I read The Headmaster’s Wager as a member of the From Left to Write book club. I was given a free copy of this book. This post is inspired by the book.
Welcome to all of my fellow book club members or anyone coming here for the first time! I am a chronically ill mom married to a chronically ill man and we are raising our six-year-old son, who also has some special needs. My blog focuses on the challenges parents with chronic illness face, but also speaks about being a mom and a woman in general.
In The Headmaster’s Wager by Vincent Lam, Headmaster Percivial Chen is a proud Chinese born man who runs an English language school during the cusp of the Vietnam War. In his refusal to accept his adopted country’s turbulent times, his gamble becomes a life changer.
Right now, due to our chronic illnesses and my three year fight for Social Security Disability, my family is bankrupt and technically homeless. It WILL get better, because I have been approved for disability. The problem we are having is WHEN? Social Security operates at a snail’s pace as it is and my lawyer also tells me that because they owe me going back to September of 2008, the initial payout is very high and three people will need to sign off on it. The way it stands right now is my local office told me that if I have not heard back from them in 30-45 days, to call them. What this means to me is that they will do nothing on my case until I call them at the 30 day mark, and then have 15 more days to still do nothing with my case. It is ironic that in a few months we will have a large lump sum payment (which only amounts to about a year’s salary for me) and my disability income. I think we will be able to live on our combined disability incomes but it will always be a struggle. It will at least allow us to be able to afford our own apartment after being homeless since March. But for now, making my husband’s monthly disability income last is a race against time.
The following is an example of a typical month for us, it was from October to November. My husband just got paid today.
Grant got paid on October 15th. Immediately we must pay the car insurance bill, over $350.00, a huge dent. We realize that this is going to be another tough month. We pay our cell phone bills, our only phones, and Grant must pay one of his doctors who has agreed that he will accept $50 from him whenever he can spare it.
We want to take Tyler to a Halloween party in our Cleveland suburb. It’s is $15 for the three of us, should we do it? We decide we will.
Having arrived in Ohio at the end of September, two weeks later I get a traffic ticket. I realize the driving laws are vastly different from New Jersey and now I am looking at a $155.00 speeding ticket plus court costs. I go to court in front of a judge and tell her that paying her city $245.00 right now would be an extreme hardship to my family. It takes me more than a week to finally work out a payment plan that my family can possibly pay, although even this will still be difficult.
We start putting only $10 of gas into the car at a time. But I must drive in to Cleveland three times a week for my doctors’ appointments and we have to fill up every few days.
Grant decides to cancel his doctor’s appointment, believing that currently I am the sicker of the two of us.
I pray that it doesn’t snow until after November 14th as coming from New Jersey we are not at all ready for the harsh Cleveland winter. Tyler needs boots, snowpants, pants other than jeans, and hoodies. I do not own boots and need more sweaters. I take back the sweaters that I had bought earlier in the month that are too big for me and instead of exchanging them I return them for the money.
I make the decision not to pick up a prescription, thinking that I can go a little longer without it.
I begin going to the grocery store every two days, picking up the absolute essentials and replacing anything only when it has completely run out. Tyler eats eight to nine times a day and the pediatrician says he must.
The first week in November, I text a dear friend whom I have met through this blog and ask if she can lend me $50.00. Tyler is off two days next week and will not be getting the free lunch that he gets in school. He will have a three day weekend. We want to take him somewhere during the three days and we wrack our brains trying to find something that is free other than parks and playgrounds, which he frequents. The Cleveland Museum of Art is free but it costs six dollars to park plus the gas and we decide against it. We take Tyler to the North Chagrin Reservation where he can learn about nature and see animals for free.
Our ten year anniversary on November 9th comes and goes, with no cards, gifts, dinner out, etc. We tell each other we will have our ten year anniversary when I get my disability.
I look at my Sponsored Tweets account and see that it has $21.96. Do I cash it out with a withdrawal penalty, in the end meaning I will have less money? I decide to wait until we are absolutely desperate.
This weekend I uploaded six pictures to Walgreen’s for a project Tyler needs for school. They will cost a dollar and change. I realize that it is too risky to pick them up.
We finish the pay period with six dollars. Not just in our wallets, but to our names. We started anew today. But Christmas is nearly upon us and we have to get gifts for Tyler. We desperately need winter clothes, because the odds are we will have a tremendous snowfall soon. Another tough month is ahead for us.
And so I am left to gamble again.
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