Wednesday, November 11, 2009

If I could have one thing

"What if there's no point?!?" Jenny howled as I did my very best to extract her from some innocent stranger's shrubbery. "Really? What if there isn't any point?"

To say that Jenny was drunk would have been a massive understatement. I was twenty-years-old at the time, and living in Boulder, Colorado. An hour earlier I had arrived home from a shift at local restaurant, where I spent my time being one of the world's least efficient waitresses. Never let anyone tell you that waiting tables isn't a skill, it absolutely is, and from that day to this I can say with conviction that it is not a skill I personally possess. I was an abysmally bad waitress. I returned to my rather revolting apartment, that I shared with two other women, and found Jenny drowning her sorrows after a day spent, she thought, failing an Organic Chemistry exam. She'd sought solace in a bottle of Southern Comfort, and at 21 had no idea what her limit actually was. I highly suspect she discovered it that evening, as she had a savage hangover the next day.

Sodden, miserable, and a solid seven sheets to the wind, Jenny was experiencing the sort existential crisis that only an obscene amount of liquor on an entirely empty stomach can produce. My other roommate, Jenny's sister, asked for my help in marching Jenny resolutely through the streets of Boulder, in the entirely vain hope that the action might serve to sober her up a tad.

It was past midnight on a brutally cold evening, and Jenny had taken yet another tumble. Her sister Ronnie and I spent as much time heaving Jenny up from the pavement as we did actually helping her navigate it. This time she'd taken a header into a bush entirely denuded of all leaves. It must have been remarkably painful, it certainly was wading in after her.

"Then you're entirely screwed." I replied heartlessly. We were well into our second hour of the tedious game of Walk the Drunk. I immediately regretted my words when Jenny took this as a sign that she should grab me by the shoulders in order to make her next shouted remark. Whatever that remark was to have been, it was forever lost to the power of an ocean of Southern Comfort deciding to make a hasty exit. Scrambling backwards as quickly as I could, it was my turn to fall helplessly into whatever sort of bush our activities were busily decimating.

My reply was a hearty round of, "*Expletive deleted. Further expletives deleted. Expletive in the form of a verb, an adjective, and quite probably a noun, deleted* Oh my God, my shoes."

"Sorry." Jenny moaned from her now seated position.

Heartlessness had gotten me nowhere, and my shoes were goners anyway, it was time to head home with some reassurances muttered through gritted teeth. "You'll be fine, and there is a point."

Ronnie echoed similar sentiments. As we pushed and prodded the increasingly obedient Jenny home, she stuck to her theme. "I failed, I know it. There's no point to this! I don't even know what I'm doing."

We continued to reassure her, and guide her through the cold towards home, a shower, bed and the worst hangover I've ever seen anyone endure. For months afterward, in remembrance of my fallen shoes, I would menace Jenny with a bottle of Southern Comfort from time to time, laughing grimly all the while.

It was past eleven on Saturday night when a nearly giddy House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi announced that the health care bill had passed. She was so exhausted that she had to be prompted to bang the gavel, thereby making it official, the bill with the public health care option was through the House. When I saw the news clip the next day my husband and son were both with me.

"It's done? Is that it?" My son asked.

"No, it's not done yet." The feeling was almost entirely surreal. The public health care option had been removed, and although that was not what I wanted, I had accepted it as fact when it happened. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, it returned from the grave. Now it was through the House.

Joe Lieberman, a senator from Connecticut has sworn to filibuster any bill containing a public option. There is still no certainty for the fate of this bill. Meanwhile, millions of Americans unable to afford health insurance, or barred by private health insurance companies for any number of reasons, wait on tenterhooks to discover what their fate will be, and presumably hope that there is a point to all this. That it will come in time to provide them with the care, and options so sorely needed by so many.

"I hope there's a point to all this." My husband, a former Republican turned Liberal Progressive.

That's when I remembered Jenny's alcoholic crisis, and long walk home in ruined shoes as she questioned the point of effort, and of her own worth.

If I could have one thing today it would be to have this question settled and for people without access to health care to be guaranteed it. There will be a cost, I'm personally prepared to do my part. Lieberman's promises of being a fly in the ointment worry me. We're still not out of the woods, and even if this eventually passes, what we will have is a good starting point, not the definitive answer. Still, if I could have one things today, that would be it.

In my state a slick ad campaign ran last month, professionally done, visually stirring. I must have seen it six times, and that is remarkable because I generally only watch things via DVR, where I fast forward through advertisements. This commercial caught me enough that I paused after hearing its opening bid to find out what it was selling. This company assured me that they understood Coloradoans, and our needs. The spot talked about the strange weather conditions we often experience, and that everyone in Colorado knows exactly what a Rocky Mountain Oyster actually is. Images of smiling, healthy, gorgeous people against the backdrop of the Rockies assured me that Rocky Mountain Health Plans understood my personal needs.

It was the same month that same health insurance company made national news for refusing coverage to a four-month-old baby, deemed obese because he was above the 90th percentile in size, as babies frequently are. This particular company, who had such an expensive commercial produced to reassure people of my state that they would find nothing but welcoming arms from their company, hadn't noticed that this particular, sizable infant was the son of a local TV personality. All that advertising budget right down the profit drain. The only thing they ended up illustrating was what is wrong with private insurance companies today, where the insured are not people, but potentials for profit.

When my husband said he hoped there was a point to all this, so did I. I'd dearly love for Senator Joe Lieberman to fall into a bush and be unable to make good his threats of the bill breaking filibuster. I wish the man no harm, but I dearly hope he is entirely unsuccessful.

I remembered that cold night and Jenny's binge drinking as she questioned the point to even trying. What a messy, smelly, annoying evening that was.

It was long after the hangover had cleared that Jenny found out she had passed Organic Chemistry after all. She bought me a new pair of shoes, and life went on.

If I could have one thing today, let there be a point to this grim march towards health care for all. I know this seems a strange post for Veteran's Day. We honor those that have fallen, and think of their incredible sacrifice. There will never be adequate words to express the gratitude we feel for those who have died to protect us, and we hope there is a point to their loss of life. That we can continue on, stronger, ever evolving, until such time as we live in a world where war is no longer an answer.

That our answers to questions become better. For what did these men and women die if not to give us a chance to be a better country? Part of what brought this to mind was the conversation I had with my husband about health care reform.

The other thing was a piece on the Huffington Post, that that talked about the number of veterans who died in 2008 due to lack of health insurance.


The Bug said...

I so agree - but I'm almost numb from being afraid to hope. And afraid that what ultimately passes will be so wrong that people say, "see - we didn't need health care reform!"

Land of shimp said...

I have true empathy for that numbness, The Bug. I wish the number of times I had thought of your friend, since reading her story, had the power to heal her. I assure you that if it did, she would be well by now.

If 46 million people were starving within our country, we would try to feed them. If 46 million were without heat, we would try to warm them. If 46 million had lost their homes to fire, we would find shelter for them.

For the sake of the 46 million, I can find the way to continue to hope.

Vera said...

Although I didn't really understand the core issues, I enjoyed reading your words, and you made me feel as if I ought to 'fight for better health care' as well. Well done. You made me think.

Frances Tyrrell said...

Hello there - I've just stumbled upon your enjoyable essays via Barry & Linda's blogs.
Re Healthcare, as a Canadian, I'm accustomed to higher taxes and sometimes aggravating wait times, but also grateful for recent surgery and upcoming treatment. It's an imperfect system of course, but hopefully by persevering both of our countries will get to something that works better.

Land of shimp said...

Hi Vera, the situation in the United States with heath care is an unjust one at present, many including myself, hope that will change.

I'm glad that other parts of the world are seeing this struggle, and hopefully cheering on those of that support health care for all.

Thank you for your comment :-)

Hi Frances, thank you so much for visiting. I do know that universal health care is in imperfect system, always a work in progress in the countries that are fortunate enough to have it. I hope to see our country start down that path, we have to start somewhere.

I know it is an imperfect system, but it is far closer to a just one.

Access to health care should be a basic right, of that I have no question. I actually have health insurance, but in the current climate, too many do not have access to health care. Better a system that we must work to improve, and make better, than one that is destined to fail, as our current one is for far too many.

Wish us luck :-) Thank you for visiting, and commenting!