The Chapter 13 bankruptcy I was forced into in 2009 because of the vast medical expenses accrued during my wife's illness ended Saturday. And a new life began.
For five years, the U.S. District Court's Eastern District of Arkansas took more than 70 percent of my paycheck every two weeks, leaving me very little to survive with. I don't make much, but on Saturday when I accessed my online bank account and saw a balance for the first time in years that was more than what I usually keep in the change holder of my car, I felt a bit liberated.
It may be wrong to base one's worth merely on financial status, but that's the world we live in. I learned these past five years that if you don't have money, you really are not a viable human being. Even the court process in filing was dehumanizing. We were led into the federal court, sitting on the wrong side of the courtroom barrier that separated the attorneys from those seeking bankruptcies. It was the dividing line of the haves and the have-nots. On one side, the attorneys laughed, conferred, negotiated. On our side, we sat, stoic, depressed, fearful. The game of life was over and there was no reset button. We hit tilt, we crapped out, we lost.
There was sorrow. I heard people's tales of woe; one was losing two of his vehicles, another had the IRS breathing down on him, wielding a Michael Myers machete of back taxes and penalties. Yet another had driven in from Oregon to attend his hearing. When some complication arose, he was told he had to return to the court months later. He said he couldn't afford it. The judge told him to be there.
That was the first day of my financial imprisonment. It didn't get any better.
For five years I received my paycheck and tried to figure how I would pay bills and have enough for food. Entertainment? Forget it. I did have basic cable and my library card was active. I could watch television and read books.
And the biggest issue I had was the constant reminder of the loss I suffered. My wife passed away in 2006. I was reliving that heartache every pay period.
I wasn't a bad person, I rationalized. I didn't end up this way because of stupid financial planning or wasteful spending. It was an unavoidable illness that dropped us. I became even more bitter about it all and I made excuses for myself.
And I learned to cope.
So, what does this all have to do with APBA, you ask? During these past five years, I, like I always do, relied on the game to get through the bleak times. You can buy the player cards for a baseball season for about $40 or so. It takes a year or more to replay a season. That breaks down to about a dime a day — something even I could afford. The game helped me get through that.
And then, today, after checking my bank account online yet again in a learned paranoia behavior to make sure the court didn't rescind and deplete my balance, I made a call. I dialed APBA's company and ordered player cards for the 2013-14 hockey season. It's an act that most people with expendable income take for granted. For me, it was totally liberating and a step into a new life that I thought I had lost five years ago.