Donna Smith, American SiCKO, is executive director of the Health Care for All Colorado Foundation
In Denver tonight, I close myself in a hotel room and wonder what might have been. But I also marvel what has been and what will be and what must be for us all in the future. In the shadows of the places where my marriage began and my children were born, I return to talk about healthcare for all and about justice and about reality.
I lived here once and began my life filled with hope and love for a man I trusted with all of my being – my beloved Larry. A machinist. My common man with uncommon courage. A man whose heritage was planted in the hills and whose DNA was infused with the illnesses that would frame our future – though we knew little as we married but love and passion and hope and honor and how to embrace one another in the starlight of the Rocky Mountain west.
I was prettier. I was more idealistic. I was a wife and an earth mother. All of life seemed ahead in the hopeful distance – a place filled with wonder and with family and with love.
Healthcare is a basic and fundamental human right. My neighbor’s child and my child deserve all the same care. It is so clear. With Pikes Peak towering in the background to be seen by all not just the precious few, the place where “America the Beautiful” was written and the place where I struggled to earn my college degree at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, the value of a human life is clear – we all matter. We all matter. We all matter. Oh, beautiful for spacious and equal skies and for amber waves of grain seen by all… valued by us all.
But oh how the years and the realities bruised us. Our dreams fell away and the quest to hang on became our main goal. We lost our home. We lost our future. We lost our peaceful nights, lying in one another’s arms and snuggling against the cold.
I embraced my children and my grandchildren today. I remembered what it was like to be with them more often and among them and forever sharing our human stories. We are family. I love them all with all my heart – I love my twin grandsons who sometimes are teenagers with behaviors only a grandparent can forgive. I am so lonely for our times together and so lonely for our moments of shared history. Yet they love me and break bread with me and honor me. I am a blessed woman. Still, I am blessed.
But, on the phone line are the activists on a conference call, on a Sunday evening and thankfully on a bye week for the Broncos. The activists fight for single-payer, for healthcare for all. They fight for the day when I can settle in and love my grandsons without worrying about the political work and the organizational work that lies ahead. A better world, a more just healthcare system are for them, not me. I will die before we implement the real changes – unless miracles move the agenda sooner.
I remember John Elway and orange and blue Sundays when my biggest worry was about nachos and chicken wings and winning the game and not when I’d see these lovely kids again and when we’d finally rest in the knowledge that we are one – we are Broncos’ fans and even Chief’s fans and Raider’s fans all equally in need of healthcare when we are sick. During games we can argue our teams’ virtues; but every day we are neighbors – every day we are family. Every day we are worthy of the same equal protections and equal rights and certainly the right to see a doctor when we are sick or hurt. Record your stories, my young friends. Record the reality and send that reality to me. The despair and the glory, the pain and the stories – all of it recorded so those who might change it cannot plausibly deny knowing – we want our lives back, we want our kids and grandkids back, we want our futures back. We want peace, and we want healthcare for all – and for ourselves.
Record a YouTube. Attach it to your comments and send it on. Let it be your family wishing decency and the common good for one another and let it be the stories of those who often go voiceless. We do not care about mainstream, corporate media; we do not care about the next report by CNN or MSNBC or FOX news or HLN – except if we can use them as they have used us . We care when we decide to float funds for groceries or for healthcare services and for inhalers for our kids. We care about the harsh realities played out every night and day in every single way. Gather if you will in your leadership conferences and following well-planned agendas, but my day-to-day reality cries out for your attention and for your allegiance with our common efforts. I want more evenings with my grandkids – more kisses from the little ones and more eye-rolls from the teens.
Maybe we can absorb the message of peace, of fiscal responsibility and conservative spending and of caring and of improved and expanded Medicare for all. Maybe we can be fiscally responsible and morally just all at once. Maybe we have no other reasonable choice.
We are a just people who often must work for and beside unjust and even cruel forces in order to feed and house and care for our loved ones. We do not want to be hypocritical, yet our circumstances often keep us stuck and ashamed.
I am often so afraid, and often nighttime is often the worst. I see and feel and hear the greedy forces closing in as I try to lay down for sleep. I fear for Larry, my beloved and simultaneously annoying husband, and for our kids. I want nothing more than a few more days of love like today with grandkids around and without worry about the next co-pay or deductible. I want a little time to love. Is that too much to ask?
Stand up. Fight. Record the reality and send it to me. We deserve the freedom to grow old and to grow foolish. We need the time to love one another. We need a progressively financed, single standard of high quality care for all. We need our lives reclaimed. I love you Larry. And soon we will be together in complaining about the twins needing a haircut instead of fighting to make sure Humana records your payment. I promise. Healthcare justice is nigh.
Soon, being a Broncos fan will be our biggest worry. Soon. I promise the day is coming.
April 22nd, 2014
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