All my adult life, I’ve had money. The reason why is my father’s death. I was 19 when I inherited assets I had no interest in understanding.
For ten years I ignored this money, unable to deal with the burning shame of having benefited from the loss of my father’s life. For the next ten years, I tried to grow up and gain a little more understanding of what it was I possessed and what it meant. And for the last few years, I have been spending this money.
I’ve been trying to launch my own small business. I didn’t think that effort would eat up all but a few thousand of what I once had. In January of this year I had what I thought was just enough in the bank to deal with any emergencies that might come up with my dog or my car as I work to make my new business viable.
On March 10th, I learned that my dog, Vincent, had some kind of massive growth in his abdomen. On March 11th, I took him in for surgery. The total cost of those two days was $4,000.
One week later, I was told that Vincent had an aggressive form of splenetic cancer. Ten days after that, I was flying to Seattle to teach a series of workshops I had spent the past three months planning. Vincent had bounced right back from surgery and was safely ensconced with his beloved second family.
On March 31st I found out that Vincent was having massive internal bleeding and that his red blood cell count was so low he could suffocate at any moment. The only choice for me was to fly back home to fulfill one of the most important obligations of any pet owner: to offer my cherished animal a swift and painless passage out of this life.
I got off the phone to buy a plane ticket back to North Carolina. The cheapest ticket was $1,000. I didn’t have the 24 hours to transfer money from my savings into my checking account. I had only my first credit card, secured five months earlier. Because I had never had a credit card before, my credit limit was $500. I borrowed $1,000 from a hooper friend—someone who is working her ass off night and day to earn enough money to live—to buy my ticket home. I will never, ever forget her act of kindness.
There was little time to grieve. I had one perfect last day with my Vincent. Two days to cry into the arms of my dear loving man-friend. Then I was on the plane again to the West Coast, finishing my workshop tour.
I have so much love and light in my life. When I returned home, my brand-new nephew Jim came to visit. Time holding him. His precious smile and irresistible giggle! In the whole wide world, there is nothing sweeter.
Then it was back on the road. To Maine. My 10-year-old VW was up to the task– I’ve learned how to be an adult and change my oil and tires regularly. Plus, I could stop in New York and see Jim again.
Yesterday, I was two hours into my drive home when the car started shuddering. At that very moment I was on the phone with the credit card company—it had been six months, I could request a credit increase. As the car rolled to a stop next to the service station that was miraculously just off the highway, steam rolling out from under the hood, my credit limit was increased from $500 to $1,000. I got out of the car.
24 hours later, I sit in the lobby of a Howard Johnson’s in Portland, Maine (who knew they still existed?) waiting for the VW place to call and tell me whether or not my car will ever run again. I had a lovely breakfast (with a 10% HoJo discount) next door at The Egg and I, and my computer and my phone are fully charged. I will be able to get home. My hoop is right next to me. My nephew is thriving with the two best parents that could ever be imagined for any child. Mom is making art and planning trips in South Carolina, enjoying the five grands she inherited when she married her second husband ten years ago.
Last night, one of my dearest friends was coaching me on how to buy a car if I need to. “You’ve got to start thinking like a poor person,” he said. He’s right. And yet I feel so very, very rich.