#1255 – Dick Bernard: Thoughts at 77. “The World is My Country”

Related: here and here.

Today, I’m 77.

This anniversary has something of a “ring” to it.

Those who’ve seen me recently will attest I’m still mobile. I passed the cognition test at my recent physical; so far the frowns from the doctor are not too serious…but on the other hand, there are a few miles on this jalopy! When you get to this age, you notice that you’re no longer 15, which our 6th grandkid, Parker, is, today as well.

Parker is a baseball player, and a very good one, so in recognition of our mutual birthdays, here I am (on the right) with my brother Frank, about the time I was 15, in 1955.

Richard Bernard, at right, circa 1955, with 9 year old brother, Frank.

Grandpa Bernard is my gift to myself today. He is the only grandparent of mine who has a place on YouTube, with ID. You can see Grandpa here for three seconds at about 4:14, kibitzing while they pave Main Street in Grafton ND in 1949.

He was 77 that day in 1949…. He had eight more years to live; his son, my Dad, almost made 90.

Time marches on.

I have always liked “The Station”, which Ann Landers popularized, as a teaching about living life: The Station001.


There may be some of my age, or even beyond, who can honestly say that their road of life has been straight and uncomplicated. That they planned their life, and the plans all worked out.

Those who know me, know that my life had its ruts and other assorted dilemmas.

Today, one very serious topic:

“Out in Washington D.C.”, probably today, will be the vote in the House of Representatives to kill “Obamacare”, which in the years subsequent to enactment in 2010 was symbolically slain by the House of Representatives more than 50 times. Ironically, it was the Republicans who first gave the intentionally derisive nickname to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

I don’t know what the vote will be today. One thing is certain, a vote to kill ACA will not be about improving medical care for people.

Within the last few days, comedian Jimmy Kimmel related his own very powerful story. His monologue is probably still accessible here, about his new son, William. Do watch these 13 minutes.

I also have a story about the unexpected.

It happens that last Sunday a group of us were debriefing the World Premiere of the film “The World Is My Country”. The film highlights the dilemma of being stateless – without papers – in this world.

Sundays discussion reminded me of a time in my own life when my family and I were uncovered by medical insurance, and I talked about it in our discussion of the film.

For myself, it was a 26 month period in 1963-65. It began with my marriage to Barbara June 8, 1963; it ended with her death from kidney disease July 24, 1965. When we married I was near the end of my time in the U.S. Army; when she died we had a son, about 1 1/2; I had just turned 25 and she was 22. We had no insurance and I owed in medical bills nearly four times my then annual salary as a teacher. I faced bankruptcy.

In those years there was no group insurance in the area of our employment; even if we had had full insurance, she would have likely been ruled uninsurable because of pre-existing conditions unknown to us till four months into our marriage.

In the case of Jimmy Kimmel and his wife and son, they had the best coverage available in the most ideal medical setting possible. Until their baby was born, all was going well.

In our case, I will never forget the time spent in the lobby at the University of Minnesota Hospital in late May, 1965, waiting for some unseen people to decide whether they would admit my wife, an economically indigent patient, for a desperately needed kidney transplant. It was both terrifying and humiliating.

In our short marriage Barbara and I had lived in three states, and several counties in those states, and in no case had we satisfied what was usual then: a one year residency. It was a struggle to get into a hospital, then, in the end, with huge bills I couldn’t pay, a very close call with bankruptcy. Would welfare cover the bill? And if so, how much, and which unit of government?

Finally, much of the bills were paid, allowing me to avoid bankruptcy.

But I felt what it was like to be in the horrible world of the uninsured.

Today, in Washington D.C., they advance the process of interfering with the lives of millions of fellow citizens…a matter of spite, and greed. They are fools.

As Kimmel said, there is no reason why any person regardless of circumstances should be uncovered in our society.

I hope it doesn’t happen. If it does, it is a disgrace.

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