Eleven years ago today, hospice came.
Mike had slept in the bed in the spare bedroom that first night here, but the nurse said he’d be more comfortable in a hospital bed, and she had one here in a couple of hours. She was right. You could see it on his face as soon as he settled in, raised the top and picked up his game console controls.
Part of the visit was an intake interview.
“Do you use tobacco?”
“Yup and I’m not quitting now.”
“Do you use drugs or alcohol?”
“Not for the last 11 and a half years.”
“Good for you! What was your drug of choice?”
Mike leaned closer, his eyes sparkling. “Whadaya got?”
He got the reaction he wanted, a shocked look.
“I was whatcha call a garbage head,” he said, smiling. “I would do anything that altered my brain in any way.”
Mike had sobered up on Nov. 9, 1996, and he had worked with 12-step groups in New York, Savannah and Raleigh. He often went to beginner meetings because he knew people new to sobriety needed help.
“As soon as you smelled fryer oil, you knew the meeting was going to be a good one,” a friend of his told me. “He would come right from work, and he was so wise, so compassionate. You just knew if he was there, something good was going to happen.”
Anyone who needed to talk knew they could call Mike and he’d listen. No matter what time of day it was, no matter how much he had going on, he always made time for someone who needed to talk.
I was feeling pretty smug because I believed I would die when he did. Yes, I know there’s nothing logical about it, nothing even remotely logical. But I had somehow convinced myself that I wouldn’t have to go on without him. And yes, I had another son, two fabulous daughters-in-law, a loving husband, four grandchildren and sisters and friends. That didn’t matter to me.
Mike was born on my birthday, and he and I were so alike, we often didn’t need to talk, although we always did. He had my sense of humor and my passion for justice.
We had long, rambling conversations about everything imaginable, although he could lose me in the weeds when he got into philosophy.
And he was particularly delighted when he could combine philosophy and wise-assery. He knew every word to Monty Python’s Philosopher’s Song, not to mention “Every Sperm is Precious,” and “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” He could recite huge swaths of dialogue from Monty Python and Mel Brooks movies. In fact, he and his wife’s stepfather used to put on German helmets from Bob’s extensive military artifacts collection and sing, “Springtime for Hitler,” from “The Producers.” They invited me to sing along, but I just couldn’t bring myself to put on a German helmet and join in. It was too much fun watching them.
Mike was a foodie who loved working in restaurants except for the lack of health insurance. He went back to school because he knew he needed another career, and he had chosen law. He was planning to be a legal aid attorney, and he would have been a damn good one.
But our broken health care system derailed his plans. It shouldn’t have. We have dozens of models for a just health care system from every other industrialized country in the world. But corporations have more power than people do in this country. They have co-opted our democracy to suit their needs, and they have used every immoral method in their playbook to maintain a stranglehold on progress of any kind.
The Affordable Care Act would have gotten my son the insurance he needed, although it might not have covered annual colonoscopies because the insurance companies have maintained control, with the full cooperation of both corporate-owned political parties.
Somewhere near a half million people have died in these last 11 years. I think that’s enough already.
Condemn me all you want for my hard-ass stand, but I will not vote for anyone who won’t support the Medicare for All bill that would have everyone covered within three years. That’s my line in the sand.
This is a national emergency and it’s long past time we treat it as such.
If the creature currently squatting in the White House steals another election because the Democrats won’t give us a viable alternative, then we as a nation get what we deserve. I will not accept any blame. I played along once and the DNC rigged the primaries to get their flawed candidate on the ballot. I dutifully voted for her.
I bought into your “anything is better than that clown” line in 2016. Now, considering that the definition of insanity is trying the same thing again and again and expecting a different outcome, I would say anyone who falls for that again is the fool, not those of us who refuse to do so.
Some 70 percent of voters want this. Even 52 percent of Republicans are on board. This is not an unreasonable demand and I will not back down again. You will fix this, Democrats, or you will go down with the Republicans and it won’t be pretty.
I have had to live these last 11 years without my precious son. I miss him every moment of every day and the pain I feel constantly won’t let up until I join him.
There are a half million people who have landed in this boat with me since my son died. It’s time for action.