Growing Up Part II
I have decided to open up myself in a 3-part series and give an intimate look at my life and the events that have made me the person I am today. I hope you will take the time to read it and by the end feel you know me better than any politician you ever voted for. Welcome to Part 2.
After my worst day, my mom and I never returned to the apartment we called home. Relatives packed up all of our stuff and we moved to Long Island with my sister, her husband and her three kids. They were putting a dormer on their house and that became our living area. After about a year it became apparent that my sister and her husband were having problems in their marriage. My mother felt that having the two of us there wasn't helping the situation, so we rented a small house a few miles away.
My sister and her husband divorced about a year later. My mother and sister decided to buy a two-family house so my sister could work and my mom could watch the kids. If you're counting, that’s three moves in just over two years for me; I felt that I was always going to be the new kid. My dad had been our anchor, and for a while my mom and I seemed to be adrift at sea; but this last move stuck and my sister became the anchor.
After a few years, when money got tight, my mother and I moved downstairs to live with my sister and her kids so we could rent out the apartment to help make ends meet. That worked for a little while, but once again we were struggling financially. So, after almost 40 years my mother had to re-enter the workforce to help financially. By this time my nephews and niece were older and I could look after them until my mother or sister came home. I didn't think we grew up poor; we lived paycheck to paycheck like many people do now. I did know my house was the only one with a padlock on the kitchen door, so that my two teenage nephews and I couldn't raid the kitchen when my mom and sister were working. The food we had was for meals, not for snacking. Yet somehow we never went without something we really wanted. My sister was amazing at budgeting and keeping us together. Once I started working in the summer and part-time during school I had to pay “rent” to help out financially. It was an all-out family effort.
When I was 17 years old, Ronald Reagan was in office and was cutting Social Security benefits to dependent children on their 18th birthday, unless they were already in college. I played ice hockey, a goalie, and I had my heart set on going to school in upstate New York in Plattsburg, or maybe Oswego. The plan was once I got there I would go to their open tryout and win a spot and walk on to their hockey team. The dream wasn’t too crazy. I was very good. However, with this new development I had a decision to make: finish high school in the spring, attempt to go away to college and follow a dream that would cause financial damage to my family, and a very real possibility of losing our house, or leave high school early and go to the local community college. A hell of a burden for a 17 year old, but not a hard decision to make.
So, in January of my senior year of high school, I enrolled in the local community college, so my mom could continue getting my Social Security benefits, and life would continue as we knew it. I did get to walk with my fellow seniors that June, but there is a saying, “you can’t go home again”, and on that day I truly felt that way. I went to the community college for three semesters but also started working full time. I transferred to Molloy College, a school that was half way between work and home. To my pleasant surprise, the school had only recently become co-ed. It had a 16 to 1 ratio of women to men. Mama raised no fool, and that is where I met my wife Kathy. Little did I know when I gave up my dream to go away to college and play hockey, it would send me down a path I might never have expected or even chosen at the time, but ultimately the one I have found the most rewarding.
Growing up in a matriarchal household I learned first hand how important a living wage, pay equality, access to quality healthcare, and Social Security are for women, but also in a larger sense important to everyone. I grew up in that home where each of those issues had an effect on my family growing up. That is why today I want to fight for these issues. For me they aren’t just words on a paper, they are a family who is struggling to get by like mine did. I fought for my family growing up, and if you allow me, I will fight for yours