INDIANAPOLIS — Standing on the porch of the house her grandparents built nearly 100 years ago on Tecumseh Street on the city’s near east side, Ruth Duffer is thinking about the good times.
“I was around here all my life when I was a kid,” she said.
Ruth was also feeling just how tired she’s become.
“It’s sad. I don’t know what else to say. I try not to cry,” she explained.
Crying would take too much energy for the 63-year-old who’s been battling stage three colon cancer since May.
Ruth had already undergone a few chemotherapy treatments when the family homestead she shares with her two daughters and two granddaughters, caught on fire earlier this month.
“I was coming back from Bible study,” Ruth explained.
Most of the home’s upstairs was destroyed, displacing Ruth and her family. Some of them are now staying with relatives and others are staying in a hotel.
“I just feel like we’re one step away from being homeless now,” said Ruth.
The family didn’t have homeowner’s insurance.
“We’re living paycheck to paycheck. My mom and sister are on disability. I’m working full time, but everything’s going up,” said Ruth’s daughter, Amanda who’s doing the best she can to hold it all together.
Still, it’s a lot, all the damage, not to mention her mom’s failing health.
“I’m taking it a day at a time, if I don’t, I’m going to break down,” Amanda said.
She can’t, though. Too many people are depending on her.
“We come back every day to do a little something here and there,” Amanda explained.
On Wednesday, that meant having a contractor look at the damage and figure out what it will take to rebuild.
“The damage is very extensive,” said James Reed with Pluto Carpentry.
“I’m fairly certain, it’s going to be at least six digits for materials,” he added.
Six digits or 60 digits, both seem impossible to Ruth and her family.
Even if they do get the money to rebuild the house, there’s the issue of waiting on building materials, with the pandemic interrupting supply chains.
“I don’t know where we’re going to get it. I just don’t know. I just don’t know,” cried Ruth, her eyes filling with tears.
Right now, she’s just clinging to the memories.
The flag from her brother’s funeral sits untouched on a shelf.
“It’s like my world is gone,” said Ruth. It's a life she doesn’t know if she’ll ever get back.
The little house on Tecumseh Street has been her whole life.
“It means everything to me,” Ruth said.
The little house, where she hoped, someday, she could take her last breath. Now though, even that is uncertain.
“If nothing else, I want to die here,” said Ruth.
The family has created a GoFundMe to help pay to fix the home.
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