Monday, September 19, 2011


I am of Irish descent. As I write this, I can look over at the family pictures of Jerry Dowden, his wife Nancy, and her mother, Moirah Pine. Jerry possessed the "gene" according to family stories. He died young when he was chopping wood while drunk, He overheated and stripped off to continue working. This resulted in pneumonia. This left Nancy with five young children to raise. She then worked herself to death. The children then passed to their grandmother who could not handle them all. They were packed off to the orphanage.

In those days, an orphanage was the same facility as the county home/poorhouse. It was also the same facility as the insane asylum. The five children were parceled out. Some to foster care. The youngest, baby Frieda was adopted and her family moved to Canada. One child was still in the facility when it was "modernized" and she was misclassified and was not kept in an orphanage but rather locked up in the new mental institution. The mistake was eventually discovered. She was released when she became legal age. The family always described her as peculiar after that. They would lower their voices when they talked of her. As if the very weight of their words could injure her now fragile spirit.

Of those five children, the only three I knew were my grandfather, an abusive asshole, Aunt Martha, one of the kindest women in the world who married an abusive asshole, and Aunt Frieda, who was the wiry, ornery runt of the litter. Frieda married Harry, who was a great lakes tugboat captain, who told ribald jokes.

Some of the family has done well. Some have done okay. Many, despite, the fact that they come from a long line of hard workers cannot totally shake the effects of poverty. The backbone of the working poor.

I look at the political rhetoric that is being spewed these days. Who is worth society's interest. Who should be allowed to die. Who has value and who doesn't. This sickens me. I am especially tired of those who tell me how my existence will be an unmanageable financial burden to them. It's certainly a hot topic this political season so far.

I know who I am. I know what I am. I know where I come from. I know my worth puts me in the "expendable" category. But that category is only in financial/corporate terms. I am a steward of the earth, beloved of the sod and in the ways that matter, I am important.


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