Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Thanks to Mr Neff's job, I have good health insurance, though I'm not one of those "young, healthy workers" who might benefit from Mr McCain's proposals. Still, I'm a lot luckier than some of my friends, including one I talked with this weekend.
Sherry has no medical insurance. Her husband is seriously and chronically ill, and for the last decade she has spent most of her waking hours caring for him. A regular job is out of the question, and so they are trying to survive on his disability insurance. She thinks she is becoming diabetic, but she can't afford to find out--or to treat whatever condition is causing her discomfort. In another year or two, she'll qualify for Medicare, and then she hopes she'll be able to take care of her own health.
Fortunately, her husband is a veteran from way back when veterans got excellent benefits, and they live near a town with a VA hospital. His health care is excellent. But they are now coming to a crossroad, and Sherry doesn't know what to do.
His health continues to deteriorate, and he may soon need full-time custodial care. It is available, but it costs over $6000 a month. The only way they could afford the fees would be to apply for Medicaid assistance--that is, to go on welfare. But if they did that, she told me, they would lose their VA prescription benefit--an unthinkable option, since her husband is being kept alive and manageable by means of an expensive pharmacopoeia.
So this exhausted woman in her 60s, at the risk of her own health and life, will continue round-the-clock caring for the chronically ill, difficult man she loves and promised to care for in sickness and in health. She'll do this for as long as it takes. Maybe for as long as she lives.
In my first draft of this blogpost, I wrote, "Her faithfulness is inspiring. I hope it will inspire you to vote for the candidate most likely to offer her the relief she desperately needs. And I hope the relief comes before she collapses."
A reader pointed out that neither candidate's program is likely to solve Sherry's particular problem, and I agree. So here's an alternate closing paragraph:
When you go to the polls, keep Sherry in mind, along with the other 45.7 million Americans who lacked health insurance in 2007 (the number dropped from 47 million in 2006 thanks to government-funded health insurance programs, according to David Johnson, chief of the Census Bureau's Housing and Household Economic Statistics Division). Both candidates want to increase the percentage of Americans with health insurance. Which one is more likely to do so? And which will give more relief to those who need it most--the old, the sick, and the unemployed?
Friday, October 17, 2008
This weekend the parents of St. Thérèse of Lisieux will be beatified. (Beatification is the church's recognition that you are in heaven; canonization, which requires an additional miracle, recognizes you as a saint. You have to be beatified in order to be canonized.) Thérèse's parents, Louis Martin and Zélie Guérin, had hoped to be monastics. After their wedding, says James Martin, SJ, in "His Wife's a Saint, So Is Her Husband" (Wall Street Journal, Oct. 17, 2008), they "refrained from sex for 10 months.... Eventually, a frustrated Zélie escorted her husband to a local priest, who assured them that raising children was a sacred activity."
During the remaining 18 years of their marriage, Zélie gave birth to nine children. Four died; the other five all became nuns. Even the fiercely ascetic St. Jerome would have approved. He's the tortured translator who wrote this in a long letter to a female friend:
I praise wedlock, I praise marriage, but it is because they give me virgins. I gather the rose from the thorns, the gold from the earth, the pearl from the shell.
Jerome would also have approved of the first married couple in history to be beatified together--Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi, who were beatified only seven years ago. According to an article in the National Catholic Reporter, the Quattrocchis had four children. Three joined religious orders, and the fourth never married. As for Luigi and Maria, for over half of their 46 years of marriage they lived sexlessly as brother and sister.
These beatifications happened several years after former Newsweek religion writer Kenneth L.Woodward published Making Saints: How The Catholic Church Determines Who Becomes A Saint, Who Doesn't, And Why. In a fascinating chapter called "Sanctity and Sexuality," he tells about the 1987 World Synod of Bishops, convened "to discuss the role of the laity in the church and in the world" (340). At the synod, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints presented a list of lay possibilities for sainthood. Woodward summarizes what happened:
The congregation, I observed, had nearly three years to come up with appropriate candidates to beatify or canonize during a synod devoted exclusively to the laity. And in the end, the congregation delivered two virginal rape victims, another young martyr who never got the chance to marry, a lifelong bachelor, and a man who left his wife and children behind to go to the missions.
"The message couldn't be more obvious," I said [to a consultant to the congregation]. "When it comes to sanctity, sex is still something to be avoided and celibacy is preferable to marriage. What good is all the talk about the sanctity of marriage if the congregation cannot come up with even one example of a holy and happily married saint?" (343)
Well, now we have our examples. The Quattrocchis and the Martins aren't saints yet, but they're on the way. And someday even you might be a married saint. Just give up sex, and be sure your children do too.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Here Comes the Sun
I Feel Fine
We Can Work It Out
Good Day Sunshine
Dancing in the Street
The Beat Goes On
Of course, you may not feel as upbeat as my friend. Perhaps you are of the David Brooks (aka Eeyore or Puddleglum) persuasion. Check out his column "Big Government Ahead," which begins with this warning:
[M]ost economists say there is a broader economic crisis still to come. The unemployment rate will shoot upward. Companies will go bankrupt. Commercial real estate values will decline. Credit card defaults will rise. The nonprofit sector will be hammered.
If Brooks is right, I'll still have plenty of opportunity to use songs like the ones I worked on over the weekend while walking my dogs, a moderately glum version of "Mrs Robinson":
Jesus left your office long ago.
Woe, woe, woe.
Found a Chevy at the levee but the gas tank was dry
Bernanke and Greenspan drinkin’ whiskey and rye
But hey, this could be a good time to buy
This could be a good time to buy...
Friday, October 10, 2008
Thursday, October 9, 2008
When I get older, hair turning gray,
A couple of years from now,
Will there still be money for a bottle of wine,
Or will I be standing in the food pantry line?
I'm clutching my food stamps, I'm down on my knees,
Please unlock that door.
Will anyone heed me, will they still feed me
When I’m old and poor?
You’ll be poorer too,
And if you say the word,
I could stay with you....
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Monday, October 6, 2008
Monday, Monday, it was all I feared it would be
Oh Monday morning, Monday morning couldn’t guarantee
That Monday evening I'd still have funds in my 403-b.
Monday, Monday, can’t trust that day,
Monday Monday, sometimes it just turns out that way
Oh Monday morning you gave me no warning of what was to be
Oh Monday, Monday, how could you leave me in bankruptcy?
Every other day, every other day,
Every other day of the week is fine, yeah
But whenever Monday comes, but whenever Monday comes
You can find me cryin' all of the time.
Monday, Monday ...
Friday, October 3, 2008
No, not that one. I'm talking about Ros Pritchard, the eponymous fictional heroine of a TV series that aired on BBC One in 2006 and on Masterpiece Theatre last fall.
The concept was too far-fetched for the Brits, apparently. The Amazing Mrs Pritchard "fared poorly in the ratings," says a Wikipedia article. Americans liked it somewhat better. Ginia Bellafante, writing in the New York Times, called the five-part series "a guilty pleasure," and Matthew Gilbert's review in the Boston Globe pronounced it "likable."
Mr Neff and I watched Mrs Pritchard on DVD long before we had any reason to think life might imitate public entertainment. The premise is intriguing--who among us has never thought he or she could do better than our elected officials?--yet the tone is light. This is soap opera, not French film. Jane Horrocks plays Ros with a just-right combination of wackiness and high purpose, and Janet McTeer as Catherine Walker is a formidable foe and foil.
Mrs Pritchard is safe to watch in a mixed group of Republicans and Democrats, and it's likely to be more fun than the next two debates. You can order it from Netflix or Blockbuster (or pick it up at the Wheaton Public Library).
For more information about Mrs Pritchard's fictional political party, the Purple Alliance--halfway between red and blue!--check out their website.