In 2001, my grandfather decided he could no longer manage on his own and moved into a nursing home. At that point, we moved into his house. It was a small, modest house, but it was a nice house in a nice location. We were beside a large church with stained class windows. We were a block away from the Fayette County Court House. There were even a couple of mansions in the neighborhood. We were lucky, and if you judged from appearances, you might think we were middle class.
But the truth was we were living close to the edge despite our luck and living conditions. The house didn’t belong to us. It didn’t even belong to grandpa. It belonged to the husband of my father’s late sister. He could have told us to get out any time the notion crossed his mind. In fact, he did ask me to leave when my father died.
My mother had schizophrenia. She was unable to earn a living, and she lost her insurance when my father retired in 1991. She wasn’t usually eligible for Medicaid, so she went without regular medical care. At some point, breast cancer attacked her, and it wasn’t discovered until it was stage 4. She died about 10 weeks after her diagnosis. She was 63.
We had a car, a nice car, a little Toyota Camry. But Dad was afraid to travel far from the house. Most of the time, he didn’t have money for a tow or for repairs. So he worried about breaking down and being stranded in some far off location with a car that wouldn’t run. And the car was repossessed by the bank when he died. He worried about the upkeep of the house and all of the appliances in the house. Sure, it was nice we had those things. Many people in the world don’t. Even my parents didn’t have some of those things when they were young. But living as my parents did when they were young was no longer tenable. There was no well at our house. An outhouse would not have been permitted. So we needed plumbing. My father’s family used to store their perishables in a cool springhouse, but we didn’t have that on Maple Ave., so we needed our refrigerator. If it went out, and we didn’t have the money to fix it or buy a new one, we would have been shit out of luck. Our house didn’t have fireplaces as the houses my parents grew up in did, so we couldn’t burn coal or wood if the furnace went out and we didn’t have the money to repair it.
Many liberals in this country are well educated, and they live comfortable middle class lives, and I can tell by the way they talk that they assume nearly everyone is as fortunate as they are. Car repairs and replacing appliances might be a mere inconvenience when you have the money to take care of those things, but many don’t. Car problems aren’t “first world problems” for many. Try going without a car in a country that’s built around the assumption that everyone has a car. Sometimes it’s difficult to even get across a road because there’s no where for a person on foot to get across. Imagine living in a remote rural location without a car or a small town without public transportation. How would you get to work, or the store, or to a doctor’s office?
Many in this country have legitimate worries about essential needs, and you can’t always gage a person’s situation by a cursory glance at how they’re living right now. The Democratic party would have a broader base and wider appeal if it took those worries more seriously and did more. Obamacare was the first major program to help the poor in this country since the early ’70s, and even that was only half measure.