The Beginning of The End
We weren't poor, just lower income. We were two young people who grew up middle class and living on the edge was new to us. We 'd been living in low rent, cheap places, the kind that were in need of some repair and came with some sort of infestation. They all were definitely without anything like air-conditioning. Looking back, the good side to all this is it taught me to be very careful with how I spent my money. I learned to budget, juggle bills, live within my means, and appreciate discretionary income.
For years I kept my budget in my head. I knew how much I spent and where I spent it. Later, when I was working in Silicon Valley making good money, I went to see a financial adviser. I walked in with nothing but a pad to take notes. He asked how come I didn't bring my financial stuff, things like pay stubs, bank statements, bills, credit card statements, etc. I told him I didn't need them, it was all in my head. I knew my income and out go, where I spent my money. He was skeptical to say the least but we proceeded. He asked all his questions. How much I spent on food, entertainment, bills, rent, utilities, car, etc. Then how much I earned, how much I saved, spent on vacations, and my tax information. At the end he added it up and said he was amazed that everything I told him about came within $100 of my annual income. He then told me he never had a client do that before. Most of his clients had little idea where much of their money went. I explained to him that there was a time where every dollar was important and I had to track each one and I never really stopped doing that.
When I married Kris we put our money together. I initially did all the money stuff and I was still keeping the budget all in my head. Well understandably, this tended to frustrate her as she had trouble seeing where we stood each month always having to ask me how much we had for various things. So eventually I turned all that over to her so she would know and after a while I stopped keeping track of everything. It's actually allowed me to be less tight with money, (after all we had a good amount of discretionary income) not to mention it has made for a smoother marriage.
Meanwhile, back at the story, time was passing slowly. I was bagging groceries during the day and working the flight-line at night getting partial sleep in between the two. I was very withdrawn and was spending much of my days telling myself to not think just do what I had to to get to the next day. I was scared that I was not going to make it through and started buckling down even further. The week days were a blur. I was emotionally absent and continued to feel worthless and lost. My main focus was to just get through this so I could go back to living my life.
We had moved to what we thought would be a better place when the rent in our old place increased. Well it seemed better as it was a stand alone one bedroom place in a quiet area across the river outside Yuba City. It came with the customary cockroaches but it also had rats, some of whom liked to participate in racing across the attic floor over our bedroom ceiling at night. Unfortunately I would only get to hear the performances on the weekend as during the week as I had to go to work.
Some of my co-workers were beginning to suggest I talk with someone. However, the more suggestions I received the more I resisted, insisting I was alright, not crazy, just focusing on getting through this to get my life back. That was the problem, I was avoiding living my life. Donna finally made an appointment to see my commanding officer asking for his help. Unlike Biloxi, I was not a regular visitor with my Beale commander, in fact I had managed to avoid seeing him all together. I finally got my chance as he had me report to his office. He informed me that Donna had been to see him. He wanted to know if I was aware of the visit. I told him I wasn't, which was true. His idea on how to help me was to assign me an additional task which was “keep your wife in line”. I was going to ask him if he presented her with the same guidance (keep you husband in line) but decided this was another “less is more” situation. I thought he must not be married or if he is, it may not be for long.
When I got home Donna asked if the Commander spoke with me. I told her yes, but did not tell her about his “suggestion”, just said he asked how I was doing. She got the picture. Donna would not have taken the commander's instructions well. Who would? I'm sure Donna wanted to do more but she also realized that if she did anything further about this I would be punished. A very tough place to be, where the results of your actions come down on the person you love. She was hurt, angry, frustrated, and beginning to feel like she was hurting more than helping me. I, of course, was of no help.
We decided that Donna should return to school to finish up her degree. I could then move to a cheaper one room place as soon as we could get out of the six month lease. That way when I got out she would have her degree and get a decent job while I returned to school to get mine. Sacramento State was the closest school but there was a problem. Don't remember what, and Davis was out of the question because of the cost. Donna ended up attending the University of Nevada at Reno. I was just going through the motions during the week anyway and I could come up on the weekends at the end of my shift and we figured it would not be all that different. With the aid the college provided we might have a little more money and I perhaps could cut back on bagging. At least we would be moving forward with something instead of just waiting for my service commitment to end.
Donna started back at school in Reno. I moved out of our place in Yuba City and found a one room place in the old Marysville Hotel that rented by the month. It came with a sink and 2 burner hot plate, a shower and a Murphy bed. It was only $50 a month and included utilities. No rats but some mice. I put out some traps but did not have much luck. I caught a couple but that was it. I finally caught a mouse when I stepped on one, killing it getting out of bed one morning to answer the phone. That method proved to be ineffective as that was the one and only time I managed to get one that way even though I continued stepping out of bed hopeful everyday the whole time I lived there.
Each Saturday morning after my shift I would drive out highway 20 to 80 and then up to Reno. Sgt. Jones knowing my situation would often let me out a little early on Fridays. I don't know how I survived all those drives as I was always very sleepy and I swear I have driven most of highway 20 with my eyes closed at one time or another. It was winter and I would drive with the windows down as much as I could to try to help keep me awake. A couple of times I almost hit a deer – while scary, it would turn out to be a good thing because the close call would provide me with a boost of adrenaline that would keep me awake and alert for the rest of the trip. I would get to Reno and just fall into bed and sleep. I'd get up in the early afternoon but I'd be groggy and it would take me most of the day to be somewhat normal. Even Sunday I would be only half there. Donna finally had something stimulating to do and new friends which was great but my condition sort of put a damper on it when I was there. I was so out of it that I was not much fun, not even interested in making love. Even my sense of humor was dulled. Donna was frustrated that she could not get me to be more engaged. I really was only half there, zombie like, essentially absent much of the time, and I was about to be shipped out to Okinawa.