Republicans want a moderate; the people want change

Migrants are gathered inside the fence of a makeshift detention center in El Paso, Texas in March. (Photo by Sergio Flores for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

We’ve seen a number of writings by Republicans lately urging Democrats to run another “moderate.”

Here’s why we need to ignore them:

Moderate Republicans want to make the Democratic party their own because they can’t bring themselves vote for a fascist. That’s a good thing, but not for Democrats.

If we put up another moderate, we’ll get the same result: another loss. That’s because most Americans know we need real change and we need it now, not in another four or eight years. Young adults won’t vote for another moderate, and a lot of traditional Democrats won’t, either, so please stop telling me I’m dooming us because I refuse to pledge to “vote blue, no matter who.” That little bumper-sticker slogan was probably coined by a “moderate.”

Eighty-three percent of Americans want Medicare for all. Eighty-three percent. But none of the moderates will pursue that.

Our planet is suffering irreversible damage because of climate change. If we don’t so something drastic in the next decade, we face extinction because we can’t breathe methane, and methane levels are increasing at an alarming rate. A moderate won’t do anything radical because he or she is owned, or at least partly owned by fossil fuel interests.

Minimum wage NEEDS to be $15 or more an hour. A moderate won’t do that because his or her corporate overlords will forbid it.

We have a humanitarian crisis at our border, which is nothing more than a ramping up of existing policies put in place by a moderate. Yes, Obama was a moderate, and he deported more people than anyone before him. Obama created the camps, although they were nothing like what they have become. Still, I doubt a moderate will close them. Remember how Obama promised to close Gitmo? It’s still there.

As a result of this policy, human beings now are being rounded up and placed in conditions that we wouldn’t allow for animals. How long before we start killing some to make room for more?

We have a criminal thug in the Oval Office and the moderates in Congress do nothing to stop him.

The people offering this advice are REPUBLICANS looking out for their own interest, not ours. Where are your critical thinking skills, people? These are not “hard left” positions. These are mainstream positions, and we will not win back the Senate or the White House by embracing them.

We can’t endure another four years of fascist rule. The Republicans in the Senate have pushed through hundreds of right-wing judges, and another loss could corrupt our courts beyond repair.

Our deficit is rising precipitously and we can’t endure that for another four years.

Our air and water are dirtier than they’ve been in many decades.

Worst of all, we have lost our leadership position and any moral authority in the world.

A moderate won’t fix any of this. The attempt to get Democrats to run another moderate is nothing more than the 1 percent looking out for its own interests.

They’re scared because of the popularity of the true Democrats. Look at the party platform from 1976 and you’ll see the traditional values of the Democratic Party. You’ll also see they’re the same values being embraced by what Republicans are calling the “left wing” of the party, and by the majority of the American people.

Don’t fall for the lies of the Republicans and the oligarchy. Insist on a real Democrat to oppose the current administration and you’ll ensure a victory in 2020.

Still grieving after all these years

Mike being Mike. He was all about making people laugh.

I’ve spent the last month with family and close friends, which has done me a lot of good, but the conversations kept turning to all the losses among my family and friends this last year.

Beginning in mid-July with the sudden death of a lifelong friend, I have lost nine people — to cancer, to other long-term illnesses, to sudden illnesses, heart attacks and advanced age.

But last night, my son and I talked at length about my younger son, who died 11 years ago from lack of access to health care.

“I miss him a lot,” my son said. “Even now, after 11 years. Sometimes it seems longer, but more often, it seems like just yesterday I heard him make some inappropriate wise crack and then laugh.”

Danny is still in touch with some of the people Mike helped to get and stay sober, and most maintain their sobriety. They miss his wisdom, compassion, kindness and his wildly inappropriate sense of humor.

We wish he could have lived to know his niece’s daughter, Reaghan, to see his nieces and nephew grow up, to watch his beloved Yankees play, to steal all the blueberries.

Reaghan and I picked about half a pint of blueberries yesterday, but then we bought another pint so she could just eat them with cream and a little sugar — the way Mike used to — and I could still have enough for a peach and blueberry cobbler.

Even after 11 years, Danny and I cried over his absence. Even after 11 years, too many things bring me to tears and my grief is still as raw as the day he died.

After 11 years, some people tell me, I should be over it.

These are people who haven’t lost a child. These are people who’ve never had the breath knocked out of them by a flashback of sitting at their child’s bedside, wishing they could be the ones dying, because living without your child is worse than dying.

It is a heartbreak that doesn’t end, and I don’t particularly want it to.

Someone gave me a book a year ago that supposedly helps with grief. I’m sure it would have helped when my sister died, but not my son. The first chapter was all about how this book would help me get over my grief. I closed it and returned it to my friend.

“Did it help?” she asked.

“Sure,” I said. “It made me realize that there is no help. It made me understand that this is normal now because a piece of me is missing and can’t be replaced.”

There is nothing wrong with not getting over the death of a child. It is the very worst thing that can happen to a person, and you just don’t heal from that.

Our children are supposed to outlive us; that’s the natural order of things. Most of us go through life blissfully unaware that our children really might die before we do, and when it happens, we never recover.

And too often, people who think they’re being helpful say the wrong thing.

“He’s in a better place now …” “God needed another angel …” You have another child (or grandchildren) …” “He’d want you to get over it.”

That last one is a killer for me. I know my son. He knew me well enough to realize I would never heal, and he encouraged me to use my pain to work for change. He also loved being the center of attention. I can almost feel his presence every time I tell his story.

A childhood friend lost her son a couple of years ago to the opioid menace, and that very night, she was talking to the TV cameras about opioids and addiction.

My friend, Cindy Sheehan has used to pain from her son’s death in Iraq to fuel a peace movement.

Another friend in Minnesota, Nicole Holt-Smith has turned her son’s death from insulin deprivation (even with insurance, he couldn’t afford what he needed) into a movement to cap drug prices and/or allow people to buy insulin in Canada.

Still another friend whose son was murdered has spent decades working for a nonprofit that mentors at-risk youth to prevent them from entering lives of crime.

This is our therapy. Don’t ever tell us to stop because we can’t. This is what gives our lives meaning. This work for justice is the manifestation of our grief, and we don’t want to get over it.

If you want to know the right thing to say to a parent whose child has died, try this: “I’m so sorry. Tell me about him.”

Talking about our children keeps them alive to us. When my stepbrother, Marc, died in 1980, people avoided talking about him to my stepmother, who, at a family gathering, finally said, “I need to talk about him. It might make me cry, but if we don’t talk about him, if we don’t remember him and laugh about his jokes and cry about his absence, then he really is dead.”

When others experience the loss of a child, I have to be honest with them. I have to tell them they won’t get over it, that it won’t get easier, but that, with time, they will become more adept at living with the grief.

So, if you know someone who has lost a child, please, please don’t suggest they get over it, move on, be happy again … It really isn’t helpful at all.

I’m told July is Bereaved Parents’ Month. It seems like a good time to educate people about what we live with and how they can help by not making it worse.

This has nothing to do with saving babies’ lives

Don’t kid yourself. The abortion debate isn’t about saving babies’ lives.

The attempt to criminalize abortions, even in cases of rape or incest, is about enslaving women.

It’s about taking control of our lives away from us.

It’s about keeping us in poverty and forcing our children to fight the endless wars of the uber-wealthy.

The policies of the people who call themselves “pro-life” are as anti-life as it gets.

The irony of their position is that they’re thrilled when I decide to continue with a pregnancy that could result in a child with serious birth defects, but once that child is here, they refuse to treat his medical condition, refuse to insure him, turn him away when he’s sick and refuse to even see him until they can make a profit from his chemotherapy. But before they’ll allow him access to treatment, he has to leave his wife because she has a newer model car and some tuition money in the bank. When he applies for disability because he’s now too sick to work, we make him wait 37 months and he’s  dead nine days before his first check comes.

Then these same “pro-life” people want to know whether he was working when he got sick, as though he somehow didn’t deserve saving if he’d been unemployed, as though he were morally inferior and didn’t deserve for anyone to fight for his life.

Sure, you’ll stop me in the parking lot of Planned Parenthood and scream insults at me, no matter the reason for my visit there, and accuse me of murder, and in the next breath trash the life of my son because he’s somehow not deserving of that life.

If you think it’s a life worth saving before birth but you don’t care about it after it’s born, you are the worst kind of hypocrite.

You want to insist I bear a child whose life ends with three years of unspeakable suffering because your “pro-life” policies care nothing for him or his plight? That’s not going to happen. I’m going to fight for women’s right to control our own bodies, plan our own families, make our own choices.

Now I get men telling me how precious that life is while it’s still in the womb, as though it were their lives at stake during pregnancy and delivery, as though they’re going to help raise it, pay me a decent wage so I can feed, clothe and shelter it, make sure it gets a decent education, stays safe from harm …

They want to be able to walk away if a woman gets pregnant because it’s her fault, as though their sperm had nothing to do with the pregnancy.

Or, they want to be able to rape me and then take over my life because the child deserves a father in its life, even if that father is a violent criminal. They want to force me to share parenting with a person who already has demonstrated that he’s not fit to raise a child.

They want my 11-year-old daughter to bear the child of a rapist and then have him in her life forever.

And then they romanticize it by finding a woman who had her rapist’s child and loves that baby. Awwww. Aren’t the rest of us craven murderers if we disagree?

Well, I loved my son. I tried everything I knew to get him the care he needed, but since he was born already, nobody cared.

Where were you “pro-life” people then? Where was your loving concern as my precious son lay dying? Where is your advocacy for the 45,000 people who die the same way every damn year? We’re closing on a half million deaths from lack of access to health care in the 11 years since my son died. Why do I hear nothing but crickets from you on this pro-life issue?

I’ll tell you why: You don’t care about human life, you only care about control of women’s bodies, that’s why.

And if this isn’t about controlling women, why are these same people attacking access to contraception?

The “Christian” patriarchy wants us to believe sex is a sin for women, but not for men. We women are seductresses and nothing more, they think. They have to control us because we can’t control our urges and we cause them to lose control of their own.

I know this to be true because I was raised among these people. I was taught very deliberately that I was less than a man, that my abuse at the hands of my grandfather — which began when I was just 3 — was my own fault, that I somehow seduced that poor man. They are hate-filled and despicable.

If you want me to believe you’re pro-life, then show up on the front lines of the fight for health care, a living wage, voting rights, mitigating climate change … Get arrested with me while trying to talk to a legislator about the importance of people’s lives after they’ve exited the birth canal.

Otherwise, perhaps you should just admit that you are not pro-life, you’re simply pro-fetus and pro-control of women.

But remember this: Women will rise up. We will not go back to enslavement or forced childbirth. We will learn ways to induce our own abortions, just as we always have.

Some of us will die because of your backward, amoral policies, just as we always have. But you’ve proven already that our lives mean nothing to you, so I don’t expect you to care about that.

 

 

 

‘What are you gonna do?’

Sherri White-Williamson, a specialist in energy regulation and law, who is retired from the EPA, now works to make all out energy safer and renewable, issued a challenge to everyone on the Poor People’s Campaign Truth and Poverty Bus Tour to go home and DO something.

In the three years my son battled cancer, he often played the Cancer Card.

What that meant was if he wanted something, or if he didn’t want to do something, he would whine, “But I have cancer!”  Then he would laugh, whether he got his way or not.

In the days before his death, he told me I was about to get a card that would be hard to top — the Dead Kid Card.

“I don’t want it,” I said. “I want nothing to do with it.”

He shook his head. “Doesn’t matter what you want. It’s there. It’s being dealt as we speak. What I want to know is what are you gonna do with it.”

I told him I didn’t know and he shook his head again.

“Nope, I want to know. What are you gonna do?”

I thought for a moment and told him I will work for access to health care for everyone. Real access, not a high-deductible insurance policy that just puts money in the pockets of the 1 percent, but real, meaningful access.

He sank back into his pillow and smiled.

“Good. I approve. You have my blessing,” he said. “Go get ’em.”

Eleven years later, I’m still working on it.

Last week, I went with some of my fellow activists in the NC Poor People’s Campaign on the National Emergency Truth and Poverty Bus Tour across the state to visit people affected by poverty.

We saw people doing, including the first homeless/formerly homeless Street Medic Team, based here in Asheville. We met homeless activists in Charlotte, several of whom got on the bus and traveled with us.

We met environmental activists in Robeson, Scotland and Duplin counties. One of them was Sherri White-Williamson, who retired from the Environmental Protection Agency and now works across Eastern NC as an activist fighting the deforestation causing catastrophic flooding, the proliferation of industrialized hog and poultry farming and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and other fossil fuel enterprises.

Sherri spoke to us in Robeson County and again in Duplin, and she told us to go home and do something.”

“You’re all excited now, enthusiastic about working to improve things,” she told us. “But coming here and learning what’s happening is not enough. You have to go home and do something.

“What are you gonna do?

In the 11 years since my son breathed his last, somewhere near a half million Americans have died from lack of access to care.

I worked for the Affordable Care Act, even though I was uncomfortable leaving insurance companies in the mix because I feared they would work to sabotage the law — which is exactly what has happened.

So, I continue to work to educate people about why we need to do what every other so-called developed country has done — find a way to get access to health care to everyone.

But I can’t work in a vacuum. Health care is not the only issue we need to address because if we get health care to everyone and we don’t fix the environmental devastation or raise the minimum wage, stop the endless wars or fix voter suppression, we’re still screwed.

We need activists for this fight. We need people to work with us.

We as a nation need you to pick your issue or issues and join the fight.

We don’t need online petitions because they never, ever, ever result in any change. Never. Sitting at your computer and typing in your name, e-mail address and phone number does nothing more than give some political hack your contact information so they can inundate you with requests for money.

Donating to a cause is great — the Poor People’s Campaign could sure use some financial help, as could any number of other causes — but these are perilous times and we need people to be in the streets.

We need people who can register voters and educate people on the issues — God knows the corporate media don’t peddle much beyond propaganda.

We need people to run for office — school board, city council, county commission, state legislature — and work for real change.

We can’t do this if people just stay home and go along to get along.

We need you in this fight because this is a fight for our very existence as a species.

What are you gonna do?

Think about it. We don’t have a whole lot of time left.

 

We’d better start talking — and listening — to each other

We need to learn to talk to each other respectfully.

Here’s a bit of a sad story. I was invited to join a group that promised people with different views could discuss them civilly. What a concept. Within a day, I was called a “libtard” and a couple slightly less offensive things.
I tried, but it just took two days for me to realize this was a place to argue, not discuss, and I left the group.
Why can’t we talk?
Well, for one thing, we’re encouraged to see anyone who disagrees with us as stupid, and to let them know how stupid we think they are.
I have a number of friends and family members with whom I have deep, deep disagreements, but we can talk about them. If I see an angry right-wing post, I might disagree and explain why my perspective is different, or I might just keep on scrolling, knowing they’re operating from a different set of “facts.” I won’t change their minds, because they’re as certain that humans aren’t causing climate change as I am that humans are destroying the planet. I have pulled some people a little to the left on some issues. I have met anger with quiet calm — until you call me a “libtard.” Then I’m likely to type a nasty response and leave.
If one of my progressive friends is disrespectful to a conservative friend who just wants to discuss an issue, that person gets a single warning.
If I get a troll, that person is blocked immediately.
Yes, I get angry at what’s happening, but I’m not going to blame it on the voters because they’ve believed the lies fed to them by Fox News. Voters are little more than the lambs being led to the slaughter. Corporations lie, big money buys the election by peddling lies and we bicker over stupid things.
I had a friend the other day who was incensed over the fact that news organizations called the people who were bombed in Sri Lanka “Easter worshipers” instead of Christians. I pointed out that the two are synonymous, since no other religion celebrates Easter. Also, more than 300 people are dead, and I don’t think their families care about whether they were called Christians or Easter worshipers. We went back and forth a couple of times, and I finally just said, “More than 300 people are dead. That’s what we should be focused on, period.”
How did this friend get so upset? I’m betting he saw an outraged “Christian” talking head on Fox News who saw the phrase as an attack on Christians, that poor persecuted minority.
This is what we have to fight, not each other.
When I comment that I won’t vote for another candidate who doesn’t support Medicare for All, a living wage and dramatic changes in environmental policies, I’m letting the DNC know a year in advance that they will lose again if they try to foist a “centrist” on us again. I am not participating in a “circular firing squad,” I’m trying to let it be known that they need to let the voters decide.
When we stop talking, we wind up with the most disgustingly corrupt, venal and backward administration in this country’s history.
Fascists gain power by dividing people into small groups so they can win.
If we stay on this road, our Democracy will be dead in a decade, if not sooner.
If we stay on this road, our planet will become uninhabitable for humans — all humans — in a century.
We need to find ways to talk, and we’d better do it soon.

Where do we go from here?

I’m not sure voting can get us out of this mess we’re in, but not voting certainly won’t.

 

We live in an empire in decline. In fact, this is far from the early stages of collapse.
I don’t know if we can stop it now, especially since those at the top won’t act on any of the emergencies we face.
We have refused to fix health care, even as tens of thousands of people die each year.
We refuse to act on climate change, even though scientists say if we don’t, this planet will become uninhabitable for humans. My great-grandchildren could be the among the last generation of humans who can live on this planet.
Our elections have become so rigged thanks to big money that our votes in some districts are next to meaningless.
The number of people living in poverty grows each year because we refuse to make business pay employees a fair wage. And poverty is lethal in too many cases.
Our infrastructure is crumbling and we refuse to invest anything to fix it.
I don’t expect any action against the criminal regime now occupying the White House, no matter what kinds of crimes are uncovered. In other words, we’re screwed and elections might not be able to save us.
Our obsession with military spending exacerbates all our other problems because we can’t pay to fix anything if we don’t stop investing in war.
But war is extremely profitable. That’s why the United States has been at war for almost all of its history.
And we can’t pay for anything until we get the wealthy to pay taxes again.
I’m not sure what we need to do, but we’d better do it fast.
I think impeachment needs to happen, but I doubt it will, no matter what kinds of crimes are uncovered. The Republicans in the Senate and those of both parties in the House who refuse to take any action against the crimes being committed, or the criminal committing them, are the ones to blame here. But they might lose campaign donations, so our lives, our county, our very existence, take a back seat to these campaign donations.
Nothing will happen unless we the people demand that it happen.
A phone call or an e-mail won’t do the trick. They ignore us. We can dial the phone or tap the keyboard until our fingers bleed, but they won’t listen because they believe the system is sufficiently rigged so that they can’t lose.
My two senators and my “representative” refuse to speak to me.
Thom Tillis’s people have actually hung up on me, and when Tillis was here as leader of the NC Senate, he had me arrested twice for trying to talk to him about health care.
Mark Meadows refuses me entry into his town halls.
Richard Burr won’t even allow me an appointment to speak to a member of his staff.
I’m afraid that even if we get a terrific turnout at the polls in 2020, we still won’t have enough of an effect to get the changes we absolutely need to see as quickly as we need to see them.
If we’re going to have an effect, we must take to the streets.
On May 1, this state’s teachers and the Poor People’s Campaign will march on Raleigh. We’re hoping to see tens of thousands of people on Halifax Mall outside of the General Assembly Building. If you want to see change, I expect to see you there.
If you recall, the Moral Monday Movement changed public opinion on our politicians here in North Carolina, but even with all that, we still have a Republican majority on the legislature here, although it no longer is a veto-proof majority, and we have a Democratic governor now.
Change takes time, and I’m not sure we have enough time left to us to fix this.
Also, don’t think this one rally will change anything. We need to combine direct action with a demand for fair elections, and then we all need to vote, and I mean every damn one of us. Vote for the person of your choice — it IS your vote after all — but vote.
And keep showing up. I’ve been doing health care activism for 11 years now and little has happened, but if I give up, I’m afraid we’re all screwed.
This is an emergency of epic proportions. If we can’t make change, and I mean really fast, we truly are doomed, not just politically, but literally.

#MeToo meets Uncle Joe

 

I’m not calling on Joe Biden to leave public life over his creepy way of getting in a little too close to women, but we we try to have a conversation in light of #MeToo, we need to understand that we’re just trying to figure out where we draw the new line of what’s proper and what isn’t.

 

I’ve spent much of the morning replying to comments from men about how “snowlfakes” are over-reacting to a woman’s complaint that Joe Biden invaded her personal space.

I have asked each man why they think a man has a right to invade my personal space and hug me, rub my shoulders or smell my hair without getting permission.

I also have asked when they were raped or had other sexual violence perpetrated against them — something that would give them the right to lead this conversation.

The #MeToo Movement has opened doors to a redefining of what’s proper behavior and what crosses the line, and we’re still pretty early in that discussion.

Women have been second-class citizens for millennia, and we’re finally seeing cracks in the wall of toxic patriarchy. What we need now is a new definition of that line men shouldn’t cross in dealing with women, and we won’t get that without an adult conversation about women’s very real trauma.

While it’s easy to say we shouldn’t criticize Uncle Joe while the pussy-grabber is still squatting in the White House, my point is that this is an urgent and necessary discussion. In fact, we must talk about it if #MeToo is going to lead to meaningful and permanent change.

What’s more, this is a discussion that must be led by women. Men need to listen, even though that may be hard.

My husband has never raped me or treated me with disrespect, but this is not a discussion where he’s going to take the lead (fortunately, he respects me enough to know that), because he’s not the one who has suffered from the patriarchy, I am.

Women are the ones who have been harmed in so many horrible, cruel and humiliating ways. We have been blamed for the violence perpetrated against us and punished every moment of our lives, just for being female. We have been denied the vote, denied credit, denied jobs, denied equal pay, denied autonomy, had our children taken from us when we left their fathers in fear for our very lives, denied sanctuary from violent men.

The list goes on, but you get he gist here. Men have been the oppressors and still carry a great deal of privilege. Men speak over me and minimize the trauma I have suffered at the hands of men. They told me my menstrual periods weren’t that bad when I was doubled over with a pain they’d never experience. They told me I was lying about what I was eating when I started gaining weight for no apparent reason, and then told me I was doing great when I was so depressed I lost my appetite and lost a whole lot of weight.

These things don’t just happen, they are deeply embedded in society, and we need to dislodge these behaviors. #MeToo is about we women using our voices to seek justice and societal change in attitudes toward women.

Men want to know what’s appropriate, and when we hold up Joe Biden and say, this is a little over the line, men (and some women) scramble to defend him.

The conversation here needs to be about where we’re going to draw that line. It has little to do with Biden’s qualifications to be president and everything to do with whether his behavior will continue to be seen as acceptable.

I love a good hug. There are few things more calming and reassuring. When my son was sick and after he died, I sometimes needed hugs just to stay upright. But I gave permission for those hugs, or I asked for them.

Before my son got sick, I wrote a huge piece for the paper here about how the state was neglecting children with disabilities that changed state policy and then won a big award. I e-mailed the notice of that award to my editor, who then came running out of his office, stopped a few feet from me and said, “Can I give you a hug? This is so huge, I just don’t know how else to respond!”

He got his hug, along with my undying respect.

All we’re asking here is that before you touch us, show us the basic respect of getting permission first. It is not too much to ask. I don’t care if you’ve never raped a woman and never will. Please, just give us the basic respect of asking permission before getting all over us, no matter what the circumstances.

A lot of us are creeped out by overly close men because men have hurt us. No, I don’t blame every man for the deeds of a few of them, but you have to understand that men have caused my trauma, and if you’re a man, you need to be aware of that.

If you stand a foot away from me and I take a step back, that probably means you’re too close and I want to have my space. If you take that step closer to insist that you control the rules of engagement, I will walk away.

The conversation about the new rules of engagement needs to happen, and it needs to happen in a civilized manner.

If you’ve never had sexual violence perpetrated against you, you probably won’t fully understand the necessity of this conversation. That means you probably shouldn’t try to lead the conversation.

Joe Biden seems like a good guy, but he is also a perfect example of a man who needs to step back a little. And those who defend him, and those who criticize women who are trying to talk about this, need to sit down and listen.

I understand that the rules have been one way for millennia, and that they’re changing rather abruptly, but that’s not an excuse to condone behavior that makes women uncomfortable — or worse.

We’re working on new rules. You can join the conversation or not, but this will happen either way.

I know the ending

Michael, age 3, playing with his food.

So, here it is. April Fools’ Day. Mike Day.

I’m forced to re-live this time every year, the final days of my son’s life. I can’t turn away, I can’t shut it out.

The story unfolds over the course of six weeks as the possibilities of life-extending treatment shrink. Finally, there is nothing.

That’s the problem. I know the ending. As my long-running family joke goes, “the guy dies.” That came from a comment my mother-in-law made as we sat down to watch a TV show she had seen.

“Oh, I saw this one,” she said, excitedly. “The guy dies.”

It’s my family’s code for a spoiler alert.

So, every year, as I am forced to re-live these final days of my son’s life, I can hear his voice saying, “The guy dies, Mom.”

I can’t even begin to describe the ache. There are no words. You can’t know unless you have lost a child to injustice.

Like so many others, I have become passionate about eliminating the cause of my child’s death. And I have lost friends over it. I understand people must grow weary of my grief, and it’s OK if it;s too much for them; I can’t walk away from it. I can’t escape it, so I have to act on it.

Get over it, people tell me. Move on. Mike would have wanted that.

Well, most of these people never met Mike. None of them ever felt his passion for the marginalized. None of them was in the room when he gave me his blessing.

So, today, we wear plaid because it was Mike’s favorite color. Yeah, I know, but that’s who he was, ever the jackass.

At his memorial service, his Savannah friends came to me and told me that henceforth, April 1 would be Mike Day, since he was the consummate fool, and everyone would wear plaid.

So, today, I sport a plaid shirt, plaid socks, plaid sneakers and a plaid baseball cap with a Red Sox logo, which would have pissed him off no end because he was a rabid Yankees fan.

Eleven years ago today, Mike told me he was tired and didn’t want to get out of bed. That was fine, of course. He had the I’m Dying Card, and that was un-trumpable.

I ran some errands and came home at noon to find him napping. I ate lunch, and the hospice nurse came at 2.

We couldn’t rouse him.

”He’s between here and there,” she said. “He’s transitioning.”

This could last hours or days, she said. But I knew he wouldn’t stay that long, so I called Danny and told him Mike had hours to live. I asked Rob to call Mike’s dad because I just didn’t have it in me to hear him sob.

Then I sat down by his bed.

”He could be here for hours or even days,” the nurse said. “You need to take care of yourself.”

I saw him into this world and I would be damned if I wasn’t going to be the one to see him out, I told her.

Rob had gone downstairs to e-mail work and tell them he wouldn’t be in and I sat and talked to Mike. I talked about how much he had given me, about how proud I was to be his mom, about how I would fight for the lives of others as hard as I had fought for his.

He woke up a couple of times and told me he loved me, and then he reached out and called my sister’s name.

My older sister, Ellen, had died a year and a half earlier, and we all knew she would be the one to come fetch him Home. She was way too bossy to allow anyone else to do it. A few minutes later, at a little before 4, he was gone.

On April Fool’s Day, of all days.

I had convinced myself that I would go with him, that my heart would stop when his did. I was so pissed to be sitting there. It was — and is — so unfair.

Later that night, James and Janet arrived and we went out to dinner. I wasn’t hungry. As we sat at the table, Rob took my hand.

“No mother ever loved a child more than you loved Mike,” he said.

“A lot of good it did,” I said.

I miss him every moment of every day. Everything makes me think of him. I can’t take a batch of bread out of the oven without hearing his voice, his mouth full of warm bread with the butter just beginning to melt: “The only thing wrong with this bread is that it isn’t at my house.”

Sometimes I wish the phone would ring at 11:30 at night and I could hear, “Hi Mom, I knew you’d be up.” These conversations could last two or three hours and meander through topics as varied as Star Trek, Monty Python, history, philosophy, food, politics and the asshole driver who had cut him off that afternoon.

Sometimes he’d call me when he was stopped in traffic so he could vent. He’d alternate between talking to me and yelling at the driver in front of him.

“Hey!” he called out his car window, “It’s the long thin one on the right! You push down on it with your foot and the car goes faster!”

I miss his foul mouth and his maniacal laugh.

I miss opening my secret stash drawer and finding no dark chocolate there because you couldn’t hide anything from him.

I miss his love for his cats and his obsession with good food — especially the dark chocolate creme brulee.

I have been robbed of these things and so much more.

Eleven years ago today, the heart of my soul stopped beating.

So tell me again how I have to vote for somebody who won’t pledge to fix health care NOW. Not in 10 years, not in five, but immediately.

Don’t even think about trying to shame me into voting for another “centrist.” If you’re not for fixing this right now, we’re done.

One day

 

Me and Mike on his wedding day.

Today was Monday in 2008, Mike’s last full day with us.

The house was empty except for Rob, Mike and me, and he seemed to appreciate the quiet. He was allowed to smoke in the house because as much as I hate tobacco, I was not about to deprive him of it.

Somebody, I don’t recall who it was, had suggested in these final two weeks that he should quit smoking — conquer that final addiction — before he died. His response was to smile and light a cigarette. He didn’t want to die totally virtuous, after all.

There wasn’t much left he could eat, and none of it was particularly good for him. He could still drink coffee with almond milk. He also could take a few bites of Frosted Flakes doused in chocolate almond milk. And he could nibble on good chocolate. He had given up Cadbury Creme Eggs because everyone knew they were his favorite candy and we were inundated with them. For years, he had bought all he could in the weeks before Easter, claiming he would make them last until the next spring. But they were usually gone within a month of Easter. During these final few weeks of his life, it seemed no one crossed the doorway to his room without an offering of a half dozen or more.

Finally, a few days before he died, he told me he couldn’t eat another one.

“I’m Cadbury Creme Egged out,” he said as he gazed at the one in his hand. “I think I’ll have to wait until next … ” he paused and looked up at me. “I think I’ll have to let other people have them. I keep forgetting I won’t be here next year.”

It was said matter-of-factly, as though he had forgotten his raincoat on a drizzly day. But it slapped me in the face and forced me back into the moment. I had to live in the moment because I had so little time left to do that with him.

Rob went to work that evening and Mike and I watched Star Trek and nibbled on good dark chocolate. We watched an episode from the original series and then the episode of Deep Space Nine where the Klingon character, Worf, joins the crew.

“You know, I’m having a good time here,” he told me as Worf stepped onto the space station on the television.

Here he was, confined to a hospital bed in a small bedroom. His life had been reduced to a tiny room with a bed, a dresser, a single chair and a TV, and he managed to find joy.

“I have everything I need here,” he said. “I have my TV, my Playstation, Boo Bankie, Idiot Bear and you, my personal valet.”

Boo Bankie was the tangled remnants of the blanket I had crocheted him when he was a kid. As it had unraveled, he had tied the ends together until it resembled a blue football-shaped mass with bits of red in it. I still have it under my pillow.

“I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to complain about anything again,” I told him.

“Oh, I have faith you’ll find a way,” he said, smiling.

If only we’d been able to get him the screening tests he needed. If only he’d been able to get health insurance. If only even one doctor in Savannah had given a rat’s ass about his precious life. If only we hadn’t lived in the most ignorant and immoral nation on Earth when it comes to health care.

Here we are, the richest nation ever to exist and we can’t even offer the basic level of health care to our people that every developed nation — and even some developing nations — offers its people. Our health care outcomes are the worst among the developed nations, and worse than many developing nations, even though we spend about double per capita what other nations spend. How can people not understand that?

People still tell me we can’t afford it because they believe the lies put out there by Big insurance and Big Pharma. We could have saved my son’s life for a fraction of the cost of allowing him to die. We could save tens of thousands of lives every year, one precious soul at a time, instead of killing them with criminal neglect.

Mike was developing a pressure sore on his elbow. He didn’t want me to bother wrapping it in soft cloth, but I insisted. Lifting his arm was like picking up a broomstick. He had no muscle left.

When I finished wrapping the sore, he sighed.

“You were right,” he said. “This does feel better. Thanks.”

He closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep. I sat and watched him for a little while, just trying to be present in the moment. I knew we had few moments left.

On this day, in this moment, I had just 18 hours left with him.

 

 

 

One final belly laugh

Mike being Mike. His main mission in life was to amuse himself and others. He was a proud jackass and I still believe he chose to leave us on April Fool’s Day.

 

It was Sunday on this date 11 years ago. The crew from Savannah spent the morning and early afternoon with us, and when Mike was tired and needed a nap, they headed back south.

I took the opportunity to soak in the hot tub for a bit with two friends who were helping Mike plan his memorial service. He didn’t want to leave anything to chance. That service would reflect his desires for a funeral he’d be sorry to miss.

As we came back into the house, there was an insistent knock on the door, as though someone wanted to deliver an urgent message. When I opened the door, there was a woman I’d seen drive by a couple times, but I didn’t know her. She was tastefully dressed, a little overweight, had an unnatural shade of blonde hair and way too much makeup.

“What the hell are you doing parking all these cars on my street!” she demanded. “People have to drive here, you know. You don’t own the street and I’m getting tired of dodging all these party cars! I don’t know how long you’ve lived here, but you should know we don’t put up with that in this neighborhood …”

She ranted on for a minute or two and when she finally stopped to take a breath, I spoke.

“First of all, this is not your street. My taxes pay for as much of it as yours do,” I said.

She opened her mouth to speak again, her face still angry. I held up my hand.
“Nope,” I said, “I’m not done. These cars belong to friends of my son. They’ve come to say goodbye. He’ll be dead in a few days and then you can have your road back.”

I started to close the door and she put up her hand to stop me.

“Wait! Oh my god! Is there anything I can do?”

“Yes,” I said sweetly, “you can drive carefully so none of these people has to the add the burden of car repairs to that of the grief of losing a friend.”

And I closed the door.

Even 11 years ago, some people were mean-spirited by nature and not afraid to show everyone they encountered that they wanted people to do everything their way.

Later another neighbor would see me outside and ask, “I saw a lot of cars over the last week or so. I know it’s not always a good thing, so I just said a quick prayer that everything’s OK.”

Now, that’s the way to ask why there are so many cars parked on the street.

The nasty neighbor has never spoken to me again.

Mike woke up a little while after the angry neighbor left, and I told him what had happened. He had a good laugh over that.

“Oh, I wish I could have seen her face,” he said. “I’ll bet she was horrified. Good for you, Mom. Good play.”

It would be our final Cancer Card moment, his final belly laugh.

In 48 hours, he would be gone and I would never hear that laugh again.

When people tell me we should fix health care gradually so businesses and the economy don’t get hurt, I ask why they want to put the welfare of corrupt insurance companies and Big Pharma over that of the 35 million Americans who still don’t have access to health care, plus another 12 million or so whose insurance has such high co-pays and deductibles that they can’t afford to use it. That, after all, is the very basis of fascism — money over people, the good of corporations above the welfare of human beings.

Some 30,000-plus people are dying every year the same way my son did. and we have done almost nothing.

Yes, insurance companies can’t deny people with pre-existing conditions insurance anymore. In states where Medicaid has been expanded, poor people finally have real access to care.

But Big Insurance and Big Pharma don’t want these changes to stand and they’re paying out huge amounts of money to walk back what little ground we have gained.

Every day we don’t fix this, people die unnecessarily. Every damn day, more family members and friends go through the hell my family and I have gone through. In fact, about three times every hour, another American dies of lack of access to care, just they way my precious son did.

As I count down these days again every year, I spend a good part of my time in tears.

Why can’t we see that people shouldn’t be dying like this when it would actually be cheaper to take care of them — both economically and morally? I tried to explain this to someone yesterday who just said, “I don’t believe you. We can’t afford it,” and turned her back, completely unwilling to listen to anything not sanctioned by the liars at Fox News. I wanted to scream, to call her a fucking fascist, but I walked away instead.

On this beautiful spring day 11 years ago, I so desperately wanted to hold onto him. I still wish I could go back and get him. I think I’d want to take him along on the coming cross-country road trip with my pregnant granddaughter. I can’t even imagine what an adventure that would have been.

I tried to soak up all I could of him during these final days.

On this Sunday 11 years ago, everybody cleared out. James, Mike’s closest friend, and Janet, who still loved Mike and who was still adored by him, went back to pick up mail and check in with their bosses. Janet’s boss would fire her for not coming in on Monday; James’s boss told him to take whatever time he needed. They were both planning on returning Wednesday. Mike would not be here to greet them.

On this beautiful Sunday 11 years ago, we would have just two days left with Mike.

 

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