Courage is to feel the daily daggers of relentless steel and keep on living.

–Douglas Mallach

Chapter 8. When my firstborn left home, trimming the mouths to feed

When my first­born left home, trim­ming the mouths I had to feed from eight to sev­en, I cut back from four cups of rice to two. We ate rice near­ly every night for years. Sometimes with beans, some­times with a scram­bled meat dish. Lots of casseroles, too. Times were hard. Hello. My name is Peggy. I have known many, but the bur­den bring­ing me to this meet­ing is not un­like many of yours. My fa­ther and my hus­band are al­co­holics. Drinking is not on­ly the most poi­so­nous ac­tiv­i­ty of their lives, it is the on­ly mean­ing­ful emo­tion of their lives, and they be­lieve life is ex­act­ly as they see it. I am pow­er­less over their ha­bit­u­al drunk­en­ness. I tried for years to fight the ob­vi­ous anger, alien­ation, lone­li­ness, trau­ma. I tried to change the re­sults. Nothing changed. Misery com­pound­ed mis­ery.

Riverdaughter writes, “When mon­ey is tied up in some illiq­uid 401K that you can’t get to with­out un­der­go­ing a he­m­or­rhage, the on­ly peo­ple it ben­e­fits are some testos­terone poi­soned fund man­agers and their bonus lov­ing banks. Funny how the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and Congress are so will­ing to cut a break on the pay­roll tax but not the ex­cise tax for with­draw­ing 401K ben­e­fits. It al­most sounds like they were try­ing to un­der­mine so­cial se­cu­ri­ty while forc­ing peo­ple to stay in a 401K where there is no guar­an­tee of a re­turn and much, much more risk, ty­ing up those funds for decades to come.”

I left Florida for the weak­en­ing Indiana sub­urbs of Chicago thir­ty days af­ter grad­u­at­ing high school. I need­ed mon­ey. I need­ed big mon­ey. Minimum wage was $1.65. After pre­lim­i­nary hur­dles, I could make much much more in the union ges­tat­ed steel mills hug­ging the shores of Lake Michigan, even though it didn’t take a weath­er­man to know the steel in­dus­try that built American it­self was crum­bling on harsh grounds.

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