Sunday, February 05, 2006

When Night Falls

Since as long as I could remember, my grandmother has made her living by doing day work. Not too many people know what I’m talking about when they ask or when I voluntarily offer her profession. Day work is an old term used to describe house cleaning. My mother tells me that my grandmother has been doing day work since my youngest uncle was a baby. He is now thirty five.

My grandmother has always been a hard worker and honest woman. For a period of time she and I didn’t have the best relationship but wisdom and living have healed that wound. As I have grown to be a man I have watched her in admiration. Even when I look into her eyes I can’t imagine all of what she has seen.

As she grows older and continues to battle health problems - just yesterday she was released from the hospital again - I realize that her days of doing day work will soon have to come to an end. To me that means so much.

On a small scale it means that her already fixed income will shrink. She will only have her social security check to definitely rely on. This morning my mother and I spoke about how much money my grandmother gets from the government and my heart dropped. I cannot fathom how anyone could live off of so little. Yet I know the truth is that thousands of Americans do and must. If my grandmother stops working the two pools of funds that would possibly supplement her government check would be her savings which is made of mostly the money she received after the deaths of two of her children and her mother who died late last year. The other source of supplement would probably come from a check I have every reason to believe she would receive monthly from one of her employers of the past thirty some years. My great grandmother who recently passed also did day work for the same family until she couldn’t work anymore. After she stopped working they still sent her a check once a month until she died.

That leads to the larger picture. In this scenario that is my grandmothers’ life, so many public and social policy issues show there faces. I am forced to think about how our society and government care for our elderly. I am forced to think of the huge economic divides and anytime I think of economics I also think of education. I am forced to think about the grandiose idea of breaking cycles. I ask if they will ever be broken. I ask myself how will I prepare to assist taking care of my own mother who has never made much money in her life. It is a reality, just as real as the sun and the moon, just as real as light and dark. When the day is over, night comes.