In todays mail: a belated birthday card from my grandmother. Grandma explained that the delay was due to insufficient funds.
My grandparents have been married for over 50 years. They have raised four sons and a daughter. They are, in fact, great-grandparents. They are senior citizens, they have worked their butts off their whole lives, and they deserve a rest.
My grandmother and grandfather do not deserve "insufficient funds."
My grandmother and grandfather do not deserve to be living paycheck to paycheck. To be watching every single penny like it's the last one they'll ever see.
The timing of the birthday card was phenomenal. I'm in a similar situation and would have fallen critically short otherwise- todays mail and a surprise gift from a coworker who knows my situation, and suddenly payday is in reach. That's not the point. I have another ten, fifteen years before this sort of thing should be eating my brain and causing ulcers. I have another ten, fifteen years to chase payday, catch it, lock it up and domesticate it.
My grandparents, by all rights, should be past this. They know what they're doing.
The economics and the priorities of the American government dictate otherwise. Savings were emphasized in the forties and fifties- these days, a good chunk of the economy itself is hung up in the concept. Lawsuits are filed. Enron comes to mind. Corporations screw people out of a few quiet years of reflection and gardening and suddenly you're pushing eighty and realize you've been doing the nine to five for the last sixty years.
Four daughters and a son. Nine (ten? I've lost track...) grandchildren. One great-grandchild. It's the twenty first century, and my grandmother still has a day job. A day job that doesn't quite make ends meet.
Feels disturbingly familiar.
Reading the card, I felt old.
Very old, and very cold.