Since I was going to answer this question anyway, this seemed like a good moment to jump in. We seem to be on the same track. This is an answer, but it’s also a story of how a series of events happens and somehow, they become entwined and ultimately are one big tangled ball of twine. Our year started before we knew about COVID. Of course we knew about Trump. Who didn’t? For or against, you couldn’t ignore him or the things he did. I still have trouble making sense of his choices. His massive yet somehow petty, cruelties. The sense I had that the Grinch had not merely stolen Christmas, but my world.
It was a year ago January. Our boiler was making ugly clunking noises, periodically ceasing to work, and generally behaving like any 32-year-old boiler behaves right before it became a useless heap of rusty iron parts. We needed a new boiler. We also needed a new back door. We had needed other things and somehow, with the help of friends and loans from banks and credit cards, we had gotten quite a lot of the work done. We had gutters and water wasn’t seeping into the walls. We’d replaced the rotten moldy front and side doors — the side door having been replaced by a window while losing the door. We’d replaced another rotting window, the hot water heater. Added a chair lift for the stairs from the front door to where we live. We renovated the bathroom because not only was it full of mold, but I could no longer safely step into the tub without falling. Garry had one really nasty fall in there too. It was another choice that wasn’t a choice.
By the time we got to the boiler, we were broke. Social Security doesn’t give you “boosts” in pay. Short of going around begging for handouts, we had to find a way to finance an $8000 boiler and a $2000 back door. The boiler was my top item. This is New England. You can’t live without heat. Owen was worried the rot in the back door would spread, but if I felt the boiler had to come first. The state was offering an interest-free loan to replace boilers older than 20 years. Shortly after we got the estimate, COVID came around for its first wave and most of the banks that had offered the loan pulled out of the program. Suddenly, a loan which was designed for people with low incomes become impossible to get unless you already had enough to buy it without the loan. Loan or no loan, the boiler was dying.
Although COVID made all the banks wary of giving loans to “normal” people — like us — it made borrowing emergency money from our mortgage possible. It wasn’t a gift, but it gave us a lot of months to use it and time to figure out how to repay it. The government came through with enough money for a down-payment on the boiler and we took out a loan from Discover (not from the credit card – a real loan) to pay for the back door. It left us poor, but we had a boiler and a door. Owen propped up the deck (which also needs replacing) so it won’t fall down.
Meanwhile, Trump was working hard to make sure our grandchildren won’t have a viable planet to live on while caging children and babies. Damned if he wasn’t acting like a Marvel villain, trying his best to actually destroy our world. Somehow, there were millions of morons following him. We followed the news, suffered from serious gastric distress, and wondered how we would get through the horror that our world had become.
In the middle of this, there was the election and the frenzy and the endless news. No matter how awful things got, things got worse the next day and the day after that. After a while, we were all afraid to hope for anything better lest it prove a jinx.
The election came and went and remarkably — or maybe not so remarkably — we still have the Menace in the White House trying to overturn an election that took place two months ago and has been recounted numerous times since. We have just two more weeks before we have a new administration and there’s an election in Georgia which might make the difference between a government run by McConnell and something more rational and presumably sane.
Have I invested a lot of hope that things are going to rapidly improve? Not exactly. When we (in Connecticut and Massachusetts) invented two vaccines, I thought we might get vaccinated, I had a brief flurry of optimism which quickly faded when I realized it would be months before either Garry or I were going to be vaccinated. Meanwhile, the fast-spreading version of COVID has moved in and though it hasn’t been “officially” detected in Massachusetts, they’ve found it in New York. Whether they’ve formally found it here or not, it’s here. What happens in New York happens in Massachusetts five minutes later. And vice versa. Connecticut catches it as it transits state-to-state.
Assuming we actually get a result from today’s election today or tomorrow, and Trump and his toadies don’t turn this election into another prolonged national tragedy, I’ll know more tomorrow. Am I filled with hope for the new year? Not so much. I’m hoping to hope. Hoping I have some reason to be hopeful, but that’s not hope. That’s just one step over the line from wishful thinking.
So what is keeping us going?
Survival. I want very much to outlive this disaster. I want to see signs of better days in the future. I’m not seeing them yet, but it’s possible I might. I’m not sure if “probable” is part of my equation yet. Between my son and us, we’ve somehow come up with a couple of thousand dollars, bringing down our debt to an amount we can almost match if we can find someone to help us do our taxes. We’ve put the word out, but so far, all I’ve gotten is the IRS telling us to call back when they aren’t so busy. We are still locked in our home, hoping we may escape by summer.
I think we have — many of us — been living on hope for a long time. It’s not that we are running out of hope. Hope, unlike other fuel, has no end-date. But we are running low on energy, enthusiasm, optimism, and money. To compensate for the absence of a positive sense of the future, we are doing our best to stay cheerful. Watching funny movies. Eating healthy food. Enjoying Duke the Dog while trying to keep him from turning into a furry blob.
I suspect if we were younger and could see a longer life ahead in which might lie great world-level improvements, that would help. Oddly, having a President older than us is not so bad. If he can lead, we can do our best to survive so his agenda may become our better future.