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We just paid off our truck. It was exciting to know that we’d have one less expense each month. Then, of course, the air conditioner on it went out. It seems that we needed a new condenser. “Ka-ching, Ka-ching!” There goes a nice chunk of change, but air conditioning is a must in my part of the world. Speaking of which it’s time to replace one of our almost twenty year old air conditioning units in our house. It’s actually had a great run all things being equal. I can’t complain too much about finally having to give in to replace it because we’ve gotten by rather nicely for a long time. Things really do fall apart,  and the twenty year mark seems to be the point as which all of the problems begin to show.

I laugh went I see the repair trucks in my neighborhood. It’s as though everyone is experiencing the same problems all at once. We’ve all had to replace our roofs, paint the exteriors, and call in the air conditioning crews. The people next door had foundation problems which scares the bejabbers out of the rest of us. Their repair was rather quick, but I don’t even want to imagine the cost. We just replaced a whole houseful of leaky faucets, and the jacuzzi on our bathtub decided to quit running. In the spring we got a new hot water heater and a whole lot of new carpet because the hot water heater leaked all over the house. By the time we get everything repaired we may be able to settle down for a very long time because most of the moving parts in our home are once again brand new.

I have to admit that I despise having to spend the money on such things, but I feel blessed that I am able to do so. I often think about a tour that I took in Chicago to see homes built by Frank Lloyd Wright. I remember that one of the ones that we saw was in a dreadful state. The guide explained that it was owned by an old man whose teacher retirement income did not allow him to fix things. He spent most of what he had on exorbitant taxes and the rest on food and medical bills. Our tour host mentioned that there were people who were infuriated that the once majestic home was falling apart, and they had tried unsuccessfully to purchase it from the owner. He was unwilling to sell because a member of his family had lived there since it was built by Mr. Wright. It was a matter of honor to the old guy not to just give it away, no matter how much pressure was being exerted to compel him to do so. I could not help but wonder why some generous group interested in the architectural history of Chicago did not simply volunteer to make the needed repairs in the name of conservation. I also realized how difficult it may sometimes be for the elderly to keep their beloved homes.

My grandfather had to sell his house after my grandmother died. He had exhausted his savings on her medical care. He survived by renting a room from a widow who decided to get a roomer so that she might be able to keep her own home. Together the lady and my grandfather kept her tiny place in good condition. They had found a way of feeling safe and happy by combining talents and resources, but not without sacrifice.

My own mother struggled mightily in her later years as well. She had quite proudly paid for her home and about the time that she thought that she would have some extra cash in her monthly budget all hell broke lose in her house. The oven quit heating. The dishwasher broke down. Her plumbing went haywire. She needed a new roof. Her house required a coat of paint inside and out. The carpet became threadbare. She was so overwhelmed that she essentially gave up. We did our best to help her with things by having painting parties and such, but there was so much to do that she became embarrassed to ask for help and often just hid the problems.

Every city and town has homes that have not been kept up to standard. It’s easy to complain about them as eyesores, but we often miss the point that they have become so because the people who live in them do not have the money or the skills to repair them. I suppose that’s why I so love the Habitat for Humanity program started by former President Jimmy Carter. Really good people volunteer time to help those who can’t help themselves. Often the recipients of the goodwill are older people who simply live with what they have regardless of how inconvenient things become. Providing them with a secure place to live is the least that we can all do as a community.

I recently saw a news story about an elderly woman whose home was inundated during hurricane Harvey. Over a year after the event she is still living with a shell of a home. She has no walls and walks on concrete floors. Even her plumbing is not working properly. She did not understand how to get help from FEMA and has passed the deadline for assistance from them. She plans to make one very small repair at a time until one day everything is back to normal, but it is obviously a very slow and overwhelming process. Hopefully someone who knows how to do such things may offer time or materials to hurry the process. It’s incredibly sad to know that people in our midst are struggling so.

I try to remember not to complain when I’m feeling angered by the continual parade repairs. Sure I have to spent disgustingly enormous amounts of money, but I always find a way of doing so. I do not have the worries of so many who work hard all of their lives only to find themselves struggling in their later years. Not only should I be grateful, but I think I should give regularly to organizations that actually help those who can’t. We have to share our good fortune so that others may live more decently.

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