Didn’t Take Away from Me

A five-part audio story of a community member’s experience of family, work, health, and homelessness.

This story is from the Invisible Project, a collaboration between the Welcome Project and Porter County Coalition for Affordable Housing, Housing Opportunities, Gabriel’s Horn, Dayspring Women’s Center, and Porter County Museum.


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Transcript for Didn’t Take Away from Me

A five-part audio story of a community member’s experience of family, work, health, and homelessness.

This story is from the Invisible Project, a collaboration between the Welcome Project and Porter County Coalition for Affordable Housing, Housing Opportunities, Gabriel’s Horn, Dayspring Women’s Center, and Porter County Museum.


Childhood was wonderful. I’m very, very blessed in that sense. We lived in Hobart, Indiana until I was five, then we moved to California. My mom raised us when my dad was gone—he’d be gone for six months out of the year. I have a brother, he’s older. He’s five years older than I. We were very close. But the five years difference in our age-it was… you’re my little sister, go away. I was a tomboy. I wanted to play with the boys. Well, then when I got older and I had nice girlfriends, the story changed a little bit. He was more interested in being around me then. My mother and I were fabulous best friends, but I also knew when she was mom. She encouraged me to independent. And that was not really an acceptable thing back then. My life was good then. I am really happy that I had the childhood. A lot of love, lot of hugs, a lot of I love yous, uh, be safe. They could trust me because I would tell them where I was going, who I was going to be with, and if I left that place, I had to let them know. So I was respectful of my parents. And I’m glad that they raised me the way they did.


That was never anything I ever thought to ask her, why she felt it necessary to let me be independent. But if she hadn’t, I wouldn’t have been able to do what I’ve had to do in the last forty years.


I met a gentlemen, we got married at nineteen. He was the love of my life. After we got married, it turned bad. He became abusive. We were sitting at the table getting ready to eat dinner, and the salt shaker wasn’t sitting on the table. So I got up to get it. Well, when I handed it to him, he threw it across the kitchen. And I said, “Well, that’s really strange. What was that all about?” “Well, it wasn’t sitting on the table when I got home.” And I was like, okay, I went and got it and cleaned it up. And it just started to progress. He started making comments, told me I was fat. Told me I was ugly. Told me that nobody else would want me. And the first time he beat me, he beat me so bad, I was bruised from head to toe, I could barely walk, I had blood gushing from me; well, I went to my mom’s to recover, it was so unfortunate I had to drag my family in on that, too, they had to see that. It just progressively got worse and worse and as it got worse, my self-esteem went down the toilet. The bruises go away but the mental didn’t.

The last year we were together we decided to move to Florida. I got a job, he got a job, I got real sick with a kidney infection. Way bad. I mean I almost died from it, it was really bad. I went to the doctors, got situated up, and as I’m coming into the car port he comes up to me, grabs my purse out of my hand, and throws it into this little creek that was running by my uncle’s house. And I said, “Why did you do that?” I said, “My medicines in there, I just came back from the doctor’s.” And this little voice in my head goes if you don’t do something about this now he’s going to kill you. And I picked up one those old fashioned, reel-type lawnmowers and I threw that at him, and I said, “You will never touch me again.” Well, that was the end of him.


In this country no one should be hungry. No one shouldn’t have a roof over their head. No one shouldn’t be recognized as a human being. And that upsets me greatly.


It started getting good again. Then I met my second husband. And he had asked me if I wanted go to a concert with him. So I said, “Sure, why not.” And after that we were never apart. But I told him, I said, “I’m going through something really bad right now, so you’re going to have to be really patient with me.” And I explained to him a little bit about what I was going through.  He was very gentle, he was very kind, he didn’t push himself on me.

We got married; we were doing well, had Robin, our daughter, and we were building a garage, having the child, and running our own business. And remodeling our home. I think it just got to be too much for him and he cheated on me and he left. He took everything. My daughter received a trust fund from my grandfather that was for her education or whatever she wanted, and she could have part of it at eighteen and the rest at twenty one. But in the mean time until she was eighteen, he was borrowing money off of it, and putting little bits back here and there. He was forty thousand dollars in debt when he left us. I’m like, Oh no, I’m going to prove you wrong.

So I went and got a job, and I had to get three jobs, and I was working, and she’s ten years old. Managed to keep the house afloat because he was good about paying his child support. So I was able to eliminate two of the jobs, keep the one job, I managed at a dairy queen in Chesterton for eleven years. New owners took over the Dairy Queen. I was making over eleven dollars an hour, so that was too much money coming out of their business at that time. They made my life miserable. I did nothing right. So I quit and got a job that paid me six seventy five up to the seven fifty when the new law came out for minimum wage, yes. But in the meantime they doubled our property taxes. I couldn’t do it. So I was defaulted on some of my bills. I sent what I could. But that, you just never catch up. And then my appendix ruptured and I was in the hospital for seven days. So that put me behind, because now I have no income coming in and I can’t work for a month. So I didn’t know what else to do. The banks were threatening me with this, can’t you just borrow the money. No, I can’t just borrow the money. People don’t have money. Nowadays it’s not that easy. People don’t have money to help other people. That’s when things started getting bad.

In 2008 I was diagnosed with lung cancer, had to have the middle lobe of my right lung removed. I’m cancer free, happy to say. It has changed my life. I’m limited on what I can do work wise, so I went the disability route. And up until then I had no income whatsoever. My daughter took over my hours, I worked a little part time, that’s all I could do, that’s all my doctor would allow. And then she just up and left me. She went to Iowa, she couldn’t handle it anymore, too much responsibility. When she left me, she was twenty three. I cried for days because she couldn’t find a job for years, and I just thought, “Wow, I took care of you all those years even as a teenager. And I never once complained or if you needed something or wanted to go somewhere, I worked extra so you could go do that.” So I was heartbroken and devastated.


I don’t look any further than today. I try not to worry about the past, we learn from our past. This has already happened, I can’t change it, let’s move forward and see what we can do to fix it.


I got the news then that the apartment complex I lived in was going into foreclosure. I had no choice I had to move, I didn’t have the money for it, I couldn’t work. Got ahold of some friends, stayed with them. She’s a drug addict and I didn’t know it. She’d had rotator cuff surgery and they put her on fentanyl suckers. Two years after she was still getting the suckers. It was if I was the bane of her existence, just being around her. She would look at me with just foulness. And I could never get her to answer any reason why she was acting that way around me, so I kind of stayed away from her as much as I could. And the stress was getting terrible about then. So I even went and actually, with what little bit of money I would get, I went and bought samples of shampoo and stuff because I didn’t know if I’d be washing up in a bathroom somewhere. So I had planned for being actually homeless with no place to go, and not saying that my friends were being cruel, but it was hard for them to see me go through this. So I lost contact with a lot of my friends. And that hurt me. But they couldn’t… “That’s not Peggy. She’s not homeless. So if we don’t think about it then it’s okay.”

I’d been scared from the day that I had to move, just scared, always that over your head that they could kick me out right now. Where would I go? I have all my stuff here. What would I do? I know it’s just stuff, but they don’t want my stuff here, you know? So it was a constant fear, I was under so much stress. I dropped down to eighty five pounds, I was just a shell of a person. My spirit was just shot. I’m sixty years old now, you know, and at that age even, you know I was in my middle fifties. That’s not where I planned to be in my life. I was planning to be all growed up with my husband and my daughter and everybody’s happy and got a grand baby and that was my plan. But it got changed.


Well, we are human. Money doesn’t make you a person. It just helps you with… gets you through. We don’t need all of this stuff, we don’t need four phones, and we don’t need the internet, and that doesn’t make us survive.


It was scary because a lot of the home situations were temporary. Did a lot of packing and unpacking. Called, there’s a number, the 211 number, it’s a help line. And that’s how I found out about Housing Opportunities. They told me to come in and fill out an application. They were full at that time. My brother had a trailer down on the lake, and I went and stayed there for a month. That was amazing. That was the best thing—because I was free to myself. I didn’t have to tippy toe around because I was in somebody’s house. I’d go down in the morning and sit at the lake and drink my coffee and watch the sun come up, and the swans and the ducks.  So that put me in a good frame. It was a lot less stress. And then a month to the day, Housing called me and said they had an opening.

When I first moved in there, I’m not really familiar with Portage. That was a little scary. So for the first two weeks I just kind of sat and cried. Yeah, I was thankful to have this home, but I had nothing. It didn’t feel like home. And I kept waiting for the ball to drop again, you know. Sorry the grant, we can’t do this. You’re going to have to move out again. So I was seeing a therapist and I said, “What about a therapy pet?” And she said, “Oh yeah, just don’t worry about it. I’ll write you up a paper, you get your doctor’s approval on it, then we’ll present it to Housing Opportunities, and we’ll see what we can do.” So I got my therapy pet and she helped immensely. She’s a pug, weighs like thirty pounds now. She was big when I got her, too, so that’s not all my fault.

And then the girl upstairs kind of looked towards me as a mother because she’s a young mother herself and was abused, so we kind of shared that in common, so we would talk. And then my best friend Cat moved in. And we both lean on each other. And Jessie, her daughter’s thirteen. Loves me just as much as I love her, and it’s home now. I devote all of this to my mother for doing what she did for me. She did a good job. And I miss her. I miss her a lot. Times like this you still need your mom. But I know she’s watching over me.