" Poverty in the United States is cyclical in nature with roughly 13 to 17% of Americans living below the federal poverty line at any given point in time, and roughly 40% falling below the poverty line at some point within a 10-year time span. Poverty is defined as the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions. Approximately 43.6 (14.3%) million Americans were living in poverty in 2009, up from 39.8 million (13.2%) in 2008- wikipedia "
We are poor. No surprise to anyone that knows us. The closest we have come to not being poor is when Mr. Curry's business was thriving, before the laws changed and his workers comp. insurance more than tripled and put him out of business, and before I had my surgeries and went into medical debt. I wrote about our financial downfall here.
Sometimes we are more poor or less poor; sometimes we can afford as many groceries as we need, pizza for the kids Friday Family Night, to pay for insurance co-pays L or I or D's sports fee/art class/tutor, and sometimes we can't afford to pay our water bill, take our kids to the doctor or let go of a roommate we don't like. But we are always on the edge. I grew up like this, too, poorer even than we are now, and as I grew up I overheard a lot of discussion between my parents about what it means to be poor in this country. My family on both sides are southern born and bred, and the poverty in Jackson, Mississippi, where I was born, is widespread and old, with enormous sad eyes and broken fingers. The buildings fall apart and disjoint like arthritic arms and legs:
Being poor means something else there than it does here in San Diego, CA, but there are things that stay the same for the poor, wherever they live in this United States. My family just experienced one of them.
I have spent the last five years of my life working my ass off to provide care for Dakota, in the various ways that he has needed it. Almost all of the care he has received has cost money. Some of that care was payed for by my mother, Dakota's enormously generous Grandma who loves him as if her were her own boy- and he is, in a way; he's her grandson. Some of that care was paid for by Mr. Curry and I. Almost always, the care he received was purposely geared toward people that don't have money. ( Us ) Almost always, the telephone call return, the appointments made, the questions answered, the care eventually received came after prolonged periods of time with delays, a lot of driving, a lot of asking, many humbling explanations and sometimes a very verbal and pushy mother at the front. ( Me ) And sometimes, the care did not come. Because we don't have the money to make it happen. Because we can't afford a lawyer when our rights are challenged or revoked, and we can't afford the time it takes to challenge those things on our own when we both work full time paid by the hour at businesses that, while they like us, could replace us. Sometimes all I could do is protest with tears in my eyes. And yes, I've done that.
Please help my child
It has to be one of the most fundamentally honest and uniting questions a person can ask or hear. But when money is involved and resources- even just the resource of time and effort- are low, even the most compassionate person can turn their heads and compartmentalize and justify and put your child in the back of their mind. My child has been that child. At his own schools, he has been that child. I've sat at many a walnut rounded table, recently with my own rounded and hugely pregnant stomach, asking questions, politely and calmly but insisting on being answered and heard, and still, " We can't help you. " It's not can't. I don't let me kids get away with that. It's won't.
Here's an equation:
($= :)X ) ($=@Y)
Money cannot buy a caring therapist, the right medications, the right diagnosis or the perfect treatment: but it can buy the opportunity to find those things. Money buys time. It buys opportunity. It buys choices.
Standing in the tiny waiting room that smelled like cooked cabbage, Mr. Curry, Dakota and Ever and I tried to make ourselves comfortable. We waited. The clock ticked. We waited and waited and finally, some time after the actual time of our appointment, the door opened and we were let in. In the one hour we spent with Dr. L, my sixteen year old son who has worked his ass off in the last year to mature, change and open himself up was treated like shit. In a government funded office I am glad even still exists, where the receptionist was rude and condescending and the
staff are under-trained and under-qualified and totally in over their heads- yes this is what it means to be poor. Poor is a place where you go and they treat you like shit and you are glad they are there to do it.
Poor means that Dr. L was volunteering her services at this office and according to her every expression and nuance, we are going to take her shitty service and like it, or we can leave. Which is always the choice- take it or leave.
We waited two months for this appointment.
I filled out humiliating forms on what payments I thought I could make - after being asked to do so- to be openly scorned by the fucking receptionists in the office because what I offered was so much less, apparently, than all the cool poor people offered.
And then, once we finally arrive, wait after our time and see Dr. L, she sighs, she fiddles, she makes faces at my kid, and eventually, grudgingly is backed into a corner by me after initially denying our request- WHICH, I might add, was a request backed up by another doctor I paid ( and am still paying off ) to do extensive testing- and another doctor Mr Curry and I paid for D. to see for a year - and finally agreed that maybe, possibly, these other experts and me, his mother, knew what we were talking about, and if we wanted her help, we could do xyz and come back in a month, and then, maybe she will help us.
Oh, if we could only be so lucky.
And then, on the way home, Dakota informs me that when he talked with Dr. L alone in her office- before she called me in - she badgered and humiliated him.
I am so angry that I cannot feel angry.
And this is what it means to be poor:
We might go back and see her next month.