History Repeats Itself
“After losing her job as a hotel worker in Las Vegas, Ruby Duncan joined a welfare rights group of mothers who defied notions of the ‘welfare queen.’ In a fight for guaranteed income, Ruby and other equality activists took on the Nevada mob in organizing a massive protest that shut down Caesars Palace.”
Click on the link to watch Storming Caesar’s Palace or the image below.
I grew up in the 70s. My sister Heather once said to me, “I wonder why Mom married Walter (our step-father). They never seemed very happy.” And I said, “Imagine being a divorced woman with four daughters in 1972. She must have been terrified. We were living back at home with Gramma and Grampa, that must have been horrible for her. I mean, why did she marry Dad in the first place? To get away from home.”
Mom told me stories of working in tobacco fields in North Carolina, coming home and pulling ticks out of her belly button. Coming home and finding Dad, who was supposed to be a Mormon, sitting on the couch watching TV with empty beer cans piled up around him, waiting for her to make dinner – or coming home and finding him fooling around with the neighbor. They lived in a shack on stilts. They fished for catfish. Mom made biscuits out of flour, water and lard. Sometimes that’s all there was to eat.
Poverty, or feeling on the edge of poverty, has been a reality. I have lived a very rich life, sometimes without very much. And, I’m a late bloomer – I’ve done a lot of work to reframe my attitude toward money and the way I handle it. Being sober, and, being near my family is showing me so much about my own inherited beliefs and learned behaviors around survival.
And also, the system we live in as a society, is failing. And a lot of people are hurting.
My Mom is wasting away. Medicaid and Medicare are entities that are poorly managed, and they stall and lie about benefits. My aunt, who is now 76, was taking care of Mom until I moved in. Then, my aunt and I were both taking care of her. I was trying to do most of the physical work and get Mom’s insurance set up. It was entirely all-encompassing, and I did my best to keep a good attitude.
Since getting help was nearly impossible, I also had to get on Medicaid because it was clear my job (unpaid) was taking care of Mom.
We finally did get some help for her, through Freedom Care. We are eligible for more help, but Freedom Care is jerking us around for those 20 hours more. 20 hours sounds like nothing. . . but you can’t imagine what that time opens up. To be put on hold for it is disheartening, discouraging, depressing (and probably illegal).
My aunt said to me, “If I ever get sick, please kill me.” She was only half-kidding. There is not a lot of laughter in the house.
I eventually had to leave and hand over the reigns of my mom’s care to my sister. I was contemplating suicide – my life became incredibly small and everything I had worked so hard for felt like it was slipping away. Not to mention I was in severe pain – I am not built to lift and move a human adult around (who can’t stand on her own and has spasmodic movements) dozens of times in a day.
Not being paid for all the work, and the work consuming me 24-hours-a-day, exploded my debt. Little by little, any money at all that my family may have had is now gone, too.
Avoid getting old and sick in this country.
It’s scary not being valued. And that’s the clear message when you deal with governmental agencies and insurance day in and day out – if you have no money, you have no value. No value wears a person down. The system makes is set up to thrive on the sick.
There is a meanness in a system that values human suffering over compassion, and kindness, and wisdom that only comes with age.
We cannot sustain this.
And I have not quite found my footing in New York. And I know I will be here for a while. I feel like I have stepped out of a dark cave and I’m blinking my eyes against the light.
I am curious to see what happens next. I am grateful I do things in my life I really love, and that bring me closer to humanity. I celebrate yoga and meditation and creating art and music, and connection and nature.
I got too isolated for a while in my role as caregiver, even though I was doing a good thing. I’m slowly getting back to the things I love because they are the things that make life worth living.
I was talking to a friend today who has been trying to get work for over two years. The last time I saw him I thought he looked a bit skinny. He mentioned food stamps had been cut, and they last him about two weeks now. I invited him to come over next week (when he runs out of food stamps) and share some rice and beans with me, because that what I’ve got. And maybe we’ll sing some songs, too!
Our society is on the edge – and there are social movements out there. For me, being an artist is revolutionary – and I will continue to create.
April 28, 2023
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I had a dental emergency that had a hefty price tag I wasn’t prepared for!
Every little bit helps!
If you can, please help at my GoFundMe