I know. "Not another diary about the 47%." It's been done. The diaries have been read. But, we all have stories to share about topics related to the same theme. I would like to tell you my story about my interactions with someone in my family that is a part of the infamous 47%.
I first met my wife's father in 1997, shortly after we started dating in college. She was a freshman and I was a sophomore. As we were walking back from a class, her father was waiting for her outside of her dorm, waiting to take her out to lunch. She ran up to him, gave him a hug and a kiss, quickly introduced us, and off they went. Over the next few years, during out school breaks, we would go out to dinner or to a movie, and I would pick him up at her father's house. Before and after our dated, we all would sit for a little bit and talk about various topics. At the time, he was a Protestant Minister (yup, my wife is a minister's daughter), but had been an industrial psychologist for a huge portion of his adult life. He loved talking, he loved expressing himself, he loved getting in front of his congregation and preach to his parishioners. His voice and gift was of speech was his life.
In 2000, 1 month before my wife's 21st birthday, her father suffered a stroke while having lunch at a reataurant with some of his parishioners. He was immediately rushed to the hospital. The doctors thought that he would recover fairly well, but then, he suffered another.
Since then, he has been in a nursing home, living his life in wheelchair, not having any movement on his right side of his body. His verbal skills (his gift) has been gone since, only being able to speak one syllable at a time. When attempting to communicate with him, we engage in a gain of charades. He initially responded with the loss of his "gift" with anger, resentment, and depression. He went through his own stages of grief and has had many suicide attempts related to depression that has spiked throughout the last 12 years.
He cannot go to the bathroom by himself and wears a diaper 24 hours a day. Due to his lack of mobility and strength, when we take him out for lunch, I need to lift him out of his wheelchair, put him in the front seat of the car, and buckle him in. When we get to the restaurant, the process his reversed. I still see the sadness in my wife's eyes when she looks like him, knowing of the person that he once was. At the lunch table, he points to the menu of what he wants, then we verbally go down the list of condiments that he would like, with him answering with a simple "yes" or "no." Prior to eating, we must cut up his food for him (no movement of right hand) as we do for our 6 year old and 2.5 year old children, at times. Due to a lack of facial movement/feeling, he has difficulty feeling food that is stuck on his face so we either need to point it out to him or wipe his mouth again. When we leave the restaurant, the process of getting him in the car begins again.
However, the part of this story that saddens me the most are his interactions with his 6 year old grandson and 2.5 year old granddaughter. You see, he has never been able to talk to them like others do. He has never been able to ask them questions about their interests. He just can only listen. He can never play outside with them, pick them up, toss them over his shoulder. He can never give them a big bear hug with both arms and tell them "I love you." When taking pictures, they can only stand by his wheelchair or we have to lift them up onto his lap and hold them there, since he can't. You can see the pain in his eyes every time.
Oh yeah, he pays no taxes. My father-in-law relies on medicaid and medicare TO SURVIVE!!! Does he not deserve to live?!
Stories like this occur in many families, whether is someone with disability, elderly relative on social security, deployed soldier, student, etc... As a result, when I hear of them making comments about the "47%ers" or "the entitled" or the "moochers"...I take it to heart and let my anger be known. I even tell them the story I just told you. You should really see their faces when I end the conversation with, "sucks when a personal story is attached, doesn't it?"
Thanks for listening.