Start Tearing the Old Man Down

It’s getting colder. I made two and a half quarts of soup on Sunday morning, before the rain started and the wind picked up. We have a chest freezer now. We have a store-room full of apples. Every day I peel, chop, bag, so we can use them in baking or stews.

Kick and I tried to grow potatoes. We planted too late, when it was already cooling off, and damp, and they rotted in the ground, but everything else went wild, took over the small patch we planned. We’re saving seeds — tomatoes, peppers, squash — from this year’s bounty to start again next year. In just a few months, we can start them inside; in just a few months, this will all begin again.

We’re looking at blowing out the front yard, turning the whole dang thing into a garden. I’ve never successfully grown anything before, but now I think daily of my grandmother, shouting at the rabbits in the rhubarb. Pulling carrots. What Kick knows about Great-Grandma is that she had a root cellar that could have withstood a siege.

There was no food, you see, when Great-Grandma was a child. Eleven kids, ten of whom survived to adulthood, on virtually nothing. A potato as a treat. Wouldn’t you pickle things, after that? Wouldn’t you make jam from every single strawberry?

We talk a lot about inherited trauma, about generational memory. I never wanted for a single necessity, all my childhood, but I was surrounded by that fear every day. It’s useful now.

Kick is not afraid. Kick wears her mask and learns online and goes to skating lessons without complaint. Kick wants morning glories. She’s obsessed with them, these indigo beauties that grow across the alley in the yard of a neighbor. I’ve promised a raft of them in the spring.

I can’t even think about the spring.

Begin. Again.

We talked to her about the debate tonight. Pondered letting her stay up to watch but it starts so late, and Mama intends to yell at Donald Trump a lot. She knows, thanks to him and my lack of restraint when stubbing my toe on a chair, most of the “grown-up words” by heart. Those she doesn’t know, she’s sure to learn, come election night.

I want to believe. In November, in January, in the next year and the next and the next. I want to believe in the train and the bus and the earth continuing to turn and everyone I love staying or getting healthy, staying alive, staying here. I want to believe, but I am preparing.

I spent the spring so sick and broken that any kind of optimism feels foolish. Every twinge of hope gets smothered by the memory of her tiny hand in mine, helping me mark the ballot for Hillary in 2016. I have a picture of us, grinning, outside the polling place. I have a picture of her at the Women’s March, kitty-cat hat and all, holding a sign that said, “Future President.” She’d colored it herself.

We are hunkered down for the winter, and we are counting on a 77-year-old man to save us and it seems like a lot to put on his back. I hold onto the railing to go down the stairs, and I turned 45 this year. But: shoot him up with whatever kind of chimp speed and greenies he needs. Make that sonofabitch a kale smoothie, because he’s what we’ve got.

You know, he’s a decent guy, Joe Biden. That’s the thing, when we talk about two parties, when we lament that we are choosing between two old white men. We are choosing, in fact, between a 78-year-old white man who enables the absolute worst of our society, gives aid and comfort to white supremacy, not only doesn’t care about Black people but doesn’t care about anyone, and a 77-year-old white man who shows up to work and screws up sometimes. We do actually need a leader who isn’t pointlessly mean, who doesn’t just make things difficult. Who looks at a problem and tries to solve it instead of screaming at it.

This isn’t even about Trump personally. I don’t care that he’s a shithead who eats fast food. I don’t even care if he has secret addictions and disabilities, or isn’t really a billionaire, or dresses dumb. LBJ’s mouth made mine look like an angel’s, come on, and JFK was a humongous poon hound, and Roosevelt was banging his cousin. None of that’s important.

You can be mean and a jerk and even a sexist pig, and still good at your job, but look around. Look around. Is he good at his job? Does any of this HELP?

We just … it’s a fundamental question, right: Are you going to HELP ME? Are you going to nurture the kind of country in which I can grow and see the results of my work and live a good life? For too long we’ve ignored the people who’ve said this isn’t working for us, and for too long we’ve said wait just a little longer, and I would never say that’s not a part of how this happened.

We have to fix it now. There’s so much to fix. There’s the pandemic and the resulting poverty, there’s the poverty that was there before, there’s the healthcare that needs to be prioritized over health insurance, there’s student debt, there’s a housing crisis, prescription drugs cost a fortune, there’s a general unfucking of every single government service, but overall we need someone who will, upon hearing help me, not laugh and crush us under his heel because it’s fun.

This isn’t hard. It’s not hard to fake being a good dude for long enough to get the Post editorial board to love you. W managed to do it and he was an inside-out elephant anus. If you’re somehow on the fence, and I can’t even, but look. If you’re conflicted, at all, then watch, tonight.

If you’re still saying all of this is worth it for the courts, watch, tonight.

Who’s going to help? Who’s going to plant the garden, staff the shelter, run the program, chop the apples? Who’s going to help those people, instead of laughing at them, instead of raging? That’s it, that’s all there is. And if we know nothing else now, we know that.

The neighbors have a free box on their lawn from which anyone who is hungry can take canned goods. Nobody opens it in daylight, that I’ve seen, but in the morning it’s always empty. Our neighborhood’s project is literally giving things away: Coats, still warm and cozy, that are too small, boots that don’t fit growing feet, kitchen tools we no longer use or have a new one of. We put a table out front, post a picture on Facebook, and let people take what they want.

No judgment, no policing, no means-testing, no forms to fill out, no ID to show.

We’re thinking of a hot apple cider stand, to raise money for a cause, now it’s getting cold.

Things shouldn’t be so hard.

A.

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