The One About… Dear Congressman Ross

I live in Florida’s 15th Congressional District. It’s mostly in Polk County, conservative enough that, well, a moderate like me feels like Saul Alinsky at times. And sure enough, they’ve repeatedly elected to the U.S. House of Representative by comfortable margins the Honorable Dennis Ross.  Among his career highlights, he was a guy who couldn’t keep a job in the computer industry as it was starting, so he decided to become a lawyer instead. From there, he eventually ended up at Disney, helping the House of Mouse keep from paying anyone workers’ comp. Started his own law firm which he divested in 2008 when he ran for Congress and won.

Going to bet his clientele did not run toward the little guy trying to find justice in the world. Especially not when you read the bullet point on his position statements. The gentleman comes out, a little right of Franco. Maybe Mussolini.

Anyway, my good representative is almost gleeful in his Tweet from Thursday about the AHCA. It has a true “Ding, Dong, the witch is dead” feel to it about Obamacare. But here’ the thing. One of his colleagues said something Friday, something totally screwed. I wanted my congressman’s reaction. And since Dennis isn’t holding any town halls, there’s only one thing to do…

***

Dear Congressman Ross,

I’m a registered Independent, so I tend not to have a dog in the fight on most issues. Health care concerns me, though. While I’m a 100% disabled vet, and thus my health care needs should be taken care of through the VA system with varying degrees of success (Seattle seemed to have a much better system than Tampa does), my children are a much different matter.

You see, Congressman, both my kids were born with minor congenital disabilities. They aren’t severe, nor do they inhibit their ability to function as fully capable, contributing adults in our society. But these are, as you say, pre-existing conditions. My oldest daughter found it near impossible to obtain insurance even through her employers because of hers, and my youngest was bumping up against lifetime treatment cost caps, at the age of sixteen. Say what you will about the ACA. You claim it failed for everyone, but I guess my daughters must have been the only two it worked for.

I understand the ACA wasn’t perfect. But your choice to replace it with something else is, frankly, a head-scratcher. Your rhetoric doesn’t match your actions. You passed a bill without any hearings, without a CBO score showing its full impact, and frankly, without most of you having read it, despite that being an accusation made against the passage of the ACA. Please, explain to me why you thought each of those was a justified choice.

What seems to be worse is that current and former colleagues of yours are now approaching the issue and abandoning even the figleaf of compassion. Raul Labrador, a representative from Idaho, said at a town hall on Friday that, and I quote, “Nobody dies because they don’t have access to health care.” I’m asking you directly, Representative Ross – Do you believe that to be true? Do you agree that the lack of access to a doctor doesn’t cause anyone to die?

It’s a subject that inspires a lot of passion. I note that unlike many other representatives, you appear not to be holding any Town Halls for the foreseeable future if your website is correct. A shame, as I always believed a representative’s job was to indeed represent and thus communicate with his constituents. You claimed for the better part of a decade you wanted to do this. You should at least have the courage of your convictions to stand in front of a room of voters and hear what they have to say, without dismissing them in advance as “liberal activists” like the President does.

Thank you for someone in your office taking the time to read this. I look forward to a somewhat prompt reply.

Sincerely,
D. G. Speirs

 

Let’s see what happens.

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The One About… AllAuthor.com Cover Contest

Book covers are a curious thing. I actually gave a presentation a month ago to a group on self-publishing on how to get book covers done, because I’ve used every method possible and I’ve made every mistake in the book.

But foTaoOfMaudCoverr the cover of the compilation volume of The Book of Maud I published earlier this year, I went for simplicity – just the simple, Balance of Maud graphic we had designed as an icon for use at conventions, and the book title.

Seems less is more. When I signed up for the AllAuthor.com website to build the author platform, they selected that design for their May cover design contest.

It’s a popularity contest, so I’m asking, fo course for votes. I’m up against it seems like a thousand bodice-ripping romance novels, with the same formulaic shirtless guy, half-naked girl thing in soft focus; space operas with spaceships and tentacles, etc. I’m a different kind of book in this crowd, with a different sort of cover.

If you like, please consider giving me your vote at AllAuthor.com. Thanks for your support.

 

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The One About… April 23

I had the day circled on the calendar for a while. I knew it was coming. For me, April 23rd would be a milestone of sorts, one I really wasn’t looking forward to, but inevitable nonetheless.

When I got home a year ago last May, I found out that my mother was one of the phone messages on my answering machine at home. Since then, that phone has become the most precious thing in this house. Thieves could come steal my money, televisions, computer, anything. Just leave me this – the phone with its answering machine and the last few spoken words directly to me I have from my mother.

“Hey, Bud, it’s your Mom. Where are you now? Where are you hiding? If you’re available, call me back. Bye bye.”

Twenty-one words.  But I hang on them because they are one of my last threads to her. You see, April 23, 2016, was the last day I saw my mother alive.

,*****

The cancer diagnosis had caught us all by surprise. Mom had had I put my life on hold and within a week was headed for Arizona.  We were praying for a miracle.

Miracles were in short supply last year.

The discussion was to do a different sort of genomic testing, one that could find a better, more targeted chemotherapy. The only problem was that it delayed treatment over a month. A month with aggressive cancer like metastasized triple negative breast cancer is like agreeing to an MMA match and letting the other guy throw a dozen punches at you before you can do anything. It’s going to be over real quick.

Then they went to put a port in for Mom to better administer the meds and while on the table in pre-op, she had a heart attack.

Then we meet with the oncologist, and she tells us the genomic testing we waited for resulted in a single drug that might be effective. “Might” was a 30% chance.  When I asked what was plan B if it didn’t work, I got a shrug.

The drugs took their toll, but the cancer did, too. It had metastasized to her brain, liver, and lungs, and soon Mom had issues with personality and memory. The best way I can describe it was like watching the tide roll in and slowly eat away at a beautiful sandcastle you’ve worked on all your life. Mom was that sandcastle. She was disappearing.

We arranged a family trip to Las Vegas, so everyone could see and spend time wth her in a place she loved to go. My brother and sister were shocked when they saw how frail she’d gotten. She barely had any energy.

Soon after, we got the verdict. The miracle genomic drug actually made things worse. It appeared to encourage the growth of the tumors. The oncologist looked at my brother and me and shook her head.

After consulting, we decided to go with a hospice in Idaho, right next to where my sister worked. Mom had always said she wanted to live with Suzy toward the end. So, in mid-April, I made arrangements for the cat, crated up the dog, and headed north with Mom one last time. She was excited to see my sister, her granddaughter, and great-granddaughter.

I was watching her, trying to memorize every moment with her, knowing my time dwindled to less than a day, to hours as we landed. She slept at my sister’s, I at a guest house. The next morning, my sister picked me up. Mom was in the back seat, wondering where we going.

All of a mile. Not a long enough drive.

I helped her out of the car for the last time, and we walked in. My sister had already made the arrangements, and they took Mom on a tour while I unloaded her luggage. It was taken to her room while I joined them in the guest room.

It was just after breakfast. Inside, I swore. I would have liked to sit down with Mom one last time over a waffle, or maybe a pancake, and joke about things. But it just wasn’t going to happen.

We went to her room. Suzanne discussed with the nurse about bed arrangements while I helped Mom unpack. As we finished I went to put the suitcase in her closet. She stopped me. “No, leave that out. I’ll need it to go home tomorrow.”

I excused myself to step outside. I couldn’t see very well just then. I could hear my sister explain to Mom she would be staying there for a while. Mom got upset, then said she was tired and lay down on the bed.

When I went back in, my sister was in one corner of the room with the head nurse and the hospice legal director.  Mom lay on her side, back to them. I stood there, ten feet away. My flight would leave in a little more that two hours. I would have to go soon.

And I was frozen. I couldn’t say anything.

Inside, I was screaming. Even as I write this now, in my head, I’m still screaming. She was slipping away from me, and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do.

But somehow I did walk across and sit down next to her.  I held her hand. I still said nothing, just passed my last minutes in silence, until Sis tapped her watch to indicate it was time to go.

I looked at Mom, who was asleep. I fought back tears as I leaned down to kiss her on the forehead. “I love you so much, Mommy.”

“I love you, too,” she whispered back. She opened her eyes slightly. “Don’t worry, Donald Gerard. You’ll be all right.” With that, she closed her eyes and went back to sleep.

I backed away slowly, my shoulders shaking from the sobs I was holding in. My sister steered me out of the room.

The flight back to Arizona was a blur. I know I got in late at night and spent the next week getting ready to return home to Florida.

A couple of weeks later, my sister called from the hospice and tried to have my mother chat with me. By then cancer had progressed so far Mom no longer knew who I was. She thought I was her brother Joseph, who had died a half century earlier.

We were just marking time for the call. On June 1, it came. Irma Cavaliere Speirs passed quietly in her sleep.

So did I miss much? After all, within two weeks, she wouldn’t have recognized me anyway. I just would have seen more of the sandcastle melt.  The truth is, I didn’t. That’s why April 23rd is my milestone. June 1 might be the day she died, but this is the day I lost her forever.

 

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