Growing up in Baltimore in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, my brother and I thought our single mother had parenting superpowers. Maybe she was Wonder Woman.
She packed homemade lunches for school, read us bedtime stories, attended PTA meetings and football practices, constructed makeshift Halloween costumes and tirelessly complained to the principal when my local elementary school refused to accommodate my struggles with ADHD. Indeed, she embodied the classic concept of the helicopter mom. But it was never easy. While Mom had an enterprising spirit, rearing two precocious black boys on a budget was difficult. She’d hunt for bargains at Woolworth’s, Goodwill and the Dollar General store, and launched various business ventures to keep us cared for.
She seemed invincible, and she thrived on control and self-sufficiency. In her comfortable, tiny rowhouse in Baltimore City, where she’s lived for roughly half a century, her only affliction has always been her own stubborn pride. However, things turned a few years ago.
I left Baltimore with my family in 2012 to pursue my career in school administration. At the time, I never imagined my mother depending on anything or anyone, until she was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive hyperactive thyroid disorder. Her once energetic body responded poorly to the condition. She frequently experiences slight tremors, nervousness, fatigue and every now and then, rapid heart palpitations and increased anxiety over the slightest change in circumstances. She no longer finds humor where she used to, either.
My brother, a local chef who lives in Baltimore, has helped to look after her and selflessly contributed to the financial burden of maintaining the red brick rowhouse where we both grew up.
I frequently Skype my mother. She often laments about her situation, how her entrepreneurial endeavors have disappeared along with her work with children, something she’s always loved. She is still impertinent, quick-witted and headstrong, opinionated and loving. But while she still keeps busy, my mother is no longer invincible, and her superpowers have abandoned her — along with our country’s legislators. She clenches her teeth with anxiety over the newly proposed Republican health care legislation, known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, mom would be just one of the 15 million who may lose Medicaid coverage under the act. In fact, it would be very difficult for her to afford or even maintain the daily prescription that is so essential for her to live a productive life — or even stay alive for that matter. If pressed, my mother would never be able to have an informed conversation about the latest GOP bills to hit the floor, or the delusional tweets coming from our newly elected president. Faith and family has always mattered most to her, not politics or the discourse so critical to the far left and right.
I’ve always understood that the critical actions of our elected representatives have real consequences. Still, I never imagined my childhood superhero would be so gravely — and personally — affected. Or that she’d be among millions in the same position.
Jack Hill is a Baltimore native and the dean of a K-8 school in Denver, Colo. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.