CHAPTER 19 Birthday Party

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copyright 2017 Chris Smith  All rights reserved.

"Troubled insurance giant AIG, already under fire for intending to pay out $165 million in bonuses and compensation, succumbed Sunday to congressional pressure, identifying banks that received chunks of the company's billions in federal bailout funds last year."


Late morning we all piled into the car and headed to a birthday party for a close friend of Mom's, Pam, from her early school years. It was a family that I had grown up with. We hadn't seen them in years. I felt odd. I was glad to get away but apprehensive about acting like everything was okay. Maybe a break from the reality of what was happening back on the Farm would be good for us.

When we got to the restaurant it soon became evident some of the family hadn't known we were invited. So there were shocked faces and big hugs all around. They all looked happy and healthy.

But I wondered if they could see the new formed cracks on our skin and the pain trying to bust loose in our souls. I wondered if the breaking was written all over our faces. And if it was, how would we explain it.

"Ooopps we accidentally fell into foreclosure," I thought.

We walked over to the birthday table.

"I don't belong here," I thought as I sat down.

I was an alien in a Stepford movie. It should have been almost comical if I had been in the right mood to handle it. But I was so overloaded. I spent most of the party sitting at the table staring off into space. I was in shock at how far away their reality was to mine.

The months of stress had drained me and I hadn't the heart to put up a "good front". All my fronts were on fire these days. Plus I didn't know what to say to these people. They weren't thinking about Foreclosures or Evictions. No, these people were thinking about what to pack next week for their kid's lunch. They didn't have to worry about things like strangers coming into their homes and carting all their belongings off.

I was so far removed from these people. I was a shadow. I was a person who didn't even exist on their plane. I tried to act the part of a happy partygoer, but it just wasn't in me. I didn't want to wear a mask of pretend. I didn't have the energy for it. It was all I could do, not to sob uncontrollably into my slice of pizza.

And the cake?

If they made me sing "Happy Birthday" I was going to lose it. I showed up. I did the fake smile. That was it. That was all I had to give.

I was surrounded by examples of what I could have been, had I taken a different route. Maybe there was another me on some other plane that had made different choices. Maybe that version of me was somewhere sitting at a table talking about kid lunches and diaper rashes. I could have had the American dream. I could have settled for a life that I didn't want.

It wouldn't have fulfilled me though. I may not know everything, but I did know that. Though at least I would have had something to show for my life. A meaning I could point to and say, "Look at what I have created."

My current life?

I had no husband, no kids, no dog, and my home was disappearing before my eyes, like a mirage. I was empty inside with nothing to fill the ever present void. I had no sense of fulfillment. I don't think I even knew what the words meant, "To be at peace with oneself and one's place in the universe."

The conversations at the party were kept to simple things, and I was glad. People didn't talk to me which was fine. I didn't have anything to say. I sure as shit didn't need to talk about what was happening. There was nothing they could do for me. They had nothing to give me. The separation between us was as obvious as living in a world with the sun and living in a world without one.

I seemed to be the only person at the table who saw it and couldn't get past it. We didn't need people feeling sorry for us. It wouldn't change the reality of the situation. Nor would it help us to be reminded of what we were going through by having to relive the experience through conversation.

They didn't need the burden either. Everyone had enough of their own burdens these days, me included.

I don't think I did a good job at trying to pretend like everything was okay. But I did try. I tried to smile as much as I could even though I could feel my face falling off into a ravine. One wrong move and I'd be losing every last ounce of "togetherness" I had at a birthday party. So I fought the feelings and pushed them down along with everything I hated about myself. It was all I knew how to do.

"The U.S. Treasury Department purchases a total of $1.45 billion in preferred stock from 19 U.S. banks under the Capital Purchase Program."

U.S. Treasury Department Report

March, 2009

Fact: "The U.S. Treasury Department is the executive agency responsible for promoting economic prosperity and ensuring the financial security of the United States. The Department is responsible for a wide range of activities such as advising the President on economic and financial issues, encouraging sustainable economic growth, and fostering improved governance in financial institutions. The Department of the Treasury operates and maintains systems that are critical to the nation's financial infrastructure, such as the production of coin and currency, the disbursement of payments to the American public, revenue collection, and the borrowing of funds necessary to run the federal government. The Department works with other federal agencies, foreign governments, and international financial institutions to encourage global economic growth, raise standards of living, and to the extent possible, predict and prevent economic and financial crises. The Treasury Department also performs a critical and far-reaching role in enhancing national security by implementing economic sanctions against foreign threats to the U.S., identifying and targeting the financial support networks of national security threats, and improving the safeguards of our financial systems."

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