On December 26 it will be the beginning of 5 years.
Linda and I separated when we found out that if we lived together she could end up losing the insurance that she had to have to continue to receive the medical care she needed to survive. We were caught on the horns of a law few know even exists, that no one could explain or justify. For us, in the end, the government was more dangerous than any criminal, any terrorist, any threat of any kind.
I told our representative in Washington our story. He was extraordinarily polite and when I was done looked at me and said, “Mr. Drain we don’t do things like that in this country.”
We have changed a lot in the last 5 years I suppose . I hope for the better but I honestly don’t know. People have told Linda and I we are brave and courageous when they hear our story but the truth is we have had little or no choice. Necessity is the author of much we have done. 4 years ago I met a guy who was in the same situation as I and he had been separated 5 years and I remember asking me how in the hell he did it. He told me, “I don’t know. You just do it.”
He was right. You just do it.
For me it has been cruel. For Linda it has been something past mean. I don’t know the word. To live with the medical issues she lives with in an enforced isolation that is your only legal option is beyond words.
A crew from CNN came to spend the weekend with us a couple of weeks ago and it was great. To be told that your story, your experience matters matters. I was surprised how much. I don’t know that in a world with so much tragedy for everyday people who have the misfortune to be old or sick or poor or come from the “wrong” ethnic background or believe in the “wrong” God or simply to be in someway different our pain, our tragedy really makes a difference. But it mattered that someone listened.
So many ordinary things have been lost in the last five years that life is just different. I don’t know how to explain it. The people asked me what I missed the most. I told them Linda’s laughter. She is a total body laugher but neither one of us laugh much anymore. There is something about living with constant threat, with chronic danger and disasters that leaves you giving up on or missing out on things you never thought you would. When I talked to the people from CNN I realized how infrequently I simply had fun. I was so focused on what was happening next I sometimes lost what was happening now. So much of life just seemed war.
It would have made a difference for us if medicaid had been expanded, if poverty was the only condition of coverage. At one point I had wrote something like 140 letters to Governor Haslam, a letter almost every day for months making the case for medicaid expansion in Tennessee. But it was so much more than that. 280,000 Tennesseans dealt with life without quality medical care. I knew people that died. I knew people dying. I knew people that had run out of wait and were left only with prayers that they no longer believed would be answered.
When Governor Haslam first came up with Insure Tennessee I was absolutely amazed. It seemed like such an obviously good thing for so many people I didn’t really understand how anybody could be against it or at least feel pressured to come up with a better option. It was a massacre. I drastically overestimated the Tennessee state legislature. Healthcare went from a moral necessity to something that the Republican tried to mount a moral campaign against. They had no better way to care. They thought it was better not to care.
Medicaid expansion has become something politically “realistic” people hope will be an option someday. It might have little chance. I don’t know. But that makes it more important to talk about not less. I remember when Donald Trump was going to end the ACA his first day in office. The decision to fight is not based on the certainty or even likelihood of victory. It is based on the value of what you fight for.
Sorrow is an everyday thing for so many people. The value with which we treat others says something about our value and the value of this country. We live in a country that seemingly more and more would measure itself by the excuses it makes to not care. Callousness for some people is a core element of how they believe people in anyway different from them should be treated. There is a Senate race in Alabama in which the president asks us to elect a sex offenders to help him protect us from people different than us. God help us all.
December is our worst month and the 26th our worst day. I always believed Christmas was about new hope and too much it has become about no hope. It was always about giving and it has become more about what has been taken. Linda likes to make a simple point. We made an oath to God. “Let no man put asunder…..”
We are normally quiet and to ourselves on the 26th. This year we would like to do different. If we can pull it off we hope to come to the capital on the 26th. We don’t want it to be just about us but 280,000 other people who have become politically irrelevant and tragically unseen. The legislature is starting soon and our message is simple. WE ARE PEOPLE TOO AND THIS IS WRONG.
You are invited. If you can’t be there we ask for your prayers. I worry a lot about where the government of this country and this state is going. I worry about the country we will hand my grandson. I worry.
Take very good care.