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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