Born in 1953, I grew up in Stamford, Connecticut with two parents, a brother, and in 1969, when I was 16, a sister. My parents were both professionals and my mom mostly stayed at home with my brother and I while my dad worked at the newspaper. Then Mom worked nights at the local hospital as a nurse, and Dad did the bedtime routine. Together they didn't make enough money, but they needed to appear prosperous because of my dad's job, using the little money they had to buy my dad good suits, my mom impressive dresses, and they had to have a good car. Being a newspaperman was Dad’s passion. After a while they bought a small house in a working/middle class neighborhood. Dad worked on the house renovations, making the house bigger and more comfortable. Mom worked on the landscaping, building stone retainer walls, to keep the steep and spacious backyard from eroding into our basement, and filling the outdoors with flower gardens. Life was very hard for them.
They believed in the American Dream. If they worked hard, all their dreams would come true, and boy did they work hard. They worked hard and loved hard and fought hard. Stress certainly took its toll on our family. I've been thinking of my dad lately, wondering what he would have thought about this current election. His job, when I was young, was a political reporter. He later became editor in chief and was a staunch Republican until the day he died. The publisher of the newspaper, a fair man, wanted balanced news, so my dad had a rival. Wayne Tyson was the Democratic reporter. He was a slick character, whom we were taught to avoid at all cost.
When I was older, I went with my dad to the newspaper on election nights. The UPI and AP wires were ticking, the typewriters were clattering, and I ran copy back and forth, intoxicated by adrenaline and the lingering smell of stale cigarettes. The men were busy with loosened ties, voices rushed, almost frenetic. Then, there was Marion Campbell. Against all odds, she had worked her way up to City Editor. She was the only woman in the newsroom at that time. She was older, tall and thin with sharp features and a kind of elegance in her stance. Her hair was always kept in a tight bun on top of her head, accentuating her angles. There were always a few stray hairs that escaped from her topknot, but on election nights, she looked absolutely electric. I'd love to know what she thinks about this election, too.
We followed every election, local, statewide and national and, because of Dad's job, we were always around politicians and lawyers. Some of them were part of the tightknit community I grew up in, full of parties and potlucks. I was immersed in debates among all of these intellectuals, and my brother and I were included and encouraged in most discussions. Of course, the older I got, the more heated the discussions between me and my dad as I began to question his beliefs and develop my own opinions. I couldn't understand how he could struggle so hard financially and still believe in that illusive dream. Soon I was basically, though not officially, disowned because of those beliefs and my choice of lifestyle.
As an adult myself, I faced extreme poverty. I had left home, choosing to seek adventure and escape the dysfunction and abuse in my family, had gotten pregnant far from home and struggled for many years to raise my children on nothing. I took what work I could get and existed on Food Stamps and Medicaid for years. I lived in ghettos, visiting food pantries and found food in the dumpsters behind the grocery stores when the Food Stamps didn't last the month, trying to feed my family regular, decent meals. I've had my power shut off and have driven dangerous cars before inspections were required because public transportation was unreliable or inaccessible. I've walked for miles with my children, even hitchhiked with them because I didn't own a car and was a stranger in a strange land with no friends or family. I have butterflied my children's deep cuts and healed them with herbs and other natural remedies instead of going to a doctor because we had no health insurance, making just over the limit for Medicaid eligibility.
For me, things have improved slightly over the years, but once again I have no health insurance. I'm self-employed and can't afford the insurance payments, especially with a yearly $3500 deductible. I have a couple of chronic diseases that sometimes need attention, so I do my best to heal myself, hope for the best and pay my ever growing fine when I pay my taxes each year. I've figured out my life so that I need very little to live on, and I have three more years until I can get Medicare. Then, I hope I will be out of the woods. But what about everyone else who is struggling? What about the other families and individuals who are barely hanging on, who can't afford the education to get a better job, who are paying more than they can afford for healthcare, who are leaving their children at a young age to pay more than they can afford for childcare? And, I was a white person with built in advantages. What about the people of color with similar struggles who have the cards stacked against them from the day they are born, the immigrants leaving their war torn homes seeking safety and security?
Raising a family in poverty was the most stressful thing, I've ever endured. My husband and I fought with each other while trying to fight the system. That struggle helped end our relationship. My parents fought with each other while believing in the system that eventually betrayed them. This year, I'm voting to send a message of much needed and very much overdue change. I'm voting for the only person I think represents that change. I know it won't be easy, but if we don't reach for it, we won't even have a chance. I'm voting for Bernie Sanders because I'm tired of believing the power brokers and the status quo. I'm voting with my head and my heart, and I think Marion Campbell would understand.