A new understanding

Me: why are you so depressed today self? It’s ridiculous it’s gorgeous outside. You just saw a big happy group of your family this week and had a magnificent time. So pray tell why are you so depressed today?

Me: well it’s like this, Me. I’ve done a good read of the bill. You know the one the health-care bill that may affect as many policies and patients as 74 million people. And that bill literally targets me and people like me. But I knew that before today. Today I was very proud. I saw my tribe, full of people that move around like me via power chair. They were chanting.

” No cuts to Medicaid. Save our Liberty.”

 Just outside of Mitch McConnell’s office. They knew there might be confrontation. In fact some of them counted on it. And they weren’t afraid. They were there to make sure that all of us that ambulate like they do, as well as the broader disability community had a voice and what was being done to them. In what will be done to them over the next 10 years. In what very well will be done to me in the next 10 years. This particular billl and provisions of the Trump budget slashes not only the expansion but Medicaid as it existed even before the ACA is being cut. Medicaid takes care of disabled children in America. Medicaid takes care of disabled adults in their homes for a less money then caring for them in nursing homes. Some of those disabled adults can actually work, be taxpayers, hold down a job because of those services that Medicaid provides to them. Having a home health aide can be either the difference between living at home and managing your own life and living in an institution and being managed, or the difference between staying at home and working. 

The program also takes care of many poor and middle-class elderly. It becomes their long-term care insurance to take care of them in nursing homes. It exacts a harsh price, because all of their assets must be spent away before Medicaid can kick in. But it is a safety net. Once it does kick in they are covered in the nursing home for the care that they receive. 

I’m very sad. I’m not just scared for my own sake although that’s there. I saw so many older folks when I was in nursing home prison. They were alone. Alone in a way I don’t think people on the outside can’t even begin to grasp. Many of them had no friends and most of them had no family that came to visit. They might be wrestling with dementia or some other mental condition did made it confusing even terrifying to be where they were. And to have the basic idea of care cut from them. A hospital bed to sleep in. Competent, compassionate nursing care. Health care aides that are both cheerful and good at what they do.

Patients in nursing homes barely get that now. With the system as it exists now. Make cuts and who knows what will happen to them. 

I keep mostly to myself in this building. It is an apartment building designed for people with disabilities.  I worry about my neighbors . How will they be impacted by this law? Each person with a disability has their own way of managing their life. Their solutions will be different the magnitude of the impact of this law will be different particularly if they are on Medicaid. However employer insurance is going to be impacted,too, with the return of individual or lifetime caps and higher deductibles on the group Insurance Market. And there are major changes coming to the exchanges for those who got their care through those exchanges. So I worry about my neighbors too.

What’s going to become of us? 

ADAPT, the advocacy group that lived the protests today has a slogan. “Nothing about us without us.” They were there today.  They were part of the discussion about this bill. Once this bill is passed and becomes law, that slogan changes. That slogan becomes: All About Us without us.

Up Against the grain.

Controversial opinion. I think that the terms used in any community ie “people with disabilities”, versus “disabled” for example should be respected on a person-to-person basis. If somebody says they see it as “person with disabilities” then you use that term around them. And if somebody says “disabled” is fine use that.

It gets trickier if you’re working in advocacy. A lot of organizations today use “people with disabilities” and expect the people that work for them to use that term. I think that is a work requirement and should be followed depending on each individual corporate culture. People first language is meant to underscore the idea that people with disabilities are people first. This is a really laudable idea.   
What follows is a uniquely personal response to this difference. I don’t claim to speak for anyone else only me. At 55 years old I think I’ve already proven that I’m a person first to the people for which it matters. Strangers find out right quick that I consider myself a person first. Many figure out that they’d better start treating me like people within the next 30 seconds or it’s going to be an unpleasant interaction for them. So as far as me myself goes I don’t feel the need to use the term people with disabilities because I’m already a people. I’ve done many many years of proving it. So at this late date I’m settling on “disabled” is my descriptor.

The term “people with disabilities,” just feels like it’s making our discourse more clunky and complicated than it needs to be.   I’m fine with the cool short abbreviation PWD, but not everyone knows that abbreviation. Doesn’t mean I won’t use people with disabilities in my writing or in my communication when I’m trying to advocate for someone.  In my regular everyday personal interactions I use disabled. It’s one word instead of three. It’s also an expression of my emotional attitude towards my impairments. There is empirical evidence that they’re eating more and more of my life, and so I feel disabled by them. This means I lean into a little bit of the Medical Model of disability. I know there’s no cure for my cerebral palsy and I never waited for one. I like a cure for my lymphedema certainly but that does not mean I’m waiting by the phone for someone to call me up and say there’s a cure. that’s ridiculous. But I accept the Social Model of disability to a certain extent. The entities of society are disabling yes when we go out amongst the ableb and try to work and interact and socialize and play, without sign language interpreters, without Braille signage, without elevators, or ramps or work desks that cannot be used effectively. Sometimes these things are more disabling than the physical things we carry around.  

With three impactful chronic long term conditions, I don’t see any way out of considering the medical portion of this as halting hampering my ability to be out in the world. If I am home bound by definition it makes that pretty severe. So if I am not politically correct by wholly embracing the Social Model  of disability please come to my home (virtual or real), and talk to me earnestly about it. I’ll listen.

Letters from home

I was cleaning out a picture box today and found some letters with a postmark of 1930. They were mailed from Cleveland to a woman attending Wellesley College at the time. Clearly the sender and the receiver are best friends with a long-time knowledge of each other. The sender was my great-aunt. I’ve written about her elsewhere. Her life was a little too interesting, her marriage incredibly troubled and she wrestled with mental health struggles most of her life. But these are not her sad letters that I found before. These are not her said letters chasing after a husband who abandoned her and married someone else without much thought it seems. Before this time she was a bright, active, intelligent, funny girl that wrote her best friend letters about what she was doing at home, prosaic things. Her younger brother’s first summer job, and quirky funny illustrations of clothes she bought recently. I’ve only read the first in a batch. A lot of people in my family see her as my namesake. It’s very odd to read a letter in such a different voice than my own that has my name at the bottom of it.
I’ve only read the first in the stack so far but I will be reading them closely for tidbits about her mother who was a remarkable person,tidbits about herself, because the family knew very little about her really. And tidbits about her brother Vaughn who turned out to to be my grandfather.

Clearly, the woman’s family, the family of the friend affectionately known as Rufus, had sent these letters back to her. They thought my aunt might like them. So now almost a century later. I get a window into the lives of my grandfather and my great-aunt when they were young.

I’ve also gone through a trove of my father’s families pictures yet again. I’ve exercised tough love and thrown a whole box full away. Prior to this during me 20 or 25 years I’ve had custody of these pictures since my father died I have asked my family whether or not they wanted any of them they have declined. I have a remaining stack which I think are interesting enough or striking enough that I want to scan them onto a DVD or scan them on my printer a little at a time and put a few on Facebook.

It makes me wish I had a similar stack of memories from my mother’s people. I think my mother’s sister has such things in her house though.

So a little archive of the written word from 1930 to sort through. A good summer project. These letters from home.

Dying out

Yesterday the house passed the American Healthcare Act. This is a tool so sharp it is going to gut the individual insurance market. It will damage the group Insurance market, by letting companies tailor their plans to exclude  certain coverages that would exclude certain people, say, women from getting actual care.

Makes me think of the scene in the Handmaid’s Tale when a boss gathers all the women who work, for him into a room and says, “I have to let you go it’s the law now.” 

Because if a woman cannot​ get coverage for a pre-existing condition  from a company chances are she’s less likely to want to go to work there. It’s self-deportation for healthcare. The insurance companies are going to love it because even people with private insurance are going to cost them less.

But if this bill passes the Senate as is and becomes law even in some watered down format… This scalpel of a bill is coming for me.

It is not hyperbole to state that I survive due to an optional provision of Medicaid. Known as Medicaid waiver, this program allows people that would normally need to stay in assisted living or nursing home to get those services in their home. Ironically it costs much less than $4,000 month to house someone in their home with the appropriate services. It is cheaper to do this. And you also get an incredible boost in quality of life when you are in your own home. $4,000 a month is the average cost of taking care of one patient in a nursing home.

The trouble is this program is optional. States do not have to offer it. They can choose to offer it. Given what this bill already explicitly cuts, anything marked optional in a state’s Medicaid coverage will be the first thing to go. 

Yes these guys are fiscal conservatives, but the current crop has no interest in spending a lot of time on that level of nuance. They just cheered when this bill that’s going to cut 24 million people off their insurance passed.

Let’s not forget please, that they gave themselves an exemption from this. None of their loved ones will lose access to care due to a pre-existing condition. Since they won’t directly experience that particular anguish it’s easy for them to depersonalize the people this legislation is going to make sick and the people that ultimately this legislation is going to kill.

I don’t know what’s going to happen next. But don’t lose hope. If you know or believe you’re going to be affected by what this bill does, or if you know someone who’s likely to be affected, or let’s just say you’re a decent human being who knows that in principle this is a malevolent, vile piece of legislation that cuts into the basic principle of life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This legislation is trying to drag people back down into the dark. This legislation is trying to obscure a truth about life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Those words right there mean that Healthcare is a right for every American. Without coverage, decent medical care that they can afford, life is endangered, liberty is curtailed, and the pursuit of happiness is far far away.

For people with disabilities, sometimes those things are already very distant. This bill will basically decide that people with pre-existing conditions and people with disabilities are second-class citizens.

Anybody who knows me offline knows that pleading is not my strong suit. 

For the disabled film activist fighting constantly to get more representation into our entertainment, for the amazing lawyer and mother of many who has been able to carry on a career and raise a family due to Medicaid waiver availability and Medicaid Buy in another optional program, in memory.of the guy who persisted for 252 days and more to get out of nursing home and stay out, for the woman who is physically very very still and silent but from her mind, ideas illustrations and essays pour out educating the rest of us about what it really means to live an engaged life. For the young people with cerebral palsy sitting in on their first college education their first jobs their first relationships all of these first that they are attacking with abandon and joy, for the special needs kids in all 50 states that won’t get coverage. For the broader pool with people with chronic illnesses where the medicines that keep them alive are too expensive to pay for out-of-pocket…for the transplant recipients who will no longer be able to afford the post-transplant medications that keep them going,for those who struggle with mental illness, who need medication and treatment to keep it together and live a good life, for my late husband would have died when he was 9 months old without the good insurance coverage his father had, and for me who used to be so much more and is now down to advocacy and storytelling, but still thinks it’s a lot better than the alternative.

Hit the marches and the town halls that will surely follow.

Fax, ,call, write and email your legislators in the Senate.  Tell them your story of dealing with a pre-existing condition. Tell them how your life will be fundamentally altered, or threatened, or even end if this bill is passed into law.  If you are a friend or Ally of someone with a pre-existing condition that will be affected by this law, do the same. I and people like me will not be the only ones that benefit from your advocacy. You will too. It’s a win-win. #IAmAPreexistingCondition.

It may have happened this way

Or it may not. But sometime in the 18th century people with my last name came here. The closest translation of the name  from  Gaelic  means  keepers of the harp .  More generally  musicians. Family legend indicates that they were three brothers. These brothers had handled their money poorly or offended the wrong people. They had all ended up afoul of the law. They were given a choice. The New World or debtors prison. They chose the New World. There is anecdotal evidence that at least one of them settled in the south, perhaps in Virginia. When I was a little girl in 1968 I meant a little boy with my last name and very dark skin. Now as a grown up I know how that might have happened. And I am very sorry for it. As a child though we just laughed at having the same last name. Another part of the legend indicates at the brothers hated each other. Each of the three changed a letter in their last name so that when their descendants met up with each other they would know who to hate and to draw close. My earliest known ancestor I could find in this country was a man named Ruben Mcwherter. According to court records he wore a coonskin cap and was never seen without his flask.  In 1850  in Tennessee, a man aptly-named  Neil Mcwherter  went before a judge  for disturbing the peace .  My great-grandfather Paul was born in Tennessee. He carried on the tradition of the man in the coonskin cap. Alcoholism runs thick in my family. That gene really isn’t going anywhere I don’t know what happened to the other two brothers descendants. 
There’s also a great deal of accomplishment  in my family .  There are actresses  and writers  and triathletes  and lawyers .  Some of them have been profoundly affected  by addiction.  Others have not. My father was named Neil and he did a lot of peace disturbing. He was a lawyer, until his addiction said otherwise. I might have a more distant relative with some accomplishments.There is a well-known politician named Ned McWherter that I really believe I’m related to. He looks a lot like my father.
I tell the story because based on the reputation of the guys that are my ancestors that came to this country, there might have been some raised eyebrows letting that sorry bunch in the country if they were vetted under the previous administrations immigration laws, let alone the executive order that was put in place last week.

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(Segue)

There are some people walking around saying that they’re Muslims saying that they’re good Muslims, when in fact most of their day in the Middle East is spent killing other Muslims. Their reputation is much worse then my pack of drunk and disorderly ancestors,  but the point I’m trying to make is both have a bad reputation . This small fraction isil has been used to give guilt-by-association to every single person who says that they practice Islam. Or even people who come from neighboring countries. Or even people like the Siks who practice an entirely different religion but just look the way we think terrorists from the Middle East look.

Are we judged to be members of the Ku Klux Klan because we look like them? At least with the sheets off? No. Are KKK terrorists? Of course they are.

Grandmothers, women and children, who have been vetted… Green card holders man or woman who have been vetted and permitted to live in this country are being detained. They are being kept away from family members and jobs and their education. Supporters of the recent change make the case that it’s a relatively small number of people being impacted. If you were one of the ones being impacted it would be no small matter. George Takei, a survivor of the Japanese internment in World War II, says that this seems like the beginning of those times.

Until last week the Statue of Liberty meant something. Now it all depends. It depends on rules made too quickly and with not enough specificity. It also depends apparently on whether or not you were Christian or Muslim coming from one of the countries listed in the recent executive order. Religious test anyone? I don’t know about you but I think that’s against the Constitution. We’re not allowed to give preference between one religion and another. 

White people, let’s not get all superior. If the immigration laws in this country were completely fair Native Americans would have the right to deport all of us if they felt like it. They have been treated very badly by their Invaders. 
And let’s not even start disrespecting or downgrading the experience of people that were brought here against their will, abused and assaulted, and had to work for nothing..

But my last point is all of these people, including my drunk and disorderly ancestors and their accomplished descendants brought some good to this country. Muslims are doing that everyday too. Have a Muslim friend an American who is busy doing good in several countries.  

We are immigrants or the children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren of immigrants. We all come from people that came from elsewhere. Now apparently that’s part of our tradition then we would like to trash.

I vote no on that. If America is no longer the place that people go when they are afraid for their lives or hopeful for a better future here…. Then what is it?

He is not yet president

This is the last day I can use the language that I want to say the things I want. After tomorrow I will oppose him. I will criticize him and the Congress if they do things that are wrong or oppressive.

I will write I will call I will email. But I will have to use his title. The title he gained through lying, through misdirection, through insult,through appealing to prejudice and bigotry and showing the same himself.Through insulting everyone except those wealthy, American, able-bodied White men willing to suck up to him. And effusively praising Russia in the person of that murdering thug  Vladimir Putin . Through going further with women and physically attacking them. Through making incredibly dangerous claims about how we should handle our foreign policy war on terror, and nuclear weapons.

Through making it abundantly clear through the campaign and through this post-election period that he only seeks that which will better himself. He does not and never will seek that which benefits his country. His style of ruling the country will be by threat and intimidation and bullying. He will make it very clear to those who disagree with him publicly and in private that he will not forget when they oppose him.

Through finding the oddest combination of the wealthiest and most clueless and appointing all but one of people like that to his cabinet. I exempt General Mattis. I may or may not disagree with him. He is competent to do his job. What he does with it is his affair entirely, but I do give him props for being competent.

Through hoodwinking the media over and over again making himself the sideshow while slowly and then more and more quickly authoritarian pieces of law are moving through the dark and heading toward the light of Passage. Using force against peaceful protest. Repealing Health Care in such a chaotic way as to risk  the very private insurance industry  his cronies would like to save .  Not to mention  risking the lives of all who would lose their insurance or lose their freedom when that insurance is cut . Closing down the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts. Blacklisting those on his own side of the aisle who opposed him in the primary but might be very helpful to him particularly in foreign policy. It doesn’t matter to him. They opposed him and he remembers it.  Gutting the department of Energy. Handing the Department of Education over to a religious zealot. Taking advice from her brother the mercenary King.

He will shove some past our borders and shove the rest of us down. Racism is back in, ableism too.Mocking those with disabilities is another new sport of Presidents.

He has elevated hatred, racism and anti Semitism to one of his special counselors. White supremacy is the new chic.

His vice president believes that lgbtq people are damaged and only God can fix them. His vice-president by his very position will force people back into the closet.

There is so much more. It’s very possible that within the next four years his machinations will cause me to lose the pieces of my healthcare they keep me out in the world and well. So I don’t see that I have much to lose by speaking my mind. If he’s going to take it anyway then why not?

So I say to him: I think you were the wrong choice for this country. More than that I think you are a dangerous narcissist that should not be trusted not to keep your word, and not with the reins of government. I oppose you and every personal characteristic I have seen of you. I oppose 95% of what little we know of your potential policies.

If I am wrong and your policies and your Administration add provable full-time job growth of a significant amount within our borders for middle-class people, I will say so. If you don’t continue to choke freedom of the press. I will stand corrected.

But for now, I may use different language and I will call you by your title but after today I won’t use your name. You don’t deserve it. Here’s hoping your presidency is only 4 years long.

Trump care

​ There’s no avoiding the fact that there have been skyrocketing premiums and deductibles for some under Obamacare. That has to be balanced against the other fact that when it is repealed on day one it will throw millions of people into the vortex of having no coverage whatsoever. Not expensive coverage, not cheap coverage, no coverage. The responsible way to achieve your goals Republicans, is to repeal when you have a replacement. In case you haven’t noticed you have both houses of Congress and the White House! writing up a replacement..? well it will be detail-oriented and difficult but it will not be hard to pass once it exists. And you will have served your constituents by making sure that Obamacare isn’t ripped from underneath them before there’s something else, however minimalist that they can transition to. The legislation first seen does say that the repeal will not actually take effect for two years. Perhaps they’ve changed their mind and will go with a repeal that actually has some teeth and will be effective on day one. But the legislation that I have seen means that they pass the legislation now but the effective date isn’t for two years yet , notably after the 2018 election cycle. if it’s true then they’ve given themselves two years to come up with a replacement. You’d better get on it boys. The clock is ticking.

I know that when you passed all those protest votes to repeal Obamacare you knew that the president would veto them. So there was no need to come up with a replacement even if you talked about having one.

And is to them not having one ready to go buy a replacement now. Like all of us they didn’t think they were going to win the White House this year. But since there is now a Republican president in the White House and you have majority in the house and the Senate it requires responsible thinking. You get a present you have to deal with it responsibly.

If there is no replacement there are other effects besides the people suddenly being uninsured. Rural hospitals will be on a rocky footing and forced to close in some cases. Intercity hospitals will also face a crisis because much of the dollars they rely on come from the Medicaid expansion. When Medicaid shrinks it will put at risk many many facilities and the jobs of people in those many many facilities. Also emergency room costs will skyrocket because the only thing that people will be able to do is go to the ER, get billed for it later, and cost the hospital millions in uncompensated care. In short it’s bad for business. Here in Northeast Ohio Cleveland Clinic and University Hospital lobbied the governor for the Medicaid expansion: it’s the real reason he took it. He will publicly support the repeal of course. He knows it’s going to be bad for business. Privately he’s not going to be feeling really good about it. Then there’s the smaller providers: doctors offices medical supply companies, labs, stand-alone outpatient clinics. Community health centers. Imagine all the jobs in those places being impacted in some cases when Obama Care goes away. And also not giving the insurance companies time to figure out how to deny claims they would have previously covered means that there will be thousands of claims that will initially be paid that the money will be have to taken back on later and I can tell you from experience that is a freaking nightmare not just for the patients but for the insurance companies themselves.

Dear Mr. Pence…

Today I ran across a story about you saying the cigarettes weren’t really bad for anyone’s health.

You are not a doctor. Let’s get that one fact straight right up front. You. Are. Not. A. Doctor.

So what doctors say about smoking is infinitely more likely to be true than anything you’d say. There are generations  of medical evidence that prove smoking is lethal.

For a man one healthy heartbeat away from the presidency it seems a singularly stupid thing to say.

So color me  unsurprised when that link led me backwards in time to 2002 when you said the following:  Condoms are a very very poor way to protect against STDs.

Let me tell you in a very personal way why you are wrong. First and foremost and beyond anything else I might tell you you are medically wrong. When users are taught or learn for themselves how to use a condom effectively before its first use condoms are a very effective way preventing STDs.

How do I know this? Very simple sir. Without condoms I’d be dead. Let me explain.

Before I converted to Roman Catholicism in 2009 I was a Protestant. A bible-believing born-again Protestant. I was married to a preacher. He was born and raised in the Baptist faith. That means I know you know what his life path was like.  He read the Bible, He taught it.  He preached about it. And he died of HIV. Why? Not because of anything that his church might have considered a moral failing. He died from blood products. When we were married I knew very well he might have this disease. That was confirmed about three years into our marriage. I insisted on condom use without exception. I advised him that I loved him but that it was a deal-breaker. I told him that I did not sign up to die when I stood in front of God and our family and said vows to him. 

That protected me and protected me very very well. I never contracted the disease that killed him. That was certainly not due to luck alone.  It was due to condom use. I don’t deny that God was a part of that. God was a part of that because I firmly believe He did not want me to die. I think  God believed  I have work to do yet.  I also think that God believes  in my life  as a person  has value  not just at their beginning  but all the way through the arc of life.  I know you will recognize this  as Catholic teaching.  Condoms were there to save me  for my God-given future.

Had you said. “my faith tells me that…” etcetera etcetera etcetera. That would be completely acceptable. That is your statement that says because of what you believe you also believe that. You have a right to believe what you want. 

What you don’t have a right to do is unequivocally contradict years of medical research that ended up saving people’s lives.

If some teenager hears  what you said about smoking, takes it up, then later becomes ill  due to related complications, don’t you think you bear some responsibility for that?  That holds true for your earlier statement as well.

In conclusion, let me repeat so I am utterly clear about why you were wrong about condom use and effectiveness.

Without condoms, I’d be dead.

Teach and Reach

​ Anyone who’s been to either high school or college has had that one teacher.Or maybe two of them.

They were boring, you thought. Or they were so many levels of hard above your usual teacher. Or they were all those things plus being mean spirited. They were bitter people and you wondered why the heck they had gotten into the position of teaching since they obviously hated  it so much. Or maybe they had been cheerful and upbeat once but time had exhausted them.  

Perhaps, looking back, you realize that you learned something even from those people. The people that didn’t make it pleasant to be in class the people that didn’t make it easy.

Who are our first teachers? Our parents. Or those who parent us.

 My father was clueless about admitting to or naming my cerebral palsy but at least while sober he had the good sense to stay out of the way and let my mother handle things.  She did not want to have a child at all at that time in her life let alone a disabled child . However, my mother understood the reality that she very clearly did not want. For selfish reasons she worked very hard to enhance my movement, to make sure that I got a good education, advocated for myself and discovered my strengths. She was terrified of me having any surgeries, and backed out once, but my father and I managed to convince her to keep the surgery on the schedule to surgically correct pronation in at least one ankle,

( he had to speak earnestly to her after I fought with her because I wanted the ankle fusion surgery. He said, “You know how the kid is when she’s made her mind up about something and this is something she wants, and I think we’re going to have to let her do it.” The surgery went ahead.) She made sure I was independent. That had its own set of issues though when the parent said , “oh don’t ascribe any unselfish motives to this. I want you out of the house by the time you’re 18.” 

Parents can be hard teachers. Sometimes the hardest. I’m not talking about abuse my mother never did that. But there were these immovable boundaries about what she expected. And the best I could do or the best I thought I could do was all she got. And sometimes it didn’t go anywhere near what her expectation was. That’s when it got hard. And it got harder when she absolutely stuck to boundaries about her own life that she had set up for herself in her head. Then when she got to be around 40 she was going to do her own thing and make herself less available to me merely because of time management, not because of any lack of affection. And that’s the age when you should be becoming independent. Didn’t make it any easier stuck at a little, magical college, one of the few persons with disabilities on campus at that time. And the tyranny of expectation was that I was simply going to do as well as the able-bodied people with very little of what is considered accommodation today.

Don’t get me wrong it’s good to have that expectation because then you end up doing more than you ever thought possible with your life. But then there’s that point later in life where you  fail in that expectation. Your body is giving up or your spirit’s given up or a combination of the two. And then your parents and your family members blink a bit, and quite frankly don’t know what to do with you because the can do plucky workhorse getting through life suddenly isn’t there anymore. Instead there’s you with all your flaws and limitations clearly visible and they are puzzled. They were your first teachers and they did well by you, but they didn’t expect to have to learn this lesson.

Your face

You used to joke about me with my mother.Tactlessly and crudely. You would say to her, “At least I know you didn’t fool around with the postman.”

My mother had a much kinder little saying. I felt bad for her. it sounded wistful. She would bend down so that both of our faces were in front of the mirror smiling. Then she would say, “Why don’t you look anything like me?”

People would see she and I together with similar haircuts and blue eyes and they would say to me, “Oh you look so much like your mother.”

Then they would see a picture of you and they would understand. Or, I would tell them, “If you see my dad you’ll know that I really look like him. Exactly like him.”

I’ve talked about the way you emotionally abused us elsewhere. I’ve talked about the effects of that and the effects of your alcoholism,and a possible bipolar problem that may have influenced it. I’m not going to go into that again.

What I am going to talk about is new information. I am now getting old myself. I’m older than you were when you died, something I take great pride in even with all of my physical differences and limitations I’ve been longer on the earth in years than you were.

As parents do and as parents should I was never told about this incident. But it came to light recently. I now have it from a very credible source that you did cross the line from emotional to physical abuse at least once. You put your hands on my mother. Let me say that again so it is clearly understood .  You put your hands on my mother. In fact you placed your hands around her neck and squeezed so hard that there were bruises. I do not know if she sought medical attention. I do know she had to wear turtlenecks for 4 days until the bruising subsided.

She protected me from knowing that. I think parents should do those things sometimes. And there are questions I can never ask her. Questions like, “Why didn’t we leave? We had a place to go, that was always certain and you knew that…”

I want to know the situation. Unfortunately right now I am fixated on it. It has sent me into something of a tailspin. I keep thinking, was it inside my house? Was it out in the backyard? Or was it in the broad light of  day during some social occasion, where other people looked away and didn’t intervene?

I believe that emotional abuse is terrible my mother and I are both still suffering the effects from that to varying degrees. Emotional abuse if it happens frequently enough can shred your self-esteem, and give you you a flawed view of yourself.

 However, unbeknownst to me at the time you crossed a line when you put your hands on my mother. When you physically abused her, assaulted her you crossed a line.
I’m going to think of you very differently now for a long time. I hope it’s not a permanent change in my head. But I know very well that for things like this it is God’s job to forgive you. I don’t. I suspect there was another good reason my mother kept this from me. Depending on how old I was she knew darn well that I would have no hesitation about calling the cops and embarrassing you. In those days of course they could not intervene in a domestic dispute. But you would have been embarrassed to be called out like that. And since I couldn’t physically injure you in return, that was the best vengeance I could have managed. I hated you so much at the time for what I knew you had done, I say without hesitation that at the time had I known that, depending on how old I was, I would have wished you dead.

The difficulty for me now is that, when I look in the mirror I still have your face. I was ashamed of that face in the seventies when I knew about the emotional abuse. I looked in the mirror and I said to myself there is the face of an emotional abuser. Because I had your face.

And now I have the same problem. It is worse now. It is more wrenching. I look in the mirror and I see the face of someone who laid his hands on a woman. Someone who thought that there was a valid reason for doing that. 

I don’t care if you were drunk. That doesn’t matter. There is nothing she could have said or done that excuses this.

And there’s that grey calm rational voice inside my head that has been trained by so many crises.

“He’s in the ground. It’s over. It happened years ago. Put it in a mental box and move on.”

I find I am unable to do that at this time. Perhaps later. Perhaps never. Because no matter what I do no matter where I go, no matter what hobbies I I take up no matter what people I meet… I still, I will always… have your face.