My teenage father

My teenage father
I used to be obsessed with fishing. I’m amazed I didn’t have much empathy for the fish and I remember the worm, oozing and wriggling as I tore the hook through it.
This is Lou, I think, BEFORE he left to become a corporal in the army, to carry a bazooka, to be in the company that liberated Buchenwald. He grew up in terrible poverty, but he was able to support his mother, three sisters and his father, on money he sent home from the CCP http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civilian_Conservation_Corps.
When he returned from the war, he was a very different man. He had severe “battle fatigue”, or, as they call it now, PTSD.

My father saw the most terrible sites and acts, human beings are capable of committing against one another. When he came home, he still had empathy. He met my mother, and they both went to college. He wrote, taught high school, worked, almost until the day he died, at least two jobs, and he became a social worker. He was extremely intelligent and eventually, became a policy maker.He tried to create a work incentive program that provided support for poor people, including food stamps and financial assistance, and he knew that must include job training and day care for their children. But the program wasn’t fully realized. Day care and job training were never well implemented. Without that, the Work Incentive Program became a tool for conservatives, and they called it “welfare reform”.
There was an old blind man who often stood in front of the Church Avenue train station, selling pencils. My father wouldn’t let me drop a coin in his cup. He’d say “he can come to my office and apply for welfare. He doesn’t have to beg.” I couldn’t tolerate the thought of the man’s suffering. I would bring a coin with me and when my father moved ahead of me through the station door, I’d drop the coin in the man’s cup. I never took a pencil. I knew it was very little, but I imagined if enough people dropped a coin in, and didn’t take a pencil, he would be able to eat that day.
It is hard for me to believe that we have already forgotten how so many of our immigrant parents and grandparents became strong and educated as a result of the New Deal, because of public education and FREE or very low cost public colleges, because of the veteran’s bill, because of the implementation of social security and medicare, because of the civilian conservation corps, because we had a government that wasn’t run like a business with shareholders who are comprised, only of the 1%. There were many more fights for social justice, to come, and come they did, and many of those same people who benefited from the aforementioned, got up off their feet and stood side by side white, black and brown people all over the country and then against the war in Vietnam, and many also stood up for women’s rights.
So what happened?

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2 thoughts on “My teenage father

  1. I really like the story. It’s a lot to think about. If I had to beg for money I’d have to beg for my iPhone, then money for coffee. I’m sure everyone outside Starbucks woukd understand. I bet I coukd even get a “will work for iPhone” app. Oh wait, that’s called a contract. 😉

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