Like so many of us in the United States, my grandfathers were immigrants. It is actually so boring a fact I rarely reflect on their journeys, but I’m drawn particularly to one of those trajectories now.
My Grandpa Hermann Menck wasa boisterous man, all bluster and rage… quite like the person who now resides in the People’s House. His family ushered him out of the Vaterland at the beginning of World War II because he was braggadocios and given to tirades, political and otherwise. In the burgeoning Nazi regime, none of those characteristics were portents of good, so off he went to America.
He spoke no English when he got here, and had only a pittance of money to settle. His most prized possession was a letter to the German owner of a company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin… which is where he landed. He did not have a college degree. He worked his way up. He became the president of the company. My dad grew up in a modest home in the suburbs of Milwaukee, where he met my mom – whose immigrant father had also become the president of another manufacturing company.
My mom and dad knew each other in high school, and went to different colleges, then re-met in some 1950’s matchup, and got married. My dad was a Republican by birth. He lit the Republican flame at the White Schoolhouse in Ripon, Wisconsin. My grandfather referred to my dad as “The Prince.” He went on to become one of the first graduates with an MBA from the University of Indiana. He became a CFO at several Fortune 500 companies. He controlled a lot of money, and prestige. He was amazing.
And then, six months before my birth, my dad was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis… and everything changed. My life was a tracing of his decline. Over a period of thirty years, he lost all ability to move. My mom stayed with my father until the day he died. She gave up all of her aspirations to care for him and raise me, and my sister and brother.
As the arch of his disease impacted my parents, they slowly changed.
I was born when my mom and dad were 38 years old. Somewhere in my early teens, my father had a major heart attack (watching me play tennis). His company forced him to work from home, and we became the proud owners of an Apple II… the first of its kind.
Eventually work was no longer an option. My father and mother were graced with a pension and insurance, but the road was not light. I still remember walking past my parent’s room when my mother was on the phone with the insurance company, crying, because they wanted to charge us thousands of dollars for some useless procedure that insurance would not cover.
My mother became steel. And my father; he became a Democrat.
My father was eloquent, but not verbose. When he spoke, his words were well chosen and almost like a laser with their intent. He thought before he spoke, and his words held meaning because they were so sparse in their coming. When he spoke about the Republican Party, he dismissed them, and their policies.
At the end of the day, when confronted with his disease, even he, a well-heeled Republican with excellent pedigree, insurance and reputation, struggled to make ends meet. Had it not been for the tenacity of my mother in her dealings with the insurance companies, and his relentless drive to be The Prince… we would have been on the street.
My father died in 2009, but not before, he saw Barak Obama sworn in as the 44th President of the United States of America. My father beamed with pride when he spoke of that day, because he saw it as the beginning of a new time… one in which we cared for those who did not have the good fortune he had.
I am the second generation of immigrants to this country. I am blessed to have won the DNA lottery – my hair is blonde, my eyes are blue, and I am as healthy as can be expected for a person whose lived the life I have. This present political regime of hate is not looking for my kind.
And I am disgusted by what I see in my homeland now. I may be the blustering grand-daughter of a man kicked out of his country for his blustering opinion… and I’ll be damned if I don’t live up to that heritage.
Access to healthcare is not a lottery.
Immigrants are not chits on the board in some gold-plated casino.
Donald Trump and the Republican Party are working to degrade everything I know and understand as American values and truths, and I refuse to accept that. You are not my president, and I will fight you in every way I can.
My father lives in me… so you’ve got that spirit to battle as well as mine. I wish you luck with that. You are going to need it.