October 21, 2011

"Grippers" (how to get homeless without even trying #18)

Episode #18 "Christmas" (click on the "Grippers tab for previous episodes)

A year earlier Bob and Tracey Slider both had full-time jobs, health insurance, two vehicles, a nice house, and were bringing home over $4300.00 a month. Their success as an average American family was obvious as the twinkling lights from the Christmas tree sent out tiny flashes of color that bounced off the wrapped gifts below. There was peace and contentment in the hearts of the Slider family. Two days later, Tracey was laid off.

In February, Bob's hours were cut and on the Friday prior to Memorial Day his company, Bildot Building Supply, closed its doors and went out of business. In September, Bob hurt his back and was unable to work at all. Ignoring the warnings about the dangers of prescription pain pills and constantly seeking pain relief he began taking more meds than were prescribed and became a "prescription junkie" using the last bit of the family's monies to buy pills on the street. Then he was arrested for DUI. He wound up on probation, had to pay heavy fines and was required to do community service. Tracey, who had been hired as a part-time cashier at the local super-market, was fighting the good fight to make ends meet but the pressure to pay bills and Bob's addiction problem were pushing her to the edges of despair and resentment.The only time that Bob seemed like the "old" Bob was when he had a few pills in him and had a supply stashed somewhere. However, being an addict it never mattered how many pills he had because it would never be enough. An addict is always scheming about how to get more drugs even if their pockets are filled with them.

 Christmas morning arrived and the usual joyful atmosphere that accompanied the day was absent. Jake was inside a vacuum he did not really understand. His dad had changed and his mom seemed so unhappy. Tracey did her best to make sure her boy received some gifts but it was impossible to live up to the standard of past years. Jake, whose grades had slipped and who had become somewhat withdrawn and distant, had reached inside of himself and had planned to do something special for his mom for Christmas. In addition, he had asked his folks for nothing for himself. The 12 year-old had been greatly underestimated. He pulled her aside Christmas morning and gave her a card. In it was $100.00 in cash. Jake had quietly been working after school hustling lawn jobs and cleanup jobs around the neighborhood. Tracey did not have a clue. "Mom," he said, "I'm not a baby anymore. I can see what's going on around here. This is between you and me. I don't think you should tell dad. Merry Christmas, love you."

Tracey looked at her son and just began to cry. It was the greatest Christmas gift she had ever received. She hugged her son so tight he thought he might break. It was the best feeling he had ever had.

Next Time: "Here We Go Again"