I am 17, and my parents are going to kick me out on my 18th birthday in August to make me homeless. What do I do? I donu2019t have a driveru2019s license or a bank account. My parents say that I cannot find a job but that I am u201cfreeu201d to do so once I leave.
I am one of 3 sons, and we were all told from as young as I can remember, u201cYou have until youu2019re 18 to live here and eat my food and use my utilities. As long as you live here, you will obey my rules. My house, my things, my kids, my rules.u201d This was not my parentsu2023 position just to u201cmake me homelessu201d. Homelessness was not their intent. Us boys achieving independence and self-reliance was the intent.My parents lived through the Great Depression and World War II. My Dad was a B-29 bombardier in the Korean War, but before that he was one of 14 children of a tobacco farmer (and moonshiner), and that meant that he had to work hard for every meal he ate. My Granddaddy was a little, wiry, freakishly strong, backbreaking worker of a man. Daddy always told us (and so did his siblings) that the young unu2019s were Mamau2019s until theywere big enough to hold a hoe and shovel, at which point they became Granddaddyu2019s labor force. Granddaddy would often say he couldnu2019t afford to hire help, so he just made it instead.My Mom is a first-generation American, the daughter of Itish immigrants who fled Ireland due to the depths of poverty and hopelessness turn-of-the-century Irishmen endured. Hours in Irish fields were just as long and hard as what my Dad grew up in, and my Momu2019s folks knew there was no future for them at home. Irish children died of hunger routinely or were basically sold off to various u2018labour housesu2023 to perform backbreaking manual labor for pennies a week. Upon arriving in the US in 1910, in Birmingham, Alabama, my grandparents found work of the same type as in Ireland: crop gathering, mining, menial household chores-type work wherever it could be found.Feeding a family in those conditions was a tribulation. It was very common for children to strike out on their own as young as 15. My Mom stayed at home with her folks until at 18, she met my Dad on leave in 1956 in Pensacola, Florida, where she was visiting cousins, picking strawberries and tomatoes for 2u00a2 a bushel. My Dad joined the Air Force by lying about his age to get in, in 1949 at the age of 15, to get off the farm and u201cmake some real moneyu201du2014the princely sum of $82 per month! And free medical and dental, and even paid vacation. Unheard-of in 1949 on the shale flats and hills of rural Tennessee tobacco country. By 1956, Daddy had gone from an Airman 2 to an O-1 bombardier from 1951u201353 (battlefield promotion) and back down to WO-4 after the war when he reclassed as an Air Policeman, for which he was paid $399 per month. They married in 1959 after he got out of the Air Force. He took his GI Bill and went to flight school and electronics school, eventually becoming a commercial-rated pilot and an Electrical Engineer just as the Space Race shifted into warp drive. He landed at NASA and TRW Space Systems (from which he retired after 33 years).Mom had no education beyond high school and secretary school, working as a store clerk, a farmeru2019s market secretary, a Ma Bell telephone operator, a doctoru2019s receptionist, a medical bookkeeper, and even a Census taker, collections agent, and construction secretary. She finally fetched up at DCAA and retired as a Federal auditor.Even after such a life, my Daddy found himself to be restlessu2014he often said he didnu2019t know what to do with himself, living at 3113 Leftwich Street, Huntsville, Alabama in 1965. Their house had a small back yard, too small for livestock or gardening, so in 1969, he found a delapidated old farm in Lincoln, Tennessee, and thatu2019s where I lived until 1976, when I absconded to the military.Theirs was a rags-to-JCPenney-clothes story, and every chapter was written in sweat and tears. My brothers and I were raised on a feeder farm by hard-working, no-nonsense people who were themselves the children of hard-working, no-nonsense people.Being shown the door at NLT 18 may seem cruel to the modern generation (of Americans) whou2019ve never once had to scrape potatoes out of the earth with their bare hands (like me and my family did), or catch a cow that didnu2019t want to be caught, or pluck chickens or gut fish, or scrub the bristles off a hogu2019s hide just to have supper.My parents took me to the Lincoln County Health Department when I was 14 to get my work permit, and they found me my first jobu2014minimum wage of $1.65 per hour (not $2.00, because it was a restaurantu2026an ice cream shop). I had to give every cent to them for room and board and gas to and from the Hyde Out. If I was lucky, I kept $2u20133 for myself.I couldnu2019t wait to be 18 and get the hell out of there! I mean, I literally couldnu2019t waitu2014I joined the Navy at 17 (with Daddyu2019s blessing and Momu2019s not knowing until it was too late to stop it).For many people of my generation, getting kicked out at 18 was a liberation. It was very hard to live at home with the endless labors of being a farmeru2019s child.I vowed that my eventual children would not be raised so close to the dirt that they had to dig it out from under their fingernails every night. I vowed that my eventual kids would not have to go fishing after school to have meat for supper. Once I was finished with military service, I bought a place in the country to raise my kids onu2026but it is no farmu2014feeder, truck, commercial, or otherwise. Just some acreage 20 miles from my job where I can plant tomatoes, onions, and hot peppers, where I donu2019t hear sirens every single day, or have neighbors 30 feet away, but guess what I told my kids?u201cYou have until youu2019re 18 to live here and eat my food and use my utilities. As long as you live here, you will obey my rules. My house, my things, my kids, my rules.u201dI also told them, u201cYou think Iu2019m hard on you, but I never wake you up at 3:00AM to feed the cows, chickens, and hogs and bring in firewood and eggs before you go to school. I donu2019t make you cut firewood or 12 rows of okra (okra cutting is torture), or bend your back picking bush beans. I never make you clean rabbits or deer for the freezer. I donu2019t make you sit out back and shuck corn and shell peas for 10 hours. You two have got. It. Made. I make you mow the lawn and pick up your dirty clothes. I make you load the dishwasher. I make you brush your teeth. I make you bring the garbage cans up. I make you do your homework. Iu2019m a bastard, arenu2019t I?u201dI made them study and work hard on schooly things because I had already figured out that kids their ages would be adults left behind without college degrees. My hard work and theirs allowed both to attend and graduate the University of Alabama. Theyu2019ve done quite well for themselves, and I never have to give either one a cent. I went back to school myself, though not UA because of cost, taking 8 years of night school and correspondence courses to earn my own degrees).None of this was easy, not for any of us.Life is hard. It takes work.And you have to start young.Your parents are doing you a favor. They are not saying to you, u201cGet out, we hate your guts,u201d they are saying to you, u201cGet out and make your own way, and you must start young.u201dYou must adopt the proper attitude: this is for your own good, and only you can see to your own good. Who stays with Mom and Dad til heu2019s 30 has crippled his own independence and gumption. Get-up-and-go. Drive. Ambition.If you have none, you become a leech rather than a worker bee.