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For Richer, For Poorer

August 18, 2013

I’ve been poor and not-so-poor, and I can tell you from experience: not-so-poor is better.

For years, we were solidly middle-class, although my spending habits (what my son-in-law calls “bipolar shopping”) landed us in bankruptcy court twice, and neither of us ever really did learn how to save for the proverbial rainy day until relatively recently. Otherwise, we lived the American Dream—we went to college and lifted ourselves out of poverty, bought a house, drove late-model cars, the works.

Now we’re headed back in the opposite direction again. I’m working VERY part-time due to Will’s illness and the fact that I can no longer nurse the way I used to, while he’s collecting a small Social Security check each month. Worse yet, we lost our health insurance when I was terminated from my nursing director position in May, so we’re literally winging it right now. And the bills have already started coming in: $12,000 plus change for the hospital, another $8,000 for pathology, anesthesia, port insertion, radiology et. al. Oh, yeah, and I owe my psychiatrist $1,200+ for services rendered.

Naturally, our income is too high to qualify for state health insurance—hell, your basic street person’s income is too high to qualify for state health insurance—and neither of us can buy our own, even if someone would take a gamble on us. I once researched different companies online to see if I could find a plan that we could afford, and learned that there are a number of health conditions that generally make it difficult, if not impossible, to even GET insurance.

Hmmm, let’s see……..high blood pressure. Check. Diabetes. Check. Cancer. I don’t have that one, but Will does. Check. Obesity. Check. Asthma and other respiratory conditions. Check. Mental illness……man, these insurance people don’t want to insure ANYBODY. Check. And screw Obamacare: all that’s going to do is force people to buy insurance, and the insurance companies to sell it to us. It won’t do a damned thing to prevent them from raping us. As my Army brats say: BOHICA (Bend Over, Here It Comes Again).

But the way I look at it is, they can’t get blood out of a turnip, and they can’t get money out of someone who doesn’t have any. We have no assets they can take away from us, no 401K, no stocks or bonds……nothing but an elderly Ford Taurus and a couple hundred dollars stashed in an old coffee can.

We’re poor again. But as much as I miss some of the comforts we took for granted as middle-class Americans, I don’t believe I’ve ever cared less about money. We’re past the point in life where we’re trying to keep up with the Joneses. We don’t have designer clothes or electronics to buy for the kids. We don’t even need all that much…..neither of us has expensive tastes. (Now, if someone could just keep me out of Bath and Body Works during my hypomanic spells, we’d be doing better still.)

And I know Will’s health crisis is running up bills that I’ll never be able to pay, at least not in this lifetime. We haven’t even seen the surgeon yet and we’re already over $20,000 in the hole. Now I understand why people wind up filing “medical bankruptcies”—NOBODY can come up with that kind of cash, at least not if they’re in our income bracket. Medical expenses ruin people financially every day…..at least when you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose.

So when Will and I said “For richer or for poorer,” we had no idea that we would be a rags-to-riches-to-rags story. But what we knew then, as now, is that wealth really has very little to do with money, and everything to do with love.

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