Thursday, February 09, 2006


If you're born into a family that's poor and insecure, no matter how you fare and achieve success in your working years, you never completely outgrow the fears of poverty you knew when you were just a kid. Your family did things back then just to survive, to stay alive, to scrimp and save and stave off hunger. You were younger and you suffered too. You did what you had to do, just like your mom and dad and all the other kids they had.

It's strange how nothing seems to change, how memories stay and shape the way you are. When you were young your family never owned a car. You never had new clothes and even those that fit were hand-me-downs. Now you have two cars, maybe three, wear the latest fashions from Fifth Avenue, take expensive vacations, just to lord it over your relations that you climbed out of poverty into middle class society.

But although your success is real and you feel secure, you never forget when you were poor and had to endure the pain and shame of poverty. It's like a scar that never heals, a greedy need that aches for more, a fear that life's revolving door that let you in will throw you out and what you've won could be lost as costs rise, investments fall and your dollars lose their staying power. In a hour or a day you could be on your way back to that distant day dad came home, turned to his wife and sobbed, "I lost my job. My pension, too." And Mom replied, "Sit down, have a cup of tea and then we'll see."

Mom held dad and kissed him as she never had before. He hardly ever worked again. Like other men in those days of depression, he walked the streets, applying here, trying there. Eventually, he could no longer hide his agony. He came home weary, kissed his wife and hugged us kids and went to bed. He closed his eyes and he was dead.

Mom survived. She kept us alive and together. She weathered the lean, mean days until FDR and the war brought a return of solvency into our family. Mother earned a modest pay, but over the years her fears never eased or went away. All the kids pitched in, a dime, a dollar. sometimes more. We all worked hard, some found success, some suffered from pay check stress. But more or less we all achieved beyond what mom believed we could.

On the fateful night we all were there. With pride she eyed us, one by one. "I done good," she said, She closed her eyes and she was dead.


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