We've established that I was really poor as a kid. Welfare poor. The major reason for this was my dad. My useless, transient hobo with a gambling problem dad. It took my mom quite a few years to come to the realization that being on her own with 4 kids would actually be significantly easier than staying with him and trying to take care of us.
That said, we were still really poor. Except that single mothers of 4 kids can get help from the government instead of just living in a van and eating dinner out of vending machines like we did when we lived with my dad. And so we were on welfare, and food stamps, and eventually we were able to get into subsidized housing. You know, the projects. My mom still worked- mostly for our landlord to pay off our rent in the many years while we waited to get into housing we could afford. And then cleaning bars and homes and stuffing envelopes for our (by then) ex-landlord and a handful of her colleagues for 2 cents per envelope. Guys? Doing anything for 2 cents a piece is basically slave labor. I remember my mom staying up 24, 48 hours straight- sometimes longer- and making a whopping $25 for 2 straight days of work.
My point is that my mom busted her ass. Because she had to and because she would do anything for us. Because my dad didn't pay a single dime in child support, basically ever (the occasions he managed to collect unemployment where child support was taken out- much to his dismay- automatically, were like bonus time in our family). Because she couldn't afford child care and so she had to work odd jobs for next to nothing just so we could survive. I've always respected how hard she worked for us. As a parent myself now, it's really jarring to look back on it and see it from her perspective. As a kid, I knew we didn't have much money. I knew a lot of times I couldn't have something I wanted because we couldn't afford it. Hand-me-down clothes were the usual. Nothing about it seemed particularly hard for me as a child because it was all I ever knew. But now, as a parent? I look at how much I stress about making sure I can afford things that are luxuries- DVR and Christmas photo shoots- how I don't want Caitlyn to miss out on those things that aren't really going to hurt her in the long run- and I can't help but imagine what it must have been like for my mom to not be able to afford food and milk and diapers. Because, as the poet Eminem once said "these goddamn food stamps don't buy diapers". Preach, brother.
None of this is really the point though. We've already established that I hold my mother in the same regard as saints. Probably higher, actually. My point is that, through all of this- through quite literally nearly killing herself because she was taking care of 4 kids alone- my father always judged our lifestyle. On the occasions he came around (it was much less so when we were kids- I'm assuming because none of us had couches he could crash on yet), he always had rude comments about what my mom wasn't giving to us. Nevermind the fact that he hadn't contributed anything of value for the entirety of our childhood. He couldn't believe my mom had us living in the projects (apparently sleazy motels were much better)! He looked down at his nose at her for feeding us with food stamps (Oh, how she enjoyed those 1st of the month, 3 mile walks to and from the grocery store!). He particularly hated the fact that she was on welfare. He always thought himself far too good for welfare. Or maybe it just especially annoyed him because he was more likely to end up with an arrest warrant for not paying his child support when the money was owed to welfare.
My point is that he would show up, and he would judge us. He would promise to get us out of such horrible conditions (and back into the shitty motels/homeless shelters we deserved!). He treated my mom as though all she was doing wasn't enough for his standards. Ironic.
Anyway. My dad stopped by for a visit a couple of weekends ago. I could tell he had some money in his pockets, because he wasn't using what I like to refer to as his "kill yourself" tone of voice for everything he said. I didn't even have to ask before he started telling me why.
You guys? He's on welfare. And food stamps. And he is inexplicably getting rental assistance which has been approved through AUGUST. He is a 60 year old man who has never held a steady job, has pissed away every dime he's ever earned through his gambling addiction, has abused the kindness and asked favors of every single person he has ever known (his own children included), and passionately HATES "the system" for ever pursuing him for his obligations to his 4 children. And yet, he is happily abusing it now (and trust me, abusing is the right word. He openly admitted to winning $2000 on the lottery- he spent his WELFARE money on fucking lottery tickets!).
The worst part isn't even that he's abusing a service that he frequently judged my mom for needing while he contributed nothing during my childhood. The worst part is that he bitched about how inconvenient receiving welfare has been for him. You guys? Welfare asks questions. Like whether or not you are looking for a job. So RUDE! Also, he didn't even WANT welfare. He just wanted food stamps and rental assistance but they totally insisted on giving him welfare too. Ugh. And then, omg he totally had to sit in the welfare office for TWO STRAIGHT DAYS- he was even the LAST person they took on his second day of waiting- before they gave him a fucking free ride for the forseeable future. Tacky, welfare. So tacky. The customer is always right, you know. And the customer shouldn't have to wait 2 whole days that they definitely weren't going to spend at work, waiting around for your free money. And food. And housing.
Anyway. I digress. It's just that sometimes you are going through your own personal struggles. Real struggles, scary struggles, and you find you have to pull yourself up and realize that, well, you got yourself into this mess and you're just going to have to deal with it now. You'll be okay eventually. And then some jackass who is just begging to be dead to you comes to your house and bitches about how inconvenient he found his trip to the welfare office, and you have to hold yourself back from punching him in the face.
On the upside, he did give me a red plastic Solo cup full of change though. Totally makes up for that whole "absentee father" thing.