Ubiñas: Sitting down with a Latina who voted for Trump

Miriam Courtney shows a collage of pictures of her late grandson Nicholas J Perry, pointing out a shot of him as a baby with her daughter Connie Courtney. The display graces a wall in her Somerton home.

I am hugging a Trump supporter.

Yeah, I didn't see that coming, either.

See, I'm an unapologetic and unrelenting critic of the presidential disaster-elect. His supporters, in turn, are frequent and enthusiastic contributors to the trash heap that is my inbox, voice-mail, Twitter timeline, and comment sections since Donald Trump's election.

In many ways, 66-year-old Miriam Courtney's email in response to a recent column about Trump was more of the same:

"You're such a cynic!"

"You are the one spewing HATE!"

"You Are So, Brain Washed!"

She signed it, "A Latina Who Proudly Voted For TRUMP."

It would have been easy to add Courtney's email to my ever-growing pile of correspondence, but in the middle of Courtney's note was something that stopped me, that spoke to that wave of anger that Trump supposedly rode into the White House.

On March 21, 2016, Courtney wrote, her grandson died of a drug overdose, and no one cared.

"Not One word was mentioned!

"The City Failed Him!

"The State Failed Him!

"The Country Failed Him!"

Between exclamation points and talking points what I heard was a grandmother from Northeast Philadelphia who was angry how her grandson died, and how her grief has gone unacknowledged.

I called and asked if I could stop by her Somerton home.

She's a different person face to face than she is on email.

There was a lot about Trump that reached into her and her pain, Courtney told me when we sat down to chat in her cozy kitchen. She liked his stance on illegal immigration. She and her family came to the United States from Colombia, sponsored by relatives. Legally, she stressed.

But nothing resonated more than when Trump talked about building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico to keep out criminals and drugs.

Her first grandchild, Nicholas Perry, was 26 when he was found slumped on a bridge at B and Somerset Streets. He was alone. Someone had stolen all of his belongings except the phone clutched in his hand.

He'd struggled with addiction, but his sudden death was no less shocking to his close-knit family.

While his mother worked, Courtney cared for him while when he was a little boy. When he was seriously injured in a hit-and-run accident in 2015 and couldn't maneuver the steps in his mother's house, Courtney brought him to her home to recuperate in a first-floor bedroom. She carefully administered his pain meds.

On the way out of the room, she points to the nicks on the door frame from his wheelchair.

"I don't even want to paint it," she says, choking up. "I'm going to have to. I have to let it go."

After Nicholas' death, she went back to the spot where he overdosed and burned sage. She also wrote to many public officials, pleading with them to do more about the drugs that are leaving families like hers destroyed.

Courtney is convinced Trump - with tough, if vague, talk about law and order - is the guy to fix this. If the country had been tougher on crime and criminals, she insists, her grandson would still be alive.

During our talk, I have to stop myself on numerous occasions from debating her. I remind myself I am here to hear a grieving grandmother out.

After about an hour or so, I get up to leave. She thanks me for coming, and for letting her share her grandson's story.

She says she wishes more people on opposite sides could sit across a table and listen to each other. I agree.

At the end of our visit, I still believe Trump is a threat to our country, and she still believes he might very well be its savior.

"Give me a hug," she says.

"I'm hugging a Trump supporter," I joke.

She laughs. "See, anything is possible."

I tell her if I'm wrong about Trump, I'll be more than happy to come back and eat my words. I'll bring cake, I say, to make the crow go down a little easier.

"No," she says. "you know what you can bring me - a mojito."

ubinas@phillynews.com 215-854-5943 @NotesFromHel Helen. Ubinas