SCARBOROUGH — When I was a kid, my father answered requests to go to McDonald’s by saying, “Let’s see if we can get the car to turn.” At our first glimpse of those golden arches, my brothers and I would plead, “Turn, car, turn!” Occasionally, the car would actually turn; more often, it drove right by.

As we got older, we realized it was my father, not the car, that didn’t turn. We still played along, but our pleas lost intensity once we realized that our voices were less compelling than whatever was keeping our father from giving in.

Decades later, I’d almost forgotten about “Turn, car, turn,” but Sen. Susan Collins’ comments about Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination have me reminiscing. First she thought Mainers weren’t interested enough, then she thought we were too organized to be authentic, then she outlined her usual process of vetting a nominee – as if anything about this moment in U.S. history is “usual” – and she admitted that no amount of activism would likely influence her decision. In short, we were never driving this.

Though I’ve made many earnest attempts to move Collins during her time in the Senate, after her 2017 vote for the fiscally irresponsible and morally reprehensible Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, I lost faith in the power of my story. Weeks before, I’d joined friends in one of her offices to share intensely personal details of our lives, and worries for our children’s futures. Though her staffer was visibly moved, she responded with generic talking points and absurd reassurances I don’t think even she believed.

Our stories matter. I’m grateful to Mainers with the strength to share theirs. I just wish we could persuade senators to do the right thing without incurring such a steep emotional cost. Let’s face it: If Sen. Collins needs to hear her constituents beg for their lives in order to consider standing up for Mainers and against whatever forces are more compelling than our collective safety, health and basic human rights, then we’re looking at some daunting odds.

Collins is old enough to remember the era of wire coat hanger abortions and the resulting hemorrhages, battles for civil and disability rights, discrimination and psychiatric hospital deinstitutionalization. She need only open her home state’s newspapers to read story after story detailing the horrors faced by adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities despite existing legal “protections.” A glance at emotionless bar graphs can tell her how many Mainers would lose health care absent the protections of the Affordable Care Act. She has the facts – she’s asking for our souls. I’ll show her mine when she shows me hers.

If Kavanaugh is confirmed, my family will be part of the majority of Americans to face health care- and disability-related fallout, the reverberations of which will span generations. Between them, my children have one intellectual disability, one physical disability and five conditions requiring daily medications. They will (and do) benefit from laws that help level the playing field at school, in the community, in the health care and insurance arenas and in the workplace. Their father and I have prepared them since toddlerhood to be good self-advocates, and they understand what that means and why it’s important.

Like disability policy advocate Liz Weintraub and teens Hunter Lachance of Kennebunkport and Jackson Corbin of Pennsylvania did at the Senate Judiciary hearing last week, I expect my children will have to tell their own stories someday. But I’m struggling with teaching them that the only path to equity is through moving personal narrative and repeated trauma.

If Kavanaugh is confirmed, it won’t be because I refused to roll out the pity porn. It won’t be because you didn’t scream loudly enough, or Liz, Hunter and Jackson didn’t testify with adequate conviction. It won’t be because we weren’t civil enough, or grassroots enough. It won’t be because Sens. Kamala Harris, Mazie Hirono and Cory Booker weren’t tough enough, and it certainly won’t be because Sen. Tammy Duckworth didn’t do her part.

Kavanaugh’s supporters know who they’re confirming. They know the harm that his confirmation will cause Sen. Collins more than most. Her phones have been ringing nonstop, her voice mailboxes are full, she’s had a stream of constituents visiting her offices, and her website email system recently crashed because of overwhelming traffic. Mainers have organized and participated in numerous events at home and in D.C. We showed up. She heard us.

And we see her. We know who’s driving this wreck, and, while many of us continue to hope the car will turn, others are looking to the future, where we will focus on turning out the vote.