Feb 9, 2003
Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
At a time when 66-year-old Marilyne Fox thought she would be able to help her adult children financially, she has had to ask them for money.
When her food and funds have run out, she has become so depressed that she has considered suicide.
"Life for me right now doesn't have much meaning and I don't know why I am alive, for all I am is an expensive problem, a statistic to my friends and government," she wrote last year during a period of depression.
She still has hours of hopelessness, knowing that her financial situation will not improve. But her desire to live somehow returns.
"That's how I am with life, determined to make it even if I have to humble myself to ask for food," she said.
Fox said her financial troubles began when she went on Social Security several years ago. She said that despite efforts to economize, her $599 monthly Social Security check and $60 in food stamps sometimes aren't enough. She has borrowed money from her children and friends and sought food at a local agency.
She said she felt embarrassed as her name was called out at the agency and had to provide proof of her income to obtain food.
"I felt so humiliated as it took a lot for me to be there in the first place," Fox said. She considers going to the agency her last resort. Fox said she doesn't throw away food in an effort to make it last.
She recalls a sheltered life while growing up in Watertown, N.Y., where her late father owned a successful plumbing business. She didn't expect her later years would be like this, living on food stamps and relying on her landlord and others for help.
"You have to bite the bullet and forget where you come from," she said. Fox has become slightly more accustomed to accepting food and help, but doing so still cuts into her pride and self-respect.
She sat at her kitchen table recently drinking a cup of coffee. She wore an old Penn State sweatshirt, slacks and fuzzy, purple slippers. Her 17-year-old white poodle, "Geo Geo," sat on her lap or perched on a bench looking out the window of the apartment they have shared for 16 years.
"You know why he lives on? Love. He eats what I eat and he's happy."
Fox credits her strong faith in God and help from people like her landlord's family and her fiance, Tom, for keeping her going.
"If I live another day in this house and have the relationship I have with Tom, my little dog and most of all, my Lord, I think I've got it all right here," she said.
She tries to keep her own problems in perspective, realizing that other people are suffering too.
"I'm only a little straw in a great big bale."
Twice divorced, she said her second husband left her about eight years ago after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She said he threatened to take the car and dog with him.
"You'll have neither. Over my dead body," she said she told him. That's when Fox planned to kill herself by driving the car into a tree. Instead, she ended up sitting in the car on the side of the road.
"I was just crying uncontrollably," she said. A stranger stopped to offer assistance and followed her home, making her promise to seek professional help.
Fox called a hot line and told the operator she was contemplating suicide. They spent an hour on the phone and she was referred for help. The next day, Fox visited a nun in Dallas who was a counselor.
"She saved my life," Fox said. The nun referred Fox to Community Counseling Services where she received outpatient therapy for the next nine months.
"It was the best thing I ever did because they made me aware of myself," Fox said. She said she now recognizes when she needs help for depression and seeks counseling.
Her two sons live in upstate New York and her daughter is in Tennessee. Fox hasn't seen her daughter in four years. She knows her children have their own lives and responsibilities, but that doesn't eliminate her longing for them.
"We are estranged now because I have been here so long," Fox said.
She said it hurts her to ask her children for money. "Financially, they are just making it themselves."
She has no desire to leave this area. Fox said she and a local woman who lost her mother as a child have become friends. "She pinch hits for my daughter who's away," Fox said.
Fox is a licensed practical nurse, but health problems limit her ability to work. She had hip replacement surgery last year and said she has recovered fairly well.
Fox said her multiple sclerosis symptoms have disappeared because of the Water Cure. Local businessman Bob Butts has strongly supported drinking mass quantities of water and salt, saying they cure the "drought" in the body, which causes symptoms that society calls disease.
"I want to be self-sufficient, but society won't let me," she said. Fox explained that earning even a small amount of money each month could jeopardize her food stamps and medical assistance.
"If I took two steps forward, I'd take 10 back," she said.
Fox said she listened to President Bush's State of the Union address on Jan. 28 as he proposed billions of dollars for "this and that" and discussed a possible war with Iraq.
"When our government is preaching war, they've got a war right here taking care of their people," she said.
Her own troubles have not lessened her compassion for others. She prays for people she knows who are in need.
"You never should walk by a person and feel that they're nobody."
Bonnie Adams, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 829-7241.
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