I never really understood how people found themselves living on the street. How people’s lives could suddenly take a tumble and everything could be taken from beneath their feet. Well, that was up until now.
Five years ago, my family’s life changed drastically. It was as if this tornado had picked us all up, thrown us back down and mismatched us back into place. It was if someone had pieced our family jigsaw puzzle together, intentionally tipped the table over and then lost all the core pieces in the process. Nothing’s ever been the same since.
My Mum has always been the glue, us kids have always been her little sheets of tissue paper and well, my step father was always the hand sticking us down into place. Five years ago, the glue ran dry, the tissue paper couldn’t stick and the hand that fed us, well, that pretty much gave up on ever carrying on the perfect paper mache family picture.
Five years ago, my Mum lost her everyday capabilities. The once lively, once healthy and once working mother and wife, had almost disappeared entirely. She still had the same face but her lack of ability to at one time speak, walk and do anything for herself, that caused more strain than we ever thought imaginable. My step dad was to work tirelessly for us, for himself but mostly for the woman he’d spent nearly an entire lifetime with. Things were hard financially and mentally, resulting in him eventually walking out on us.
I will forever feel raw, feel hurt and feel like someone’s stabbing at my heartstrings.
That’s strike one. Losing a father, my mother a husband and a best friend, that will forever be the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through. Losing my dad to death at the age of 11 was bad enough, but having the one man that fed, cared and clothed me, having him walk out on us when we needed him the most, that will forever play in my head when the lights turn off at night. I will forever feel raw, feel hurt and feel like someone’s stabbing at my heartstrings. Seeing my mother struggle, cry and try and attempt to do things alone, will forever kick me in the gut and make me wish things worked out differently. I never ever ever thought I’d have to ‘bury’ a ‘parent’ that’s not even dead. I never ever thought my perfect family set-up would turn out to be nothing, that my step-dad wouldn’t see me graduate and that things would be as they are now.
But I guess that’s life. It never goes to plan. People change, people cannot cope and sometimes, just sometimes, things don’t work out perfectly. That’s cool I guess.
Home was the one place where I’d always felt safe, loved and where I was to see my step fathers face for the very last time.
We coped for a while. However, with my Mum’s health struggles and her lack of physical ability to work, there came financial struggles. My step-father eventually claimed bankruptcy, the life insurance policy was ‘accidentally cancelled’ and for a while our home was uncertain. For a while we moved from the home I’d spent my entire life at, to some four brick walls that meant nothing to me. Home was always the place I used to spend my days out in the garden making mud pies, the place where I’d sit on the window seat and read Harry Potter until the early hours of the morning and the place where I at one point, learnt how to ride my bike on the driveway. Home was the one place where I’d always felt safe, loved and where I was to see my step fathers face for the very last time. It took me a while to realise that I’d never feel at home unless we were all, all six of us, sat at the dinner table arguing over the last roast potato like we used to. I’ve never felt at home since.
That was until we got the green light from the mortgage company. They’d ‘somehow’ figured out a way so that my mother could keep our house, afford to live and be settled again. We moved back in, redecorated the place, had a little reunion with our neighbours and never looked back. It was never ever the same as before but for a while it was a healer. It acted as the healer to the knots of insecurity inside my little brain, the healer to the little knockback of being walked out on by another ‘father’ figure but for a while it reminded me that the last 20 odd years of my life weren’t make believe. I could still see my step father sitting in his chair, him shouting at us for being too loud during Antiques Roadshow and I could still see us sitting at that table, arguing over that roast potato. For a while, it acted like a time machine; it allowed me to sit back in time and still give me that glimmer of hope that everything was going to return to ‘normality’ again and that this, life, was just a nightmare that I was going to wake up from soon. I wish.
Paperwork meant the house wouldn’t sell in time and the mortgage company decided to chuck us out on our ear.
That was until 3 whole weeks ago. The mortgage company upped the mortgage repayments, my disabled mother couldn’t afford to keep the house any longer and that was it. The house went up for sale, a repossession order was put in place and we played the waiting game. The mortgage company decided that if the house wasn’t sold by the date of repossession, they would take the rug beneath us; despite a sale on the verge of finalising. Paperwork meant the house wouldn’t sell in time and the mortgage company decided to chuck us out on our ear. In five years my mum had lost her health, her marriage, her career and now the home she’d built for the last 20 years. I’d lost the four walls that had seen me cry over boys as a teenager, laughed and joked with my friends and seen a once perfect family set-up crumble under the pressures of ill health and financial difficulty.
I’d only ever seen repossessions on ‘Can’t Pay We’ll Take it Away’, it was never really something I thought would ever happened to me. We had 7 whole days (from the mortgage companies final decision on whether they’d wait for the sale to go through or not) to find somewhere to live, pack our stuff, move out and set up ‘home’ elsewhere. Luckily for us, we managed to pull it out of the bag – with just a day to spare. Our near miss has made me think how easy it is to lose everything you’ve ever had.
My Mum didn’t ask to have a stroke, my mum didn’t ask to lose her job, lose the house or to struggle financially. We didn’t ask to be very narrowingly nearly homeless just before Christmas, but let’s remember that I am one of the very very lucky ones. That person you try and avoid as you exit the train station? the one you see sleeping in the doorway of some corporate shop on your way home from a night out? That person that ‘annoys’ you by asking you to spare a little change? That could have easily been me three weeks ago.
You never really know when life is going to run off course, chew you up and spit you out for slaughter. You never really know when you’re going to be standing in the same shoes as someone that’s ‘below you’ or someone that you take pity on. Someday you may be that person that needs a hot drink, a bed to sleep in, a roof over your head or a little change to grab yourself a bite to eat.
The last couple of weeks have thrown such perspective my way, you couldn’t even try and guess it. I now look twice at that person sitting there cold with no bed to rest their head at night. I now go without that one pint after work and instead donate that money to buy someone a hot drink or a sandwich. Instead of hurrying past someone who’s asking for a little kindness, I listen, I chat and I appreciate everything I have now.
Three weeks ago I thought I’d lost everything – my childhood memories, my favourite bedroom wallpaper, my little window seat; but I have a lot more than most and I’m forever grateful for that. It’s a shame its taken me to lose the four walls I’ve always known to realise it.
So yeah, spare a little thought, a little food and a little change to those that don’t have the security of four walls surrounding them at night.
Because you never really know when everything you have will be pulled from beneath you. More so, you never really know when you will be lacking in some food, a warm bed, a family or some change, and you also may need someone to spare some.