Follow by Email

Saturday, November 08, 2014

A Grasshopper Without Regrets



There two kinds of people in the world as we all know - ants and grasshoppers. I wonder if it is possible to change from one to the other or if those qualities are so innate as to be immutable?

Of course, all of us have some characteristics of each but most of us lean distinctly one way or the other. I have always listed far to the grasshopper side. Like one of my heroines, Scarlett O'Hara, I've always been able to tell myself, "I'll worry about that tomorrow".

My mother-in-law, whom I loved dearly, was an ant to the nth degree. I can remember sitting on the bank of the creek beside the yard on a lovely sunny summer day when she came out to see me.

"How can you sit here doing nothing when you have dirty dishes in your sink?" she asked disapprovingly.

"I'm not doing nothing....I'm watching the minnows and the crawdads and the dragonflies and enjoying the warmth of the sun.....and I can do it because all those things will be gone soon but the dishes will still be there whenever I go in."

She and my father-in-law denied themselves when they retired...trips and furniture and a new car - because they put everything back for their "old age". And yes, they got old and they ended up in a nursing home because of my father-in-law's illness....and soon, all their savings was gone. They still ended up on Medicaid, only a few month's later, when their own money was used up. I figure when my times comes, I'll just be on Medicaid from the git-go.

When she was in that nursing home, she told me once - "I wish I'd been more like you and worried less and enjoyed life more."

But she couldn't change her nature anymore than I can.

People like me, grasshoppers, shouldn't even be trusted with credit cards. It's too easy for us to convince ourselves that we need that vacation for our peace of mind, whether we can afford it or not. Or that the spare bedroom would be PERFECT if only it had that puffy pink comforter from Ebay on the bed and what I spend on Amazon, I don't even count because, well, books.....

Grasshoppers are self-indulgent. I am addicted to smoking but I never do as one friend does...she buys four cartons every month when she gets paid and she rations herself to make sure they last until she will be able to buy more. Me, I smoke with abandon - "smok'em if you got'em!" I assume if I run out, I'll either think of a way to get more or I'll just do without. Rationing is not in the realm of my possibility.

Both of my husband's were grasshoppers, like me. Because of it, we careened around the country from Indiana to Illinois to South Carolina to Texas and several more points in between. When we had money, we lived high and when we didn't, we pulled in our horns and survived. Our lifestyle was what my father always called - "chicken today and feathers tomorrow". If you ask me now, if I thought the chickens were worth the feathers, I'd say yes.

I never thought about the future in my working life. I can't even remember how many jobs I've ever had - bartender, waitress, secretary, legal assistant, real estate salesperson, insurance underwriter, chicken house mother. I've soldered and punch-pressed and taped and cut hoses and orientated in all kinds of factories. I've worked with cops and robbers and bikers and boozers and druggies and musicians. I worked with deadbeats and devout Christians, rich people and poor people and blacks and whites and latinos and learned from and enjoyed all of them.

When I finally went to work at City Hall and then followed my boss to the Sheriff's Department, I stuck because I loved the work and the people. When I got fired by the new Sheriff, I went to the Prosecutor's office and it turned out that I'd, almost accidentally, worked at enough government jobs to earn a pension from the Public Employee's Retirement Fund. Meanwhile, many of my peers who stayed at positions they hated for "security" found out that security isn't always a dependable thing. I actually ended up better off financially than many of them.

I make just enough money being retired to survive if I'm careful....but I'm not good at being careful. When I first get paid, I'm generous-hearted with what I have. I tear through the aisles of the grocery like I have unlimited funds. A big fat steak? Yes! And chocolate ice cream and Starbucks coffee pods and real butter and cheese and fruit. If I run out of money before I run out of month, oh, well, chicken today and feathers tomorrow!

I write the same way I live. No plan, no outline, no particular genre....just plunge in and see what happens. Sometimes, I'm as excited to find out how it all comes out as any reader could be. I say what I think and I'm not concerned about offending people. I've always been that way about my political writing and now I'm the same with fiction and taking on taboo subjects.

So, here I am at 68 - the ultimate grasshopper - and no regrets.

1 comment:

Liz Flaherty said...

LOL. This was fun. Think I fall somewhere in the middle--just like my politics!--but we'd probably all like to be grasshoppers at heart with the bank accounts of ants.