My late father used to work with this guy years ago. They both worked on a crew maintaining California freeways; picking up trash, pruning trees, maintaining landscaping etc. The guy had problems: he talked to himself, he was depressed and didn’t have friends or a social life. In the 1950’s he had undergone electric shock treatment for his depression.
To me, when I looked closely I could see that he was scared most of the time (like us) he was afraid of people and going off the deep end. But nevertheless my dad and him became friends. This was in the seventies. The guy used to occasionally come to our house and I didn’t care but it was frustrating for both my parents because he never knew when to leave. My parents would drop hints bu the guy often stayed until late at night, hours past his welcome in our little apartment.
In 1980 I was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. In about 1987 my parents split up and my dads friend had a spare room and he rented it to my dad so my mom could keep the apartment. I was living about 15 miles away up north in supported housing. My dad would tell me stories about the guy (who was a pretty nice guy). But the guy was extremely frugal. He lived in an apartment in which the rent was extremely cheap and it was in a pretty nice neighborhood.
The guy was cheap. He never used the heater during winter to save money. Instead he put on a sweater and a coat. At night he wore a sweater or shirt to bed while my dad froze in his room. When the guy turned 55 h used to walk 5 blocks to Burger King just for coffee because he got a senior discount which was only a dime off. He rarely went out for entertainment or socializing, my dad was his only friend.
The guy did all his own car repairs to save money no matter how painstaking or difficult or dirty. He ate simply and plainly to save money. He never invested in a stereo, he always used an old clock radio to listen to music. He had an old black & white TV. My dad actually felt so bad for the guy (but he didn’t tell him) that he just went out one day and bought him a deluxe VCR tape player and recorder for a couple hundred dollars so the guy could watch movies because the guy would never have bought one for himself. It was his only luxury in the apartment.
His carpeting was 10 or 12 years old, stained and thread bare with holes. He didn’t want to ask the landlord for a new carpet like anyone else would do because he was afraid the landlord would raise the rent. So this is how the guy lived. The freeway job actually paid pretty good for an unskilled job; it was about $2500 a month and the guy just socked it away in the bank since his expenses were so low.
But the guy lived like a Spartan most of his life. In 1987 when I was 27 he let me live in a spare bedroom because I had got kicked out of my own place up north due to my drug use. I was doing a lot of cocaine and I was three months behind on rent in my studio because I spent all the rent money on coke and booze. So I owed the landlord more than $800 in rent and I left and moved away without paying. So I moved in and saw what my dad had been talking about, no heat, no color TV, etc.
I lived there about 6 months and then went somewhere else. But my dad divorced my mom and then remarried, and moved away but my dad kept in touch with the man and years went by. I actually moved close to him and we kind of became friends. But I remember one day that my dad told me that the friend was a millionaire. I didn’t believe it. But my dad told me it was true. The guy never married, he never had kids, he did all the frugal stuff listed and socked away his paycheck for years and became a millionaire.
But his lifestyle never changed. he never splurged on anything and he had the same car for years because he kept it running in top condition. The only extravagant thing I ever saw him do was when my dad talked him into taking a week long vacation in Hawaii. My dad had to almost insist that the guy should do this. But as time went by the man visited my dad when my dad moved 175 miles away, in fact one time we drove up to together.
But I remember thinking that I knew the guy for 20 odd years and I sure wished he would give me some of that money that was just sitting in a savings account unspent. I remember fantasizing that the guy would leave me a $100 grand when he died because he was in his seventies because what else would he do with the money? But my dad told me that when the man died he was leaving the whole million to the State of California out of gratitude for the job they gave him.
So this guy had all this money but when he died he wanted the money to go to the richest (I guess) state in America to improve the freeways. Do you see how sad this is? The guy dedicated his whole life to saving money and didn’t enjoy one penny of it except the trip to Hawaii. THen he just uselessly planned on giving it away to a State that didn’t actually need it. He endured the freezing apartment, the old radio, the years of eating out of cans and boxes. I wonder in his old age if he thought it was worth it. The years of sacrifice, the years of living like a homeless person in his own home. His story just amazes me.