Sunday, August 14, 2011

It's a wonderful life

This week I lived one of the single mother nightmares. I went to the grocery store and my debit card was declined in front of my kids.
The clerk looked at me and said, “Give me another card.”
 I don’t have another card.
 One of the lovely parts of my divorce was bankruptcy: one of my middle class nightmares. In fact this year I lived out just about all of my nightmares. Over the course of one week, the week between Christmas and New Year I learned my marriage was over, my husband had a secret life, he racked up thousands of dollars in debt, and he was in love with an avatar he met on an adult internet site.
I kicked myself for not following my widowed grandmother’s advice: stay on top of your finances, don’t let your husband run them. Over the course of 15 years and two children it was easy to just let him pay the bills. After all I was cooking, cleaning, working, and raising two kids and a dog. He could take out the garbage and pay the bills.
So there I was standing in the grocery store in my bucolic town with my children looking at me wondering what I was going to do.
I had some cash. Not enough to buy the food, but I could probably buy milk, eggs and bread. If I went home and scraped up the change that accumulates in different rooms of the house I might be able to get some form of meat.
I calmly said to the checkout woman, “I have to go to the ATM to get some cash.”  She wasn’t pleased. The young man bagging the groceries was kind. “I can put these in the fridge for you. We can keep them until 7.”
It was 6 p.m. I had one hour to get the cash.
We went out to the car and I told my kids they needed to be quiet while I made a plan. A simple request. It must have been opposite day because they picked that moment to start fighting with each other. So there I was driving through affluent subdivisions with two children screaming at the top of their lungs; tears of humiliation pouring down my cheeks; and my mind wondering “how did I get here?”
Despite their fighting, I left the girls home so I could run down to the ATM. I put the fear of God in the girls about the fighting. I got to the ATM and learned that my child support check had a hold on it. The money was there in theory. My paycheck was hours away from being deposited. In theory I had money. In reality I was broke.
I went home with swollen tear stained eyes and Psalm 22 in my head, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
I pulled into the driveway and my kids were joyous. “Mom, someone left a present in the mailbox,” the youngest said.  My oldest presented me with a book tied up in orange ribbon.
First I opened the “Thinking of You card.” Out spilled coupons for the expensive milk my children drink because of the lactose intolerance they inherited from their Dad. The card had kind words and sentiments from my dear friend Anne.
The book was entitled, “God Never Blinks.” It was written by Regina Brett, a columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the newspaper I often imagined myself as a columnist for as I am a native of Cleveland.
I was overwhelmed with emotion. As I was lamenting being abandoned by God and all things good, God, through Anne, reminded me that I was not alone and I was loved.
Soon another messenger from heaven arrived, my sister with cash for my groceries.
The next night my coworkers were over and I shared with them the events of the day before. The book had sat unopened as I had been too emotional to read it.
My one coworker has pointed out that I expect fairness too much. His theory is that if I let go of the manmade concept of fairness I would be disappointed less. He picked up the book and looked at the table of contents. The first chapter, “Life isn’t fair but life is good.”
“You need to read this,” he said.
God got me again: the right message with the right messenger.
This has been a horrible year, but a year filled with blessings. I met wonderful people at my new job. A job that has nothing to do with any of my interests and uses little of my talents, that screams it’s the wrong job for me. But for this year, it was the right job.
There were two wonderful ladies who shared their strong faith, made me laugh, found little things to celebrate, and helped me with my kids. There was the coworker who challenged my beliefs on fairness and regularly gave me pep talks.
This year was filled with moments when my mother gave me all of the love I ever wanted, but always thought I wasn’t getting.
My siblings and their spouses showered my children with affection and attention.
My friends brought casseroles, and gift cards to get me through those first few months of shock.
My amazing neighbor walks his lawn mower down every ten days and mows my yard.
I will never forget that evening of my card being declined as it will serve to remind me how overflowing my life is in blessings.