back packs, a wheelchair back loaded with at least four large cloth bags. The wheelchair lift is down so I wheel in, plunge the cart handle down and lift. Success! I move as quickly as I can but I still delay the line. I take a seat elsewhere and make a note to turn the cart next time as it rolls back and forth in the direction of an elderly rider as the bus meanders down the road.

I run into a homeless man whom I'd seen on the bus before. We talk. He will be receiving social security retirement in 10 days and getting a place to live for the first time in a year. I am sincerely happy for him.

I exit the bus and return home. I am very tired and my back hurts. After 4 hours of rest I can write this blog. The trip took 2.25 hours of time and I have saved approximately $11.50. Once I recover I will resume work on devices to stretch my meager funds. With a Mensan mind I have other things I'd rather to be doing, but the logistics of my situation and survival are more pressing events...for now anyway.

Todays Lesson: I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has had to overcome while trying to succeed. Booker T. Washington

copyright Linda Matthews  9/7/2013