Wednesday, December 11, 2019
The Way We Were Wednesday - Grandfather Social Safety Nets
My mother's father was born on a farm, in the middle of nowhere, one of a dozen children. He dropped out of school in the 3rd or 4th grade, as soon as he could read, write and do basic math. He and my grandmother married young. She was desperate to get out of her father's house, and marriage was the only respectable path. He worked as a farm hand, during the depression (my mother was born in 1927) they struggled to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. During World War II, he worked as a heavy equipment operator, accumulated enough cash to buy a farm. He farmed with horses and mules, until it simply become impractical. In the early 1960's he was trying to unstick, a stuck tractor and it rolled over and crushed his leg. While he was recovering from the broken leg, he had a massive heart attack. This was long before bypass surgery, his doctors told him to retire or the physical work of farming would kill him. With his life experience, there were not a lot of options.
My grandparents sold the farm, held an auction and sold pretty much everything but the clothes on their backs. They bought a new Chevy pickup truck and a 27 foot travel trailer to live in. After a couple of years of scraping by on savings, he applied for and was approved for Social Security Disability. My grandmother received a benefit when she was old enough. In 1965 Medicare kicked in. Their benefits were never much, a few hundred dollars a month, but it kept the lights on and food on the table.
Those safety net programs of Social Security and Medicare, kept them alive, they were likely below the poverty level, but proud and independent (and stubborn, hard headed, you know the type.)
He lived another 15 years or so, he died in December of 1976, my grandmother lived beyond that for another dozen years.
His picture reminds me how fragile health can be, how important those safety net programs are, and how you can have little and still be proud.