Tuesday, April 27, 2021

1974 & 1975: Bad Years

I am reading my father's diaries from 1974-75.  I knew we were in financial trouble, but I had no idea how badly.   My parents had to get their net wealth below $1500 for Medical (California's rather generous version of Medicaid.)  Unfortunately, when I started playing the stock market at 16, my father had to be the owner of my account at Merrill-Lynch because of my age.  Those shares were just enough to push them over limit, so somehow, my father persuaded Merrill-Lynch to put the account in my name even though I was just 17.  If my father could see my net wealth today, he would probably be both proud, and utterly confused how a poor kid from just barely the right side of the tracks did it.

I took a full time job in IT for Santa Monica Unified School District while going full-time to USC.  My father recorded that I left at 8:30 AM (10 AM calculus) got home at 5:15 (11 AM Chemistry, 12:15 Physics, 2:15 for several hours of Introduction to Film), ate a sandwich and went to work, returning at 12:30 AM.  I was doing my best to help pay the bills and pursue my dream of being a research chemist. 

My father had retired on disability (heart attacks, diabetes, retinal separation) but the process was vastly harder than it was for me. Perhaps because my stroke showed up so nicely on an MRI.  

My father was climbing 195 foot ladders in 100 degree heat while carrying his welding equipment, until the doctors told him he had to stop working.  The Greatest Generation? The Toughest Generation.  He kept his diary with him when I called the ambulance for his third heart attack, and he recorded the details at the time.  Remember that there was no angioplasty yet; all they could do was oxygen, nitroglycerin, and bed rest.  I am not sure when bypass surgery came into use.

Worse, my brother's schizophrenia was accelerating the difficulty of dealing with him.  My father recorded putting up a positively medieval wooden beam inside the door of my bedroom above the garage and covering the window with a wooden panel to protect me if my brother turned violent against me.   He never did, but strangers on the streets of Santa Monica were not so lucky.

My mother was not as tough emotionally as my father and checked herself into a mental hospital because of her depression.

This was a very bad year.  I did not go back in the fall.

Tell me about white privilege. 

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