I’m going to apologize right away. This isn’t going to be chock-full of jokes. I’ve been in a doomfunk for days. Monday was particularly dark. Everything was death and dirt. Caving in. Suffocating.
I know introspection is often shit, but something hit me like a bolt of lightning yesterday. I have to go back to Monday, though, to tell it.
The girls were rowdy, as always, and they kept flipping the footstool open on Dad’s old blue recliner with too much force for comfort. From the kitchen, I said, “Hey, could you not break the chair I dragged my father out of before we went to the hospital for the last time?”
I knew it was a stupid thing to say as soon as I said it, and luckily they didn’t pay attention or understand. Still, moments later I looked at Gina and told her I’d seen something on Facebook’s On This Day feature (THE BANE OF MY EXISTENCE) and it had wrecked me. It was simple but so sharp, a needle in my heart.
“Nothing like naps and football.”
I don’t even like football, but I know where I was when I posted that. I was with Dad and Blake, and we were spending time with him right after his penultimate stay in the hospital.
I told Gina, “I hope your parents live to be 125, baby. I really do. It tears a hole in you and nothing will ever fix it.”
She told me it was okay to be sad. I told her I don’t like being sad. For someone who is always fucking sad you’d think I’d have made peace with it. Nope.
And yet, I had been as okay as I can be with Dad’s death for years. I think about him every day, but they’re usually happy thoughts, or benign at least. The horrifying things pop up from time to time, but they’re mostly blunted by the blessed fuzziness of years passed. Even when I think of him being a massive dick, of which he was certainly capable, I chuckle and think, “Well, that’s Dad. At least I came by it honest.”
What is so raw, so real, here, almost six years out?
Welp. This is where the navel gazing comes in.
I recognize the list of events that led to me being a more compassionate person over the years. Seeing the government’s lack of response to Hurricane Katrina was one of the first. Dealing with Dad’s illness was another. Finally graduating from college was one. Becoming a father myself was another, still.
I can look back and mark those events and others, and they roughly correspond to when I stopped being a weird Randian Republican (can you be one of those without actually struggling though those garbage novels? I was), when I started my short stint campaigning for Obama, when I started yelling about Universal Healthcare, and when I began agitating for labor rights. I can see a rough progression of my human awakening.
Don’t get me wrong. I backslide and fuck up constantly, but the arc of Bob bends towards justice.
I recently tweeted, “I hope the DSM-VI includes Political Dysthymia as a disorder.” That is, if civilization still stands. Regardless, it’s a thing. If you want to put it under the umbrella of Generalized Burnout, that’s fine, but it’s a fucking thing.
My father died without insurance. He worked thirty years for the same company and was laid off at the start of the Great Recession. After some months of unemployment, he became ill. Insurance wouldn’t have saved his life, but ask these Republicans why that other lifelong Republican shouldn’t have had health insurance. He was a Company Man. Wasn’t he the guy who deserves it?
That’s the thing, though. It’s not about deserves. It’s not about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It’s about money, and he paid. We paid. Someone is pretty fucking rich because of it, but either way, Dad’s dead, y’all. Dad’s dead.
It seemed like vindication when the ACA passed. People wouldn’t have to do this anymore. Sure, it had been whittled down to a rump of what it should have been, but it was better than nothing, right? In retrospect, it had been sabotaged by its opponents who then spent years holding up those flaws as reason to euthanize the entire thing along with millions of Americans.
Oh, there is a death panel. It’s called Congressional Republicans.
This is what I do, though. I’m pretty reactive. I get nudged and I respond. I find reasons for things in a world where there are no reasons except the ones we make, and I made that one. Dad died. He was part of my healthcare stump speech, and we won. We won the consolation prize of “maybe this will be different for others.”
Now it’s being ripped away, like so many other things we build. Sandcastles kicked by a bully before the tide has a chance to take them away. We can’t stop the tide, but we can stop a man.
Even now I worry that all the people who were dropped from their employer’s plans, mostly part-time folks who could “just go get on Obamacare,” will be left worse off than before the ACA passed.
We’re not going back to square one. We’re at ground fucking zero.
I’m going to do what I do. I’ll take this pain and hone it into a blade. I’ll appeal to who I can to save whatever I can, whoever I can, and I’ll be smart about it, Mom. Don’t worry.
I’ll also be relentless.
With great assholery comes great responsibility. My power is being a dick. My secret is that I’m always unhappy. Content for moments, sure, but it always lingers there. “Just wait,” it says. “Just wait.”
Well, you just wait, motherfuckers.
You just wait.