Monday, November 12, 2007

More and More Through the Looking Glass

Up is down, left is right, right is wrong, black is white; and the reverse of all of these dichotimies and more are spun suffiently that they will, by virtue(surely an odd and perverse use of the word) of repetiton come to be accepted as reality, truth and fact.

I'm not all that great at remembering facts and details, but if I have anything of value to offer in the many and varied aspects of life and living it's that in by being exposed to facts and details I seem to percieve a pattern in them, a trend; perhaps from experience or more quickly than those who prefer to focus mostly on what's going on in their lives on a day to day basis.

I've been then and there in the before of life. I've been that person. I've walked in those moccasins. I have experienced the worries, doubts and frustrations piled on as expectations, requirements and needs of being a husband, father and small company president.

Essentially I was in blackout mode during the Vietnam War, to the extent that news of the death of a neighbor's son in Vietnam registered in my mind for a short time, as a fact, though absent of emotion, and was soon burried by my own personal reality; the facts, emotions and frustrations weighing on me then. The breakup of our family through divorce was on the horizon, but not yet acknowledged.

I mention this only by example of what the vast majority of citizens of this country are dealing with every day. Budgets are strained if not broken. Credit card debt is looked to and accepted as a way to supplant the disappearance of income due to loss of jobs, and/or inflation's erosion of incomes.

An individual situation, though supported by fact or detail can be an aberration, an isolated event. Repeated facts and details for some are a continuing string of aberrations and isolated events. For me that stringing together alerts me and triggers a need to step back from what is currently happening and look for a pattern, a trend, which might be eluding us, or which some might not want to recognize for one reason or another, often because offered antidotes threaten those who, right now, for a time, are not suffering.

I speculate that paying attention to the physical age of one who is adamant about a position on this issue can be useful to politcians, economists and those they look to for information and advice. The following story, based on an actual life experience, is just one example of the facts of life which confront those who made what they thought at the time were the best decisions they could, based on the circumstances they faced, but which, due to genuinely unintended and unpredicted circumstances, led to most unfortunate and disagreeable outcomes.

I know a man who, up until the age of fifty, though strapped financially, and whose ex-wife's new husband, a banker, told him that he was de-facto bankrupt, due to the loss of the asset value of his house and home through divorce, and faced with the need and wish to pay for college for four sons, he continued to believe that, if and when he could get himself together, he could restart, and believed that he still had enough time left to work that he could provide for his retirement, after completing the obligations to his children.

He didn't anticipate becoming incapacitated with a back injury. He didn't anticipate a three year long treatment for prostate cancer. He didn't anticipate that his employer would be sold to a firm who told him he was no longer needed. He didn't anticipate that these circumstances would result in his going without income for several years. He was forced to sell his home at a discount before losing it to foreclosure. He applied for Social Security at age 62, rather than waiting till age 65, and a larger monthly check. He did what could with his skills to find occasional work as a consultant. He burned through his savings and ran up credit card debt when he needed to pay for car repairs, new tires and such. When he turned 65 he became elligible for Medicare. He applied for Social Security Disability but quickly learned that anyone drawing Social Security was not elligble.

His closest relatives, a sister and her family, four sons and their families, those who might be expected to offer shelter, care and assistance, are dealing with their own stresses and strains; some with severe health issues, some with financial challenges and some who live far away and in climates which would exacerbate his physical limitations.

In this particular case, he is fortunate and blessed to love and be loved by a widow whose deceased husband had built their retirement home with no mortgage, and with whom he now lives. His love, older than he, still holds down a job to supplement her social security benefits so that she can pay the real estate taxes and insurance premiums on her property which go up every year by more than her social security income.

Some weeks ago I wrote on another blog a piece entitled, Boot Straps and Safety Nets.
In that essay I made a case for Safety Nets, while acknowledging the appeal of Boot Straps. I hope you will take time to read it at:

If you do, I hope you will leave a comment, which you can do very easily by clicking on the blue highlighted word "Comments" at the end of the post.

Or, if you prefer, write to me at

No comments: