Money is important in life. It sure makes things easier when you’re not living paycheck to paycheck or wondering where you’re getting the money to pay utility bills or if you’ll have money to feel your children. However, you don’t have to be rich or well off because, to me, family and loved ones mean more than money. They are my everything.
A week ago, I reflected on the last Mother’s Day that I spent with my mother, Dessie, in 1990. She died six months later.
My mother was a hard-working woman who never had it easy in life. Just after she turned 21 years old, she married the man she loved with all her heart. That man, my father, turned out to be an unfaithful, alcoholic who verbally abused her and her two children, me and my sister, Tammy. I guess she took the “for better or worse” in the marriage vows literally.
While my father paid the $160 monthly rent on our bug-infested, utilities-included, five-room apartment (I shared a bedroom with him and my sister shared a bedroom with our mother), my mother worked to make sure that there was always food on the table and that we had clothes and school supplies.
Most meals at our house consisted of white beans and potatoes and meat wasn’t something that was on our plates every day. We never complained that we didn’t get to go out to restaurants. We didn’t know that people went out to eat and on those rare occasions that we’d get treated to K&N Drive-In or Jack’s, two locally, family owned fast food joints, we thought we were living high on the hog.
After my mother died on November 7, 1990, and her funeral was over, I picked up her last paycheck at the lamp company she had worked at for about 20 years. The check was $90. She died making minimum wage, which was $3.80 at the time. She died skipping out on her diabetes medication to pay the bills.
While I treated my mother with respect, took her out to eat, and indulged her on a college student and waiter’s salary, I really wished that I could have done more for her. But, we can’t go back and change things. That’s why every decision in life has to be thought out and you hope you make the right decisions.
So, you might wonder where this is going? It’s about valuing money, but family more.
I landed my first professional television job in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, in the summer of 1996, where I stayed for five months making $13,000 a year. When I left Chicago that summer working as a bartender, I had minimal credit card debt and a few thousand dollars in savings. After accepting my second job in Lubbock, Texas, and staying there for a year, my financial situation changed drastically.
Since I got a small pay raise from the first job to the second one, by the time I moved to Ohio in December 1997, I had no savings and about $15,000 in credit card debt. That debt accumulated from the cost of living and a meager salary. It took me until the summer of 2000 to get out of credit card debt and I haven’t used a credit card since and I started saving for a rainy day.
Things haven’t been as sunny for my sister, Tammy. She married her deadbeat husband in the late-1980s and worked all the time to support them and their two children. When my mother died, I started loaning Tammy money to help her make ends meet. That never happened and one dire financial situation was followed by another and another.
Finally, after $40,000+ in loans, I finally told her in the spring of last year, “the only way I’ll give you any more money is that if leave Tennessee and move to Moline”. She did and she’s been in the Quad Cities for nine months now and she’s doing well, except that she hasn’t stopped smoking after last December’s heart attack.
She’s loving her job, she’s paying her bills, and she’s paying off the $16,000 that I fronted for her apartment, furniture, and car last fall.
I’m very proud of her and her accomplishments. While she misses her two granddaughters, she and I know that she’s in a much better place now and I’m not just talking financially.
As for me, I’m in a loving relationship with a fantastic man and a gorgeous daughter. I go to work, I devote time for charity work, and I love coming home to my quiet little life. Ray and I are financially comfortable and while we don’t spend money like crazy, we are treating ourselves to a kitchen renovation this spring.
In the three-plus years that we’ve been together, we really haven’t traveled much outside of road trips to Chicago, Kentucky, Ohio (to see Betty, my other “mom”), and Spirit Lake, Iowa, to visit Ray’s parents. All of those trips allowed Miss ABBA to go along with us. She definitely loved to R-I-D-E!
There were only about five short trips (2-4 days) in all of Miss ABBA’s life that I took without her. Now that she’s in “puppy heaven”, Ray and I have decided to take a few trips. In September, we’re going to Houston (Ray for work and me to tag along) and to Las Vegas in October for my birthday and Madonna.
We were going to take Gretel to Cancun for her birthday this July, but her mother nixed those plans. So, we decided to do something that we could all do together as a family and we invited Tammy and Betty to go with us.
My mother never got to travel. As children, she got to go to Indianapolis, Indiana, a whopping 320 miles away to visit her aunt. And, in the summer of 1990, she traveled to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where I was living. That was an interesting trip for her because Chicago traffic scared her like crazy.
While Tammy has visited me in several places where I’ve lived: Ohio, Texas, Chicago, Maryland, and the Quad Cities, she’s never really been on a real vacation.
This December, we’re taking a four-day cruise across the Western Carribean. Since the cruise departs from New Orleans, we’re flying down a day early so Gretel can live out “The Princess and the Frog” and have beignets. She knows of three things about New Orleans: beignets, gumbo, and alligators. We’ve already told her it’ll be too chilly to go on a “swamp tour”.
Gretel is very excited about the cruise and the first two comments she made was “I hope there are no icebergs” and I said, “it’s in the Caribbean Sea and it’s too warm for icebergs”. Without missing a beat, she asked if sharks could bite a hole in the ship. She really has no idea of how mammoth this ship is! Too funny.
None of us (except Ray) have been on a real cruise before and this will be quiet an experience.
Our cruise will arrive back in New Orleans the morning of Christmas Eve and weather permitting, we’ll be back in Moline just in time for Santa’s arrival. However, he’s not going to be bringing us anything because the cruise is our birthday and Christmas presents!
I’m can’t wait to spend the time on the cruise with the people who mean so much to me, Ray, Gretel, Tammy, and Betty.
I just wish that my mother and Miss ABBA were there with us, other than in spirit and looking down at us from heaven.