My dad left when I was 10 years old. It was pretty difficult as my dad was the primary bread winner and my mom only worked part time for extra spending money. He left our house and moved back into his parents house while our roof was half off being replaced. The fact that he and some friends were doing it and all just up and quit was another blow to my mom.
So, here we were, mom working part time with half of our roof torn down to the joists, no money and no help. My mom called on the bishop of our church for help. My dad had been attending the church for a few years longer than my mother and it seemed like everyone who was his friend (and he had a lot of them) refused to help. It ended up being the bishop, his wife and my mom and my aunt Minnie on the roof. She wouldn't let any of us kids up there.
We ended up living in the family home for another year without paying the house payment, because we couldn't afford to, until we were evicted.
During this time my mom started working full time as an assistant manager at 7-Eleven. We received food stamps and federal health care. I don't know if we received money or not. My dad paid $525 per month in child support and then with my mom's income of maybe $400 per month we didn't have much.
My mom made the difficult decision of going back to school to become an R.N. because she knew that she couldn't make it on the income that she was bringing home. That meant that we rarely saw her because she was either at work or at school.
My sister, Maria, ended up being in charge of the house. She was about 15 or 16 and had to do all of the shopping and get after my brother and I to do our chores. She had so much responsibility heaped on her at a very young age. She had to figure out how to feed 4 people and a dog on $100 per month. Not an easy prospect. We ate a lot of pasta and high carb food because it was cheap. It was better to have a belly full of not so good food than no food at all. This was also at the time where 7-Eleven sold sandwiches in addition to nachos and hot dogs. My mom received permission from the manager to bring home the expired sandwiches every day and that was our main day to day food. Everyone would fight over the chicken sandwiches and no one wanted the BBQ beef sandwiches but my mom always brought all of them home because she knew that they would get eaten.
At one point I only had one pair of shoes. It was a pair of sneakers. I got it stuck underneath the bathroom door and totally ripped the top of my shoe halfway off. My mom couldn't afford to get me another pair of shoes so I went around for a couple of weeks with duct tape wrapped around my shoe.
I used to go to visit my mom at work. I would ride my bike over a mile to the store and I would hang out, drinking Slurpees and eating nachos. It was really the only time that I got to spend with my mom and so I was there a lot. I missed my mom but I understood the sacrifice that she was making.
Once we were evicted from our house we had to find another place to live. My mom found a house for us in the neighboring town, which meant that I had to change from one school district that I had been in since kindergarten, to the rival school district. It was hard on me but it ended up being a great change. I had the best school year of my life that first year when I transferred. My grandmother had just sold her home and so she moved in with us to help out with the bills and taking care of us kids so that my sister didn't have that burden anymore.
The really difficult times lasted about two years until my grandmother moved in with us. Her being there, cooking and helping out with everything made such a difference that things seemed to change overnight. No longer were we fending for ourselves, but we now had that parenting figure again to take care of us.
I cannot imagine how difficult this was for my mom. She did the best that she could with the hand that she was dealt. Not only was she working full time, going to school full time and trying to raise three kids, but she also never turned her back on any of our friends and it seemed that if someone needed help that she was there for them even if it meant that she was going without sleep.
My mother graduated from nursing school when I was 16. It took her 5 years to achieve her goal of being able to provide better for her family. I have the utmost respect for my mother. To this day I don't know how she did it. She is truly my hero.