S2: Episode 4 - Shirley

Episode Information

[Intro Music]

Narrator:  Welcome to Hunger and Resilience, narrative histories about the complexity and experiences of hunger. A traveling exhibition and weekly podcast edited and hosted by Michael Nye, supported by the San Antonio Food Bank, Eric Cooper, executive director. We are grateful for the honesty and eloquence of every voice. Episode four, Shirley.

Shirley: I never thought it would happen to us. I say, why? Where did we fail? Someone that’s been able to make it work for themselves and their children, and then all of a sudden the rugs jerked out from under you and is very, very scary. Very scary. I have never seen a man that worked any harder than my husband. He was driven, self-made man. He was a builder. He could do it all, but mostly he framed the houses and whatever hours it took, 10, 12 hours a day, that’s what he put in. And he’s probably built a fourth of Mobile, Alabama.

He was building a house and he doesn’t even remember falling. And he fell two stories. The ambulance came and took him to the hospital and they called me immediately and I went down. He messed up his neck and his back. He has straps and bolts in his ankle right now. He can only walk maybe eight, ten feet and then slow down and wait for his legs and some relief in his back so he could never work after the accident. Well, we lived on what we had saved as long as we could. And we sold the house to finish paying off outstanding bills. Hospital doctor, x-rays, physical therapy, that type of thing. We’re living in a camper trailer. We pay $350 a month. The things I miss the most for me is not having a home. Desperation it’s when you look around and you see nothing. I can’t let fear take over. I’ve, I’ve sold all my jewelry. I’m down to nothing there. Right now. We probably have $6 and 80 cents and nine days to go until our social security check comes in. The day you get paid and you go buy groceries and you pay rent and you pay utilities, you buy propane, you buy gas for the car, you buy the medications. By the third week, it’s pretty well gone.

That was one day when we had one can of corn left and we split that can of corn to fill us up for that day. I’ve mixed up, uh, water and flour and fried it to have a little something. We read a lot to take our minds off of it. Books that we’ve had through the years that we couldn’t read. Reading helps take your mind off of hunger. There were a couple days that, um, we went to Winn-Dixie, which is a grocery store in our area, about a gallon of gas away, <laugh>. I have to think of it like that now. And we got little cups of free coffee and free cookies, sample cookies we took more than we were supposed to, I imagine. I don’t know. Took a couple each instead of just one. That’s all we had to eat for two days. And I really, really felt low then. Very low.

I cry sometimes out of the way life went downhill for us. Things go round and over and over and over in your mind. Just wondering if somebody was gonna come in, maybe find us dead and, and the, and the children finding us dead maybe, or just all kind of morbid things if you let it get to you, if you think about it. But it is, it, it’s awfully scary in my case because I’ve never been there before. My children, I think they care, but they have their own lives. They have children in college and they have to work for a living and they’re buying homes. I really haven’t talked to ’em about it. But, um, they used to tell us that they had the best parents in the world. We’re lucky if we get a call once in a great while and I really don’t know what the answer is. I think maybe they are ashamed of the way we are living and they just avoid us because of it. They don’t wanna feel guilty. If I thought too much about what’s going on, I couldn’t keep going. You can’t worry about everything, every minute.

[Outro Music]

Host:  This is season two, a weekly podcast narrative histories about the experience of hunger and resilience and of understanding. I’m Michael Nye. Thank you so much for listening and following this podcast on my website, michaelnye.org/podcast you’ll find portraits and transcripts. We are grateful for Shirley’s honesty, her voice and presence. May something in her story stay with you. Every person, every place is a map that somewhere else.