A year ago Linda and I were in Nashville getting ready to hold a demonstration to urge the governor to expand Medicaid. Back then there was no Insure Tennessee. We had a petition signed by over 50,000 people asking the governor to give so many poor people a chance and expand Medicaid.
We really thought it was a no brainer. That seems so strange to say now, but we really did. We had by then been separated almost a year because of Tenn Care not being expanded and had learned what misery was about. It just seemed so wrong that the government should be the most dangerous thing in my life. For us to be “legal” meant so many bad things…. poverty, hunger, loneliness…. walking into a trap with seemingly no exit.
But it was about so much more than even that. Linda and I had been there years before when Government Bredesen was disemboweling Tenn Care and we remembered so many people and so much suffering and the people we met who wondered if it was now their turn to die… And what it felt like when we found out someone had.
I remember writing Government Bredesen and asking him not to kill my wife. I remember testifying at the state legislature and telling them Linda was a miracle, but that she was a Tenn Care miracle and without Tenn Care there was no miracle.
I remember asking a friend who Sat-in Governor Bredesen’s office for weeks and asking him why. “Someone had to say we were people too and this was wrong…” We are people too…
Shortly after we were separated I had started writing letters to Governor Haslam asking him to expand Tenn Care. I wrote him everyday for a long time and never got any kind of response. I called and was told Governor Haslam didn’t talk to his constituents about Tenn Care. I knew that if I had money, or power, or position he would have fallen all over himself to talk to me. So we had come to Nashville to talk to him. I kept remembering long ago words… “We are people too….”
We never saw the Governor but weeks later came word about Insure Tennessee and for the first time in a long time I remember hope in every part of my body. I remember the utter desolation I felt after the special session. Not just that it had lost… But how it had lost and so much seemed a lie. I don’t know the words to describe what I felt. I remember after a while my biggest hope was to stop feeling and maybe I did. Much is a blur and I am glad I don’t remember.
Insure Tennessee got another chance at the end of the regular session and I remember coming to Nashville really hoping for hope. About 900 people were in the hallway of the legislative plaza that day and the committee was over in 15 minutes. They asked no questions, made no statements. They could have mailed in their votes. I remember Tracy Foster in the hallway and her asking me if this meant she was going to die. And I remember Michelle Fardan whose daughter had died. And I remember sadness. And I knew I would have to tell Linda and I remember such sadness.
In the weeks afterwards the lieutenant governor said there would be no Insure Tennessee until there was a Republican president and the governor said basically he would be glad to fight for Insure Tennessee when he was sure it wouldn’t be such a hard fight. And I wonder how Insure will make it during a Republican presidential campaign with everyone trying to be so fiercely Republican.
A lot of voices have been raised. And they continue to be raised. Many many people believe Tennessee can be a decent place and that the death and sickness of its citizens can never be the policy of a decent place. There is a new legislative session in January. I hope…. I pray…. But I am afraid to say I know.
Our lives became more and more about making it from the beginning of the day to the end. More than once I wondered if I would. I hoped I was the same person but I wondered. Maybe I still do.
Linda suffered. The medical stuff got worse. It still gets worse and 25 miles apart was way past torture. I don’t know the name for way past desperation. But I know the place.
Finally I have moved. I think maybe so much evil and hurt and pain was in the walls of the old place. I felt washed over and drowned. I was the frog in the pot of water and the temperature was being turned up and I was dying and didn’t know it because it just seemed so normal and so always.
I have moved. It is called a miracle.
I don’t know if Linda and I will ever live together again. I just don’t know. This is not the life I would choose but it is life and it has chosen me. It is a fresh chance I never thought I would see. We are 3 miles away and that is thousands of miles less than 25.
There are many wounds. And healing will not be soon or easy. But at long last there is life.
So many people have helped. So many people have cared. I have been so blessed and am so grateful.
I am going to see Linda. Have a great day.
Thanks to each and everyone of you.