54: A Change in Lifestyle

54: A Change in Lifestyle

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings

A Change in Lifestyle

Our only security is our ability to change.
~John Lilly

My parents lived through the Great Depression of the 1930s and I heard stories from both of them about how their lives changed because of it. The same was true of my in-laws whose lives were also impacted negatively. For example, my husband’s grandfather owned a factory. Owing to the stock market crash, he lost the factory and went back to work in the very factory he’d once owned. He could no longer afford to send my father-in-law to college. My father-in-law worked full time as a pipe fitter and went to school part-time to earn his degree, which took seven years.

My own mother graduated high school in 1929, took a job as a bookkeeper and promptly lost it after the stock market crash. She hardly worked after that for years and lived at home with her parents. My grandfather owned a six-family house but didn’t bother trying to collect rent from the tenants as no one could afford to pay. It was fortunate that he had a steady job.

Somehow, my husband and I never dreamed that we would live through anything similar. However, as they say, history often repeats itself. In 1929, the stock market crashed in the month of October. The same thing happened in 2008. My husband, who believed in being fully invested in the market, was in a state of shock. Each day the news was more dire.

“We’ve lost more than half of our assets,” he told me.

I just stared at him. “How can that be?”

“I thought we had good, solid investments, but it seems I was wrong.”

“Well, we do have pensions,” I said. “Hopefully, they won’t be affected. Since we have never lived a high lifestyle to begin with, I don’t think we have to worry.”

“I did hope to leave our children and grandchildren a generous inheritance,” my husband said. He shook his head in disbelief.

“We’ll still be able to give gifts. Love is the most important gift anyway.” Our children are grown and we always try to be generous to them and our grandchildren.

“It just won’t be the same.”

“The world is always changing,” I said. “You never know what will happen. The main thing is not to get discouraged. As long as we have our health and can afford the necessities of life, there’s no reason to be upset. When you have your health, you can always earn more money.”

I hugged my husband and he kissed me in return.

“I guess you’re right,” he agreed. “We love each other. We have our health and enough money to live on comfortably. That’s all that matters.”

We have downsized from a house to a co-op apartment. It was a major change in lifestyle, and there are definite benefits. Unfortunately, our house was on the market at a time when the real estate market was seriously in trouble. We decided to offer our house for considerably less than it would normally be worth. Even so, our first buyer changed his mind days before closing. Our second buyer had trouble with the mortgage company. But finally, our home was sold.

As we shook hands with the new owners, I told them how fortunate they were.

“Not only are you getting a bargain in the price, but this house has good karma. We bought the house from a family who lived in it for nine years. They were a happy family, a husband, wife and five children. It was a cheerful house and we had a good feeling about it. We raised our children here as well.”

“That’s good to hear,” the young woman said with a smile. “We have two young children ourselves. And I believe in karma too.”

We nodded our heads in agreement, understanding each other.

“You’ll live only six houses from the best elementary school in the township and your children won’t even have to cross a street,” I said. I wasn’t trying to sell them the house because they’d already bought it, but I figured the real estate broker probably hadn’t told them any of this.

“Our children used to come home each day and have lunch with me,” I told them.

“We like the woods in the back,” the young man told us. “We’re going to plant a large garden in the backyard.”

They seemed so young and happy and full of plans. My husband and I had to smile. At least some good was coming out of the economic crunch. We no longer needed a house. It was good to know that another young family would now be living in what had been a happy, loving home for us. Also, the house needed work that we no longer had the energy to perform.

These may be tough times economically, but as for me, I intend to look forward, not back. As Shakespeare said in Macbeth, “what’s done is done and cannot be undone.” It’s the present and future that matter. We can learn from our mistakes and make our lives better.

~Jacqueline Seewald

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