Today is my first day of being covered by insurance in many years. Medicaire has kicked in. I have outlasted the bastards and part of me is so suprised. When you are in the Gap you try to hope, you want to hope but part of you says don’t get hurt, protect yourself, aren’t you tired of being hurt, of being let down. You know how many people are trying so hard to find an answer, trying so hard to make it safe even for people like you. You dont want them to be hurt. Their kindness is more than gold or diamonds but you doubt. For your own sanity, to protect your heart you doubt. You hate yourself for it but you doubt.
I thought that this would be a day of pure joy but it hasn’t been. The last years have been an assault I don’t know I can I can really explain. Much that I was most sure of in life has been threatened or attacked or lost. It has not been as much about falling into a crack as living there. Relationships have been lost or frayed. I wondered what it would feel like to feel safe. I wondered if I would ever feel safe. The truth is I still wonder.
Today has been strange…. Both happy and bittersweet. Losses that I tried to ignore crowd in on me now. So many things I wish I could do over again… So many things I wish I had said louder or clearer or more persuasively.
Dont get me wrong. I am thrilled this day has come. I have been lucky. I have fought hard for my living, but never really for my life. I have a thyroid badly messed up by pretending it wasn’t an issue. I have other issues long on the back burner. They told me a long time ago I needed to have an operation that I never had. I guess now I can see where that stands. People tell me I am not old but medicaire is in some sense confirmation of age. I just know much is harder now than it once was. I know now more than ever that poverty is dangerous to your health and I wish so many official type people knew that. So many don’t though. They think poor people broke the system and don’t know how much everyday we try to keep the system from breaking us.
But I have no cancer, no heart disease… Nothing like that I know about. I am grateful every day that I had some wait left in me and rarely does a day go by that I do not worry and grieve for those that don’t. I wanted to leave the gap so bad but I so wanted my day to be everybody’s day. That day will be my real day of joy.
Over the last years I have come to believe in heroes because of this movement. I have met people who everyday show that love and compassion are the real super powers and too many of them I have never let know how much I care.
So to my heroes. The list is in no particular order and like all lists the first thing I will realize tomorrow is how many people should be on it that are not.
1. Tony Garr. If it is health care reform in Tennessee all lists start with Tony Garr. Long before there was an ACA he was fighting and sharing his dreams and his mission with everyone that would listen. I still remember driving ambulances through Ohio with him that we were talking back to Tennessee for the “drive to save lives.” But with all that he had done he remains humble and is one of the most doggedly kind people I have ever known.
2. Gordon Bonnyman. Gordon is one of the founders of the Tennessee Justice Center. He makes lawyer a term of honor. He almost kept Phil Bredesen several years ago from destroying Tenn Care and I still think that maybe some Tennessee government officials still get a little sweaty in the palms when his name is mentioned. He is an encyclopedia of knowledge that matters. His commitment to this cause is legendary and he and his team at the Justice Center have saved more lives than they will ever know.
3. Walter Davis. Executive Director of the Tennessee Health Care Campaign. His life has been caring because that is who he is. He has been a good friend and told me from the beginning that what I wrote mattered. He will never know how much that meant to me.
4. Tracy Foster… You have heard her name often if you read this blog often. She makes you believe in the heroism of ordinary people. She fights for her life with a passion that few people ever find in their own. If I could give my insurance away to anyone I would gladly give it to her.
5. Justin Jones… At 21 he is a state leader. Some people tell him that someday he will be someone important. He already is. I met him first walking through the hills of Tennessee on a long March. He told me that mine and Linda’s story had been part of what had gotten him involved. It is still one of the biggest honors I have been given.
6. Pam Weston, Katie Cowley, and Anna Grabowski. They were the architects of the walk through the mountains. They have inexhaustible energy and commitment. They care and care deeply. They are good people in a way that being a good person really means something.
7. Rich and Lucy Henighan, Todd Shelton and Polly Murphy and Judy Roitman. The Knoxville Tennessee Health Care Campaign. Everytime I am around them I feel lucky. They have helped to change this community in really good ways. It is no accident that some of the Knoxville legislators are among those strongest for health care expansion. They have helped me with moves and so many things. They treat what I think is important and sometimes it is so lifesaving to have somebody do that.
8. Laura Sells. She is also a Thcc volunteer and a most good and honored friend. Along with those mentioned above she has played a major role in enrolling East Tennessee in the ACA. I know no one that tries harder or who has done more on the ground. When I lived in Maryville and had no way to get where I needed she was often the way. She has been, with all the Knoxville Thcc people a gift in my life.
9. Richard Briggs, Doug Overby, Becky Massey. They give honor to being a politician. They fought for Insure Tennessee in a legislature that didn’t want to hear about it and at great risk to themselves. Makes you believe in hope and maybe that decency has a place in what too often is an indecent undertaking.
10. Linda. She has lived through hell. I wouldn’t have made it without her.
It is people like these that make you believe that the gap will indeed be closed. They are each heroes and it is way past honor for me to say I know them.
I have already thought of more names I should have included. It has been a long road and still a long way to go.
Just think though. Many years from now people will look back in amazement at a time when people argued whether or not we could afford to give medical care to everyone. And maybe in that future time that will note and marvel at the commitment, the courage, and the compassion of so many ordinary people.
Maybe they will talk about so many battles fought but a war finally won.
Maybe they will talk about a gap that one was but is no more.
And maybe they will celebrate the day when no one was left behind.
What a day that will be.
Thanks to all of you reading this that have met so much to me.