While I know I sometimes post political comments on Facebook, it’s not something that I do constantly. However, upon seeing this photo again, I honestly became more enraged. Let me explain why.
From 2004 until 2005, both my mother and I qualified for and frequented several food banks. I was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in January 2004 when I returned to the US after living in England for almost two years. I was so bad off that they expected me to die. My father even flew over from England thinking he would be attending a funeral. Fortunately (due to free healthcare and great doctors at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston), I recovered. However, two days after I got out of rehab (I had spent over two months in bed with various tubes in my chest and back and spent three weeks learning to walk again.), my unemployed, well-educated mother was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer. Our world crumbled when she got that phone call. She was already living on unemployment and paying $300 a month for her COBRA. A few months later, I starting receiving disability payments and could help her with her rent while shuttling her to both chemo and radiation treatments at the Dana-Farber in Boston. In order to make ends meet, we reluctantly applied for various programs. We received support from a local food bank and the AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod. For those of you who knew my mother, she never looked for or expected a handout. In fact, even when she worked a full-time job, she sometimes had several part time-jobs and completed both her undergraduate and graduate degrees at night when I was in high school and college. She hated not working.
Eventually we moved off of Cape Cod and in with my mother’s youngest sister. A few months later, I moved in with my mother’s middle sister to help care for her and her three teenage boys while she was dying from breast cancer. Fortunately, my mother eventually found a great job that allowed her to deal with her treatment without question. My mother worked up until six weeks before she died.
All that being said, I could care less about growing up has a “have” or “have not”. I want people to know that this shit can happen to anyone. ANYONE. I was raised by a woman who didn’t expect anything from anyone. She was a military wife who moved numerous times for almost twenty years and received shit for it (Yes, she got half of my father’s retirement until she died. I know this only because I dealt with her finances when she was sick. The amount was crap. My father is being just as screwed for twenty years of service.) More importantly, my mother taught my sister and me about hard work (We always worked when we were in high school and college.). We went to college and we also figured ways out to help each other when things were (and are) tough.
That being said, no politician should use those in such a situation as a political opportunity. Yes, Mr. Ryan lost his father at an early age and used his Social Security to go to college. I’m sure his family when through tough times. Whatever. He’s not special. There are so many other people out there who have experience the same as I have or even worse. I never would have expected to experience what I did at 32. I also didn’t expect my mother to die when she was 59. My cousins lost their father when they were in elementary school and their mother before they were even out of high school. It’s incredibly sad and heartbreaking. Such things shouldn’t happen to anyone. However, it does happen.
Regardless, no politician should use another person’s plight or situation as a photo-op. TELL me what you’re going to do. TELL me what you mean. Provide REAL solutions for those of us who are living the new “normal. After that, all you need to do is DO IT.