At first look, Paul Ryan and I would seem to have nothing in common. He's a Midwestern Republican, I'm a California Democrat. He's a 42 year old member of Congress, I'm a 53 year old housewife. He's a Catholic, I'm Episcopalian (aka Catholic Lite -- all the tradition, half the guilt). He's extremely fit and works out, I...well, I think you get the idea. grimaces
But there's something very important that Ryan and I do have in common -- and it's something that he would like no one to ever have in common with him again.
Let's go back to 1970, end of April. (I don't remember the exact date.) I was 11 years old. My father worked at a grocery store not far from our house on the noon to 9 (closing) shift, and would often come home for his dinner break in the mid-afternoon. My mom, who worked at the local newspaper in the Classified Ads department, got home in the late afternoon.
My father and I were quite close -- I was actually named for him (a feminization of his first name and a shortened version of his middle name). He'd come home about the same time I got home from school (we lived right behind my elementary school; I could watch cartoons till I heard the first bell ring, then tear out the back door, run across the big lawn, and be in class well before the second bell), I'd make myself a snack, and we'd sit at the table and chat about how my day was, what I was learning in school, how I liked my teacher, and so forth. It was the kind of conversation he had trouble having with my older brother, who was 17 and feeling the need to pull away from parental supervision. And as the last of the kids, I think he wanted to make sure he got things right.
After he was finished eating, he headed back to work. I went to the family room to watch TV. My brother came home from his after-school activities. My mom got off the bus from work, and was starting to make dinner preparations.
Oddly enough, Dad came home a short time after Mom did. He didn't feel well when he got back to work, and threw up in the employee restroom so they sent him home. He figured he had a touch of the flu and went to lay down in his bedroom.
That was the last time I ever saw him.
In bed, he suffered a massive coronary. In later years I found out he was technically "dead" at that time, but in 1970 there was no concept of "brain dead" or "living wills" or any of the things we take for granted. The ambulance drivers who showed up to get him "revived" him, in that they got him breathing and the heart going...but he was in an irreversible coma until he finally "died" (I guess for the second time) on July 30, 1970 at the age of 47.
I won't go into the details of what my family went through, and how for those three months I didn't really have a parent at all...I know that affected my life in a major way.
But like me, Paul Ryan lost a parent -- a father -- at a young age; he was 15 when his father died. And like my family, his family got Social Security survivor's benefits. He was able to save his benefits and use those to pay for his college education at Miami University in Ohio. For my family, the survivor's benefits helped my mom pay the mortgage on our house -- she had a good job but it would have been a lot harder to make the payments, even in the 1970s -- and provided extras like going to Girl Scout camp and church ski trips, my new bike in 8th grade, my second sister's wedding, and all sorts of other "frivolities" that make life a little better.
And Paul Ryan, with his proposed cuts to Social Security, would like to see no other child to have the same benefits that he, and I, and many other children were able to receive.
This is just one reason why we need to support the re-election of Barack Obama, and to support the election of Democrats in the House and Senate, to derail these plans of Ryan's and others that would leave millions of American children in poverty.
Oh, one more thing, my dad was in the Navy during WWII -- I don't think he went off to war for his children and millions of others to be left destitute due to a twist of fate.
10:51 PM PT: Just wanted to say thank you to all for taking the time to read this, for your support, your tips and Recs, and your wonderful comments. I never realized how many of us share that same commonality with Paul Ryan, that of a parent dying well before their time. Some of the comments made me smile, some made me blush, and others made me weep openly. We now know clearly who, and what, we're up against, and it's time to get to work.
I hold you all in my heart, tonight and for the months to come.