Friday, November 14, 2008

Hunger, poverty, "entitlements"

With all the coverage lately of government bailouts, I've been reminiscing about a childhood lived in poverty. I was nine when my parents divorced, leaving Mother on her own to feed, clothe, and raise four children. Dad made good money, but for some reason did not feel obligated to support his children. Mom worked at low paying jobs to support her brood but really had to struggle and pinch pennies when it came to Christmas or buying school clothes and supplies. We had a local Sears store then and she made good use of the layaway plan. She started every January laying away things for the next school year or Christmas. A dollar a week accomplished a lot in the 1940s and 1950s.

I can't say we little urchins were ever actually hungry, but our diets left much to be desired. High calorie, high carb, high fat foods were cheap when I was a child. Mom made huge pots of navy beans or noodles or potato soup which we ate with bread or crackers to put a chunk in our young stomachs. Menu variety included pancakes, french toast or a tasty meal Mom called "eggs a la goldenrod." For that delicious meal, Mom hard boiled 2 or 3 eggs then stirred them into a white sauce -- milk and flour -- spooned over toast. We did not always have meat. On Sunday she'd fix a roast or fried chicken. Other days of the week were often meatless. Most of our protein came in the form of lentils or eggs.

I know poverty first hand from those childhood years and understand how desperately low income parents want a better life for their children. My mother was one of those desperate parents. Contrary to the picture painted of low income parents, she did not sit around waiting and hoping for handouts. She plowed on, earning what money she could and spending the majority of her income on her kids. She could not afford to buy a house, to wear fancy clothes and shoes, or anything else that was a non necessity.

So when millionaire politicians cast aspersions on people who get "entitlements" while bailing out the millionaire bankers and businessmen who have mismanaged their businesses into the ground, I think of my mother. She wouldn't have paid attention to entitlements for the very rich. She would have been too busy fighting to survive. But I pay attention to every word describing every bailout. Rich bankers and businessmen who need a bailout should have to bail themselves out like my mother did -- by working and struggling and managing a budget and pinching pennies and taking care of business. They shouldn't stand around whining with their hands out waiting for taxpayers to shovel more entitlements down their bottomless pits of greed.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Grief and Loss revisited

My mother died in December of 1984, eight days before Christmas. She was 65 years old and I wasn't ready to lose her. I floundered at the time and have been floundering in one way or another ever since. I wanted to keep her in my life as a beloved nurturing presence. I'm sure my siblings felt exactly the same. I think we all reverted to children in our hearts when she died. Her loss transformed us into orphans. No aspect of my life has been the same for me since 1984.


Over the years I read books on grief and loss. I had my head shrunk by experts. Nothing helped or made sense. Recently I had the good fortune to read a journal about grief and loss by another soul floundering in the aftermath of a loved one's death. Something in this man's struggles spoke to me as no other book had. How did I learn about this book? I knew the writer, and empathized with his struggles. His simple words, gouged from a grieving spirit, helped me understand -- where nothing else had -- that human grief is a refining fire we all must face eventually as an unwelcome part of life.


You won't find this book on amazon or at your local book store. It was published by the Idaho State University Press. The author is Michael Corrigan and this is by far the most helpful personal narrative of grief and loss I've ever read.


The title A Year and a Day was taken from the Irish tradition of mourning a death for one year and one day. During that time, Corrigan kept a journal documenting the shock, horror, rage and grief he felt while trying to survive the death that shattered his life.
If you're grieving a devastating loss and your mind has reached the point where you can process information, this is the book to read. You'll have to order it directly from the Idaho State University press at 208-282-3215 or email the editor William Harwood at harwbill@isu.edu.

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I enjoy good writing by writers and poets who are not famous. My mother said I was born a hundred years too late. The older I get, the more I realize how right she was.

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