Thursday, October 13, 2005

Richer than I thought

I have been bemoaning lately that my sound doesn't work on my computer. A brand new Dell, and I can't get the friggin' speakers to work. I have called and been routed to India and that doesn't work. I have gotten into Dell's website and posted my problem. That hasn't helped. I deleted all e-mails that come with a wave file. Can't hear it. I continue to bitch and moan.

That is until yesterday's Oprah. As many of you know, I am such a fan of that woman and think she could and should run for president. So don't comment that you don't like her. I will have to hurt you. Yesterday's episode was on the forgotten poor as she traveled to Pembrooke, Illinois, a mere 70 miles from where she tapes her show in Chicago. Most people have no running water or electricity. The town doesn't even have a zip code so they can't get tax dollars. I kept thinking that I always thought I was poor growing up in a small town with a single mother, but I was rich compared to these people. Doing dishes, taking baths, flushing toilets were all luxuries to them that they had to plan with water that was schlepped from God knows where. It was disheartening to watch the faces of these children, innocent in the downfall, to be in homeless shelters wearing the same clothes to school day after day. Our family barely got by back in the 60s, but my mother made our clothes, and we were always well kempt, hair washed on Sunday for church, clothes cleaned and pressed, a pair of shoes for church and one for school. We didn't own a car until I was a senior in high school when my mother got her driver's license and had to beg for rides wherever we went that was out of walking distance. We never wore jeans because of school rules and because my mother didn't sew denim, but we never wore anything that we weren't proud to wear and proud to call our own. Every Easter and Christmas produced new dresses that my mother had made for all 4 of her daughters. She was a zombie at that sewing machine, but she sewed almost every night to clothe us. (My first bought dress was for my grandmother's funeral when I was 21.) At times, my mother even sewed my "granny panties" when I was a child. But we were never hungry and we never wore clothes from Goodwill. Our family had set a precedence of survival from generations, and bad times came and went like the economy. My mother's family ran a newspaper and never went hungry during the Depression because people bartered with food. Then never thought they were poor.

My mother was not the best cook. Ok, she was lousy. She was often comotose most afternoons, resulting in any one of us girls cooking dinner which was never luxurious, rarely nutritious (canned vegetables in light hues), but we never went hungry. One time in college my roommates were fascinated with my dinner of macaroni & cheese and hot dogs. WTH? That was a staple at my house. And my mother's concoction of scrambled egg noodles was greeted with oohs and aahs and remains one of my daughters' favorite "poor" dishes. Every Sunday growing up brought the pound of bacon with the leftover grease that sat on the stove to be cooked with the remainder of the week. There were some pot roasts, some salisbury steaks that were tougher than leather, and some baked chicken that would bore the crap outta you, but we never starved. One story on Oprah had a woman not being able to feed her 3 children one night because she needed to save her money for her car payment so she could get to one of her 2 jobs that allowed her to make the rent. She lives in Detroit. In 2005.

42% of single mothers live below the poverty level. One segment showed a mother of 3 sleeping in her van with her kids after the husband couldn't take the agony of poverty and abandoned them. In Appalachia, 65% of the people live below poverty level. Another family had nothing (NOTHING) after watching their house burn to the ground, and without home owners' insurance, they could not replace anything and lived in a "shed out back." All these families had ONE bad break that knocked the bottom out from underneath them with no help and no hope of getting back on their feet. Each and every scene from Oprah's show reinforced how rich I was from birth to today.

The Oprah story that just broke my heart was seeing the man who was taking care of his sick mother. Although he had a degree in law enforcement, he refuse to leave her side and they are living in horrible circumstances, no doctor nearby, no water, no phone. The son saves toilet paper rolls, and the camera zoomed on him as he was rolling toilet paper off their rolls so he could REROLL them 1 ply at a time onto an empty roll. Tears streamed down my face watching this humble, loving son perform this loving act to stretch a dollar. How rich was I to "enjoy" 2-ply toilet paper?

As depressing as the show was (and it was meant to shock us out of complacency), it also brought a sense of such joy that I was far richer than I ever knew. We were so poor that my sisters and I practically went to college with very little debt in the end. How lucky was it to be poor at just the right time in life? Years ago we learned to omit the word "starving" when describing how hungry we are in this house. Clearly, that word needs to be saved for people who are actually going to bed hungry, covering up their ears so the hollow grumblings in their stomach do not keep them awake at night. Watching this episode on Oprah taught me that we were not poor when I grew up with a single mother, and even though we have job problems and insurance problems in this house today, we are definitely not poor. We have riches beyond words.

I have stopped complaining that I can't get my speakers to work on my computer.

4 Comments:

At 10:24 PM, Blogger greekchickie said...

Oprah is my hero too. I'd vote for her in a heartbeat! In fact, one of the reasons I wanna go to Chicago is to meet her. She wows me.

Try plugging the speakers in the different jack. You wouldn't believe how long I wasted figuring THAT out.

Gotta love being routed to India.

M~

 
At 11:01 AM, Blogger Sarahlynn said...

This is an absolutely wonderful post. As I prepare for a weekend including a wedding shower (presents!), a party for Ellie's second birthday (presents!), and another little two-year-old's birthday party (presents!), among many other committments to which I will drive, I found this post at a very good time.

 
At 7:23 AM, Blogger The Anti-Wife said...

Your words are so very poignant. Thanks for reminding me what it is I truly "have."

 
At 1:21 PM, Blogger ~*Stephanie*~ said...

Yes Dell always routes to India and earthlink does too..

Got to love Oprah I really think she should be president too..

:~)

 

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