Friday, December 23, 2011

Taking Care of Family Business

Well first, there’s the MediCal application process which is like a Kafka story but without the light humorous touches or big bugs.  Although I understand DHS regulations that say proving residency is best accomplished by showing a paycheck stub, the fact is that this particular 93 year old dementia patient doesn’t work as a greeter at Wal*Mart and hence doesn’t get paychecks. So, sending copies of old driver’s licenses, photo IDs, and even handicapped placards from another official state agency (DMV) which, no irony intended here, has a lot in common with the state Department of Human Services, in that both are apparently staffed by chimpanzees, is so non-compliant that it doesn’t even bear mentioning by the DHS when they tell me to verify residency again and again.

Then, there’s the screwup with my own pension check that has been wired to my soulless mega bank run by Greed Inc. In September, I opened a new account with a credit union. In October, I informed my retirement system to wire the pension to the new credit union account. In November, I closed the old account. In December, my paycheck vanished. While waiting for my credit card bills be become overdue, I learned that Bank of Greed, aka Chase (as in “we have your money now see if you can chase us and catch up with it before we spend it on fees”) had not only received the pension and deposited it into the “closed” account, they had failed to advise me of this, and even made a programmed automatic payment that I’d already paid from savings. Meanwhile, my credit cards became more overdue, I had to take money out of my TSA to cover bills and pay my share of household expense late, resulting in a lovely cascading effect that the Regan boys used to call trickle down, only with poverty not with wealth.

But this is a story about DOBs vast wealth: her measly life insurance. She’s been paying on a $5k face value whole life policy for over 20 years. You can do the math yourself to see what the ROI is on a $30/month payment. When I finally researched it a few years ago, the value was about $12k and I advised her to stop sending them money, and just let it sit there and wait because it was fully paid up. She continued to send them money, of course, because she’s dumber than a sack of doorknobs, and what do I know with my law degree and all.

So, when I had to revisit this life insurance “liquid asset” in the course of applying for MediCal, I discovered she still listed her estate as beneficiary, which is something only an old sack of doorknobs would think made sense. So, following more free legal advice, she decided to change that, and name her three adult children as beneficiaries. And by decided to change I mean decided to expect me to change that without so much as telling me, to let alone thanking me either for the free legal advice or the services.  Here’s how that went down:

Senior Deadbeat Daughter:   (Calling me on her cell while TCG is taking one of his six or so couch naps so I have to answer the fucking phone even though I’d rather turn into a cockroach than converse with SDD) I was just talking to Mother about her life insurance policy and she said she can’t find the paper saying the beneficiaries are now her three kids instead of her estate.

WISIMH:  What is this paper of which you speak? Perhaps when DOB gave me such clear written instructions (hilarious) the insurance fairy appeared and said: this is not the insurance paper you are looking for.

UCC:   Ahhh, paper. Let me explain. Mother couldn’t find a paper with both hands and a flashlight. She can’t find her own ass to change her own diapers. Cutting to the chase, could you be telling me that I should change the beneficiaries?

WISIMH:  Because nothing is done directly around here, like communicate, when indirection and passive aggression are so much easier and more fun. Fortunately for all of us, the unpaid legal consultant slash laundress had registered online and I can change the beneficiaries online. What a nice convenience for me! Thank me very much. I’m welcome.

SDD:   Ok, I guess that’s what Mother meant.

WISIMH:  Which – guessing what Mother means – is one of my all-time favorite pastimes especially when I’m high and it becomes a game of who can repeat the same four or five words over the most and see if they make more sense by repetition than they did when you just repeated them once or twice. Sometimes it’s more fun to just fill in the blanks myself with words that make even less sense. But I digress.

UCC:  So, I guess that’s what you want me to do?

WISIMH:  Is there any other free service I can provide for you while I’m at it? Want an itemized and indexed list of the other shit I do for your lazy ass family?

SDD:  Yeah, that.

But this story doesn’t end here. It gets better. If by better, you mean more Kafkaesque and redolent of the Stygian Stables after a three-day weekend and beans, beans, beans.  It turns out that in order to change beneficiaries online, you need their names, addresses and social security numbers. What an unexpected surprise - for anybody with less than a 4th grade education and/or an attention span longer than it takes for bread to toast.

TCG texts Junior Deadbeat Daughter (because she’s even more fun to converse with than SDD) to get her social security number and mailing address, so I can make the online change of beneficiary which will result in her getting money for nothing. The following conversation took place via text messages, punctuated by my own profanity-laced spoken comments as TCG read it aloud.

TCG: Need your SSN and address to add you as beneficiary in DOB’s life insurance policy.

JDD:  I won’t give that information out without first receiving a written accounting of current cash value and other policy information. I'll need an annual accounting of the cash value too.

TCG:  Really? You don’t want in on the potential free money?

JDD:  Wait! Is Mommy dead? How much money do I get?

WISIMH:  You irresponsible, deadbeat, neglectful, oblivious, bottle blond, trailer trash, vulgar, greedy, lazy piece of crap, second-guessing my care for your unwashed demented mother and demanding that I perform more free services for your convenience, you idiot piece of worthless shit. I’ll send you a brick in a blanket with my best wishes that you swing it at your own empty greedy head, you cretin, you douchebag, you narcissistic waste of air. (I could go on, but let’s acknowledge that I can’t be almost endlessly creative with profanity when directed at these selfish, clueless, worthless idiot offspring of DOB who have an arguably greater obligation to care for their dear mother than I do and yet somehow feel as much obligation to do so as they have to change the oil in my car.)

UCC:  Tell her I’ll send her an annual accounting all right. It will itemize the free services I provide to her fucking mother and thank her for all her fucking helpful advice about how I could be doing a better fucking job caring for her fucking mother, and just how much my share of the fucking insurance would be if I charged fifty cents an hour for my time for these past fucking 25 years, the fucking overweight, unwashed, fucking tramp.

TCG:  No, Mommy is still kicking and being a general pain, and the payout could be in the millions for all I know.

JDD:  Well, get me the information and I’ll get back to you.

I think it’s a good idea for me to stop here because by the time the texting was over there was blood coming out of my eyes and my ears were filled with the thunder of high blood pressure and rage and there was smoke billowing out of my mouth and possibly flames.

The next day, TCG relayed an edited account of his discussion with JDD, and DOB said then just put the two of you older children on as beneficiaries. So I did, thank me very much. 

But let me just say, it’s typical of this family that nobody bothered to tell JDD about this decision, so unless she discovers this when she sends me a notice that my annual account report is overdo, it should be fun, if I’m still alive and sane when DOB dies, and JDD finds out she doesn’t come into millions of free dollars after all. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Trojan War Redux

When you think of epic battles, you think of stories like the Trojan War. So, now that I’m fighting my own Trojan War, that’s how I frame what is happening in my own war-torn life. When fighting for my life, I amuse myself by thinking of heroes like Achilles and doomed Hector, and how their intertwined fates were governed by the gods who carelessly sported with their very lives. Applying for MediCal – the California version of Medicaid for poor and disabled and elderly people – is like that, only funnier.

Well, maybe not funnier, but with the same sense of helplessness to control your own fate while you are tossed about at the whims of remote gods no more concerned with your fate than they are concerned about the yellow leaves caught in the vortex of the leaf blower outside my door as I type. So not funnier then.

The first application, aka SAWS 1, was painfully researched, downloaded, completed and signed. This took months. The attachments to document residency, poverty and stupidity were carefully scanned in, printed and attached. The precious package filled with my hopes and fondest dreams was then mailed and promptly vanished into some divine haze never to be heard from again. It took two weeks for me to determine that it was MIA.

So, I applied online: carefully, painstakingly, playing a kind of death defying game of wits with the application form when it came to attachments. You need about a dozen and it takes half a day to figure out what. The system of the God, Cisco, will only accept a certain limit of megabits, which eleven attachments exceeds. But Cisco coyly declines to tell you when you reach the limit or anything helpful like that because the gods are above the petty concerns of even the most entertaining mortals. So send the application in several separate messages and hope they join up on the desk of the god assigned to determine your fate.

Merely following the clues about attaching documents to a screen where you can “choose” a file and clicking the “attach” button to attach the file is a challenge worthy of any heroic soldier. In fairness, the button should be labeled “possibly attach”, or even “possibly attach, but most likely not”. That took an entire afternoon, the patience of a god, and the fortitude only wine can provide. There were tears. There was profanity. There was heroic striving-and-failing. There was the uncertainty that constitutes the fog of war. Perfectly Homeric in a perverse way.

Meanwhile, back in the Greek camp, like Achilles sulking in his tent while the Trojans kick the Greeks’ asses, the “Client” on this application sat amid a miasma of piss and paranoia in her room trying to figure out how to answer her cell phone. Ever trying, ever failing, like a Beckett character once mused. If she had a heroic persona her heroic flaw, her Achilles heel, would be her ability to form coherent thoughts and then put them into remotely meaningful words. Every document she is asked to sign is a further nail in the coffin of her proof that I’m trying to kill her, only more slowly than I could do with a sword forged by the gods.

So the online application goes. Weeks pass. At lease online you can verify it was received.  Which does as much good as Achilles’ Mom Thetis petitioning Zeus to protect their son against the chilling machinations of Mrs. Zeus who favors the Trojans. The system calmly assures me it will take up to 90 days to process an application, so I keep calm and drink wine in my tent.

Next we come to the part of my story that is like where Patroclus dons Achilles’ magic armor and only gets himself killed by Hector. I am not allowed to directly inquire about the status of the application because, although I’m the only person on the planet who has the foggiest idea what is going on, I might be, I dunno, blogging about the sorry ass state of the Client and/or the Kafkaesque state of the State. The gods genuinely intend to protect the privacy of dementia patients who can’t remember the last time they changed their adult diapers. Otherwise we might all descend into chaos, or cross the Styx into the underworld, or sink into drunken stupors in front of our TVs.

We have to submit a declaration form, aka MC306, wherein the Client appoints an “Authorized Representative” and by we I mean me. This of course, requires more signatures and attachments and painful struggles against the Trojan Wall of the online presence of The State DHHS. In the interests of trying to empower the client to not think I’m trying to kill her, we (meaning I) have to complete the form wherein the client’s son is authorized to communicate with anonymous bureaucrats instead of me. This adds another hilarious element to the process since the client’s son is as comfortable using his words as Patroclus is using Achilles armor: meaning not at all. It’s like the gods don’t give a shit.

One afternoon, we return home from a visit to Agamemnon’s camp to hear a voicemail from - - - - to call him about the application: more unspecified information is required. Of course, you cannot understand the person’s name. It’s like he – we think it’s a he – is covered with mist and is invisible. Like Priam when he ventures through the frontlines of the Greek army to Achilles' tent to claim Hector’s dead body: nobody saw him because the gods enshroud him in mist.  After returning the call three days in a row and getting Zeus’ voicemail, the authorized representative is carefully coached by the true hero of this epic to leave voicemail asking - - - - to send us e-mail telling us what the fuck he wants if he’s not going to return our fucking calls.

So here’s where we get to the wooden horse part of the story.  We get e-mail from DHHS (possibly from - - - - but not signed) saying we need more verification documents, let’s call them A and B. The very same day, we get a letter from a different bureaucrat saying we need more documents, let’s call them B and C. So, now we’re dealing with two different agents, via two different channels, for two different sets of demands.  Is it any wonder the Trojans lost the war?

If this isn’t enough, the list of things that constitute verifying documentation of A, B and/or C takes a four page attachment to the written letter. Which would be helpful if only the list corresponded with the category of documentation required, which it almost does, but the with an element of whimsical  uncertainty where you have to guess or pray that you match the item required in the letter with the proof to satisfy it in the attachments to the letter. The Client can’t simply apply to get welfare, she has to have adequate paperwork to support her worthiness due to her poverty, stupidity, and incontinency.

For example, we are asked in writing to provide “Liquid Asset verification” (again). Like a true Homeric hero, I am not distracted and do not kill fatted calves to the gods bearing messages that we havesubmitted verification  - twice. It’s best when the gods speak to listen even if they’re mumbling. The closest category on the 3-page “ACCEPTABLE VERIFICATION SOURCES LIST” is something called “Property/Resources” followed by a quarter page block of text which, among other things, specifies in no particular order: bank/Financial Inst Stmt, Bank Statement, Cancelled check, Cancelled check, Life Insurance Policy, Insurance Policy/Statement. Do these people even read their own crap? Like some immortal gods playing with mortal soldiers they toy with us.

So, now let me digress in this summary to provide some detail about the attempt to comply with this divine order. Authorized Representative has to ask Client if she has a birth certificate. This takes several days because Authorized Representative has the attention span of a toaster with a broken sensor that keeps popping up before the bread even gets warm. Then, Client needs several more days and reminders and free food and laundry service to get to her file drawer and begin looking.  So, after a week, here’s what happens.

Achilles:  Did you find your birth certificate?

Client: To a certain extent.

What Achilles Said In His Head:  Who knew or even suspected that there are documents that officially certify birth to a certain extent? Certainly not this doomed hero.

Achilles:  What?

Client:  (waving at a pile of documents on her side table with a pile of documents in her hand and nearly knocking a pile of documents out of the portable safe where she keeps documents that are important to a certain extent) What?

Achilles:  (After waiting a suitable time to see if any of the documents in any of the piles offer an explanation. They do no.) Did you find your birth certificate?

Client:  I found Authorized Representative’s Father’s Birth Certificate, and there’s some stuff about Mom and Pop. I still can’t find the Prudential Insurance policy.

Achilles:    Ahhh. So that’s what you meant when you said you found your birth certificate to a certain extent.

Client:   What?

WASIHH:  Tell me then Muse, hast mine fate ever been dictated by the gods before my birth? I am destined to die young, but at least heroically? Strangely, I find this little consolation.

Authorized Representative:  The Prudential Insurance policy is in the folder in your top dresser drawer. I think this diversion is relevant to our conversation because I always find it helpful to distract you from your own plight.

Achilles:  (Interrupting Authorized Representative whose conversational gambit is the equivalent of waving a conversational raw steak in front of a figurative starving polar bear to distract her from attacking) Did you find-- oh never mind. Give me the papers that document your birth to a certain extent.

Imagine my surprise when the papers included Client’s original yellowing and crumbling birth certificate from 1918. It has come down through the years in about the same shape as the Client only smelling much less like pee.

So yesterday, I anointed myself with oils, fortified myself with wine, and donned my armor consisting of wrist braces to minimize the carpal tunnel pain, and submitted myself to the psychic pain of facing the proprietary web-based secure e-mail channel to importune the gods of the bureaucracy.  I spent the morning scanning in more documents, converting them to .doc format which is marginally more successful at attaching to email than .docx attachments. I faced my destiny as bravely as any hero except maybe Paris.

In a mere 5 hours, I was able to engage the on-line application and attach the carefully labeled and titled verification documents to establish A, B and C.  In this time, I also copied, labeled slightly differently and attached verification documents for A, B and C to be mailed.  I know I risk the wrath of the impersonal gods by giving each slightly more than they asked for. But the birth certificate validating immigration status was just too good to waste on only one god. This gambit is as likely to forestall further inquiries regarding Client’s immigration status as the aspirin I just took to forestall the tension headache.

In what I hope was not a dramatically foreshadowed picture of my own doom, we mailed the forms when we were en route to the Wal-Mart adjacent Red Lobster in the nearest mall to celebrate the Client’s 93 birthday with cheesy biscuits and watered down cocktails. The staff at this place is perfectly attuned to people that come in for dinner at 15:00 and early bird specials on cocktails. Two-thirds of our party entered on walkers. Good Times. Our waiter Mitch was delighted to know it was Client’s birthday bless her little heart, as was his own personal busboy, at least two manager types and the waiter who actually brought our dishes. What seemed like this relentless parade of restaurant employees clearly determined to accomplish their mission to have happy customers insisted on telling us how glad they were that we shared this special fucking day with them. At least I hope they were restaurant employees.

Like The Iliad, this story began in the tenth year of a war. Unlike the Iliad, the current war has yet to conclude. I cling to the dubious comfort of knowing that once we wrap up the Trojan War, Ulysses can start his odyssey home. Another ten years and one Cyclops to go. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Counting Crows

Last night, we were watching a PBS show about how smart crows are. We’d seen it before, but the alternative was to converse, and we can’t have that, now can we?

UCC:  We’re coming to the part where there is a crow with white on her wings. She dies before the research experiment ends.

We come to that part.

TCG:  White wing dies, right?

UCC:  I may have mentioned that.

WISIMH:  I may have a hearing impairment but you have a listening impairment.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Midsummer Comedy in Three Acts

Act One - Mid-May

UCC: Did you know that DOB’s truck has three flat tires?
TCG: Yes. It’s been like that for a while now.
UCC: Well, I just noticed it because I was working in the front yard. Why don’t you inflate the tires?
TCG: Well, I can’t start it because the battery is dead.
WISIMH:  Non sequitur altert!
UCC: Which means the tires won’t hold air? Who knew?
WISIMH:  Battery died because you can’t manage to run it for a few minutes each month like you used to do.
UCC: Then either get it running or get rid of it. We already have one derelict vehicle crapping up the carport. I won’t accept two.
TCG: OK. I’ll take care of it.
UCC:  I’ll depend on it.
WISIMH:  There is no longer any point to this. It’s as far beyond my waning powers of imagination to envision a scenario where you will actually accomplish something as complicated as inflating some tires as it is for me to imagine the dawn of a day when the urine smell from DB’s room will not waft violently down the hall like screaming banshee on a flying broomstick when the door to her room is opened. It’s breathtaking - and not in a good way – to actually venture into her room when I have to pick up her dirty laundry once a week. Inevitably, posted by her doorway (where it will have maximum effect as an air unfreshener on my side of the house) is always a garbage bag waiting for the trash gods to take it outside. TCG will take care of the trash too, eventually. Don’t put off until tomorrow something that you can put off until next week are the words we live by here in the Fortress of Attitude.

Act Two - Mid-June

UCC: Can you give me an Estimated Time of Action on the truck tires?
TCG:  (Checking his day planner on the iPhone)  July 27.
UCC:  Be still my beating heart.
WISIMH:  By which I mean: Dear My Blood Pressure, Please stop pounding so heard it feels like my head will explode. My right arm is going numb again, and I was planning on using it to beat someone senseless with a chair. Fondly, UCC.

Act Three - July 30

We managed to get to the store yesterday where TCG bought an electric plug-in air compressor to inflate the tires. En route home:
UCC:  So, did you talk to your sister J2 about giving her the truck since she needs a vehicle and we don’t need more than one derelict car in our yard at a time?
TCG:  (Non Sequitur Alert) Well, you know I talked to DOB about this (since the car was technically registered to her before he stopped bothering to renew the license tags making it impossible to drive on the street even if it didn’t have a dead battery and flat tires).
UCC:  Yes, I was there. That was last month. Have you talked to your sister?
TCG:  (Second Stage Non Sequitur Alert) That would be a good idea. Let me get the tires taken care of first.
UCC:  Sure.
WISIMH:  And let me have another evening trip to the ER with chest pains. Another good idea since we’re on the subject would be to save a date for actually inflating the tires. And then, since we all know the car won’t start, setting a date for replacing the battery. By the time all this happens, in the event it doesn’t just happen in my fucking dreams, J2 will have left town again to live with her daughter in Lime Disease, MO for several years or until she again needs to move back to her spouse’s gun and ammunition stocked trailer to use his health insurance. So I ask myself, why do I bother? The side effects from my latest heart medication make me feel like a crack whore who has been beaten up by her pimp, but without the preceding crack high. It’s actually not dreadful hyperbole to say I’m losing the will to live here. A stroke might be preferable to being squashed to death by a poorly balanced pile of hoarded crap while threading my way between the teetering piles trying to get to the shower before being overcome by the poisonous fumes from the DOB’s lair.  Or suffocating to death by the CO2 from the large volume of scented candles necessary to permit me to use the shower - a mere two rooms down the hallway from the entrance to said lair. Or being led away in handcuffs, blood-soaked and laughing manically to a nice quiet room painted in calming institutional green and smelling like pine-scented cleaner instead of piss. Alas, what stinky fools these mortals be.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Dark Side of the Spoon

So SIL visited for 2 weeks. You might imagine those initials stand for Sadly Insane Bitch, but actually, I refer to my sister in law, DOB’s daughter, who is bossier than Sister Alice Maureen, passively aggressiver than a delusional middle eastern dictator - but without the endearing cult of personality, and has forgotten more about whatever you’re trying to do than you ever tried to learn.

DOB, whose powers of rational thought rival those of a detoxing hobo with end stage Parkinson's, typically reverts to nap-deprived stubborn 2-year-old mode when requested to do more than lift her own spoon. SOL is maliciously depriving DOB of alcohol, which is one of her meager remaining pleasures. Did I mention: cranky?

At a recent Chinese dinner with SIL, DOB and TCG, I made the executive decision to order a third bottle of crap white zin to give me the divine inspiration and strength to keep the conversation from veering into side roads with signposts such as Angry Drunk Avenue, Change Your Diaper Drive, Why Am I Alive Avenue, and Leave Me the Fuck Alone Lane. And don’t get me started about How Being 92 Doesn’t Entitle You to Be Nasty You Stupid Fuck.

So that happened.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

When a DNR is Not the Answer

Notwithstanding your DNR, it is becoming increasingly unlikely our friendly neighborhood EMTs would be able to determine the precise point you stop weaving in and out of polite, not to mention rational, discourse and actually slip into unconsciousness wherefrom we can then elect not to reanimate your corpse. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Let’s Play “Beg That Question”

You forgot to remind me to put my teeth in before I went to the barbershop.

Your sister-in-law in Florida calls moments after you sit down with a lemongrass and ginger tea martini. She says your mother-in-law has fallen down trying to make it to the bathroom ahead of her diarrhea – unsuccessfully as it turns out. Mother lives two rooms away from your martini.

The hospital social worker calls at 21:30 to say they want to discharge your mother-in-law tonight after 2 hours because, though she had fallen and been taken to the emergency room dozens of times before for durations averaging 36 hours, this time she has diarrhea.

She put her dirty diapers in the cupboard next to her clean bath towels to cut down on odor.

Your spouse and his mother engage in a confusing dialogue about a plant on her dresser that has been rat-gnawed and/or rat-infested, after which he reports back, and then you ask if he placed said pot outside, and then he replies that he was going to but blah blah blah, and then there is much consternation at your precipitous action to take the fucking pot and put it outside the fucking door.

Before you tossed the rat pot, did you determine whether the rat was in it?

Is this all part of your diabolical plan to murder your wealthy relatives in cruel and lingering ways and to live in luxury thereafter on your ill-gotten gains?

At what point did you realize you were living with hoarders-in-waiting, and all that stands between you and a public spectacle in which the term clinically insane appears in lurid headlines describing your psychotic break and subsequent killing spree are the following: your medical marijuana card; your excellent cooking; your adorable kitty; and the happy place in your mildly morbid imagination?

Before I go on a magical quest to clean her commode and commode chair, I want you to see that this is actually chocolate ice cream in this large plastic tub I intend to use to put in the wash water to clean said appliances.

She objects to being told she has to spend an indeterminate number of days in a skilled nursing facility because her roommates are too ill to clean up her shit, by which I mean her shit.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Why I Won't Own a Gun

In other news,  I spent my 64th birthday in a place with room service.  Had breakfast in bed the next day. Then lunch. Then, I paid my $50 co-pay and was discharged.

I had gone to the emergency room the evening of my birthday with atrial fibrillation. They kept me overnight, so someone in unfortunately patterned scrubs could wake me up three times in the night to be sure I was getting a good rest. Although I would have preferred to return home and sleep, I was discharged in time to attend the weekly sushi lunch/torturous conversational feedback loop with TCG and our demented roommate.

I returned home from the hospital with a case of intestinal flue that kept me running between the bathroom and bedroom for the next 24 hours, and wishing my Mommy was there to hold my forehead to check my temperature. So, I got a thorough intestinal cleanse as a free birthday bonus.

Of course the same bug then felled TCG, only he suffers much more dramatic symptoms, and prefers to have a sympathetic audience for his distress. When I am sleep deprived, my shoulder and neck muscles spasm and clench. It feels like a pit bull is gripping me by the back of my neck. I spent my first night back from the hospital sleeping on the couch - which was preferable to being awakened by TCG’s frequent noisy trips to the toilet. Thank Allah for vicodin.

The second day of TCG’s “24-hour” illness, this happened.

TCG:  (Dialing DOB’s cell phone for the third time because he’s too contagious/lazy to go and see how she is doing.  Wrt/phone, she usually can’t react quickly enough to answer on the first try, but mostly manages to figure it out by the second) Figure it out and answer your damn phone.

UCC:  You might still be contagious, want me to go check?

TCG:  (Dialing the home phone intercom) Hello? Hello? This is your son. Are you ok? Why don’t you answer your cell phone?

Pause, while we all assume DOB is trying to process a reply but succeeding only in babbling some repetitive phrase that might as well be: You have reached a non-functioning brain. Please re-think what you’re doing, after first disregarding any lingering assumptions you may harbor that the person you are calling can exercise any cognitive task more challenging than blinking while drooling.

TCG:  I have to see DOB.

Pause, while the earth spins silently on its axis, and me and the cats hold our collective breath for the next shoe to drop. Finally TCG huffs and puffs his way back to our side of the house.

TCG:  (Waving his hands to indicate he can’t speak yet, but being sure to get my full and undivided attention while we all wait.) She found where the rat is that’s been reportedly visiting her in the night… That plant J sent for some unexplained occasion? That’s sitting on her dresser? You know, in the basket. That plant…

… There’s a nice neat hole chewed in the back side and a nice burrow tunneled into the dirt and roots of the plant…

WISIMH:  And she got you up from your sickbed to show you this? Is she insane or just thoughtless? The incoherent warp of her babbling begins to sound like a wind chime in a zen garden. You're still at the semi-cogent state that remains intermittently coherent. I receive a blinding insight: O wait. She’s insane AND thoughtless. You're almost as bad. (Two insights, actually.)

TCG: … That’s where the rat has been…

UCC:  So you put the plant outside, right?

TCG:  I was going to, but I was laying (sic) on the floor because I was out of air.

UCC:  Jaisus in heaven. (Going to DOB’s room, confirming which is the rat’s basket, opening her door and putting it outside)

DOB:  You put the plant outside?

UCC:  Yes. Is that ok with you? (Not waiting for an answer,  closing the door on the smell of fresh urine and returning to the kitchen, bringing the full garbage bag that has been sitting by her door waiting for a magic spell to take it outside)

TCG:  I was going to take the plant out. I couldn’t breathe. Why did you take the trash out?

WISIMH:  Because the likelihood of you doing so is about as remote as Miskatonic University in Arkham MA is from this hellhole full of loonies.

UCC:  Are you shitting me? Because garbage attracts rodents. Rodents in the house are not ok. Then, there's the smell.

WISIMH:  Ya gotta draw the line somewhere with these hoarders. They think nothing of leaving crap on any horizontal surface that holds still longer than it takes TCG to start pissing. I am slowly losing the battle to remove accumulative hot-spots like the coffee table adjacent to TCG’s lazy-man recliner with the broken spring that sheds lumps of yellow crumbling foam to mingle with the potato chip dust and cookie crumbs marking the perimeter of TCG’s territory. The infected coffee table is likely to spread its clutter elsewhere if I leave it, but I’m just so fucking tired of living in a cluttered house that smells of only urine on a good day.

TCG:  I was going to do it as soon as I caught my breath.

UCC: The absence of initiative in this household is daunting.

WISIMH: The absence of initiative in this household is inversely proportional to the irregularity of my heartbeat. It’s more daunting than flaked coconut stuck between back teeth. “Lisa, you’re tearing me apart!”

We all managed to get to the eye doctor the day before I got sick, and I got a new prescription. Problem was that I chose to leave my good frames to get the new lenses, so I’m trying to wear a pair of backup specs from at least one major prescription away. The result is that I suffer from major eye-strain and am unable to escape into a book or three by reading to distract myself from things than my real life. My nearsighted life is less like a soft focus slow mo over new age music, than a blurry jumpy confusion of light and shadow. Or then again, maybe those two brownies for breakfast are talking.

Yesterday, I made some killer soup in the crock-pot with a smoked pork shank and some cannellini beans. Today I went to my primary care doc for the hospital follow-up, who referred me to cardiology after an irregular ekg showed I have a long qt interval. Today, DOB has come down with the same shit we had, so I’m bringing her juice and bullion. I have refused to perform any shit-cleaning duties in DOB’s room, claiming my heart condition and general unwillingness to perform any task the futility of which is comparable to rolling a stone up a hill and watching it roll down, over and over.  So, unless there really is a magic fairy looking over us, the shit smell is sure to spread across the DMZ of the back hallway and into the room where I sit and type.  Go. Save yourself.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


There’s premature, and immature, but I’ve discovered a new kind of mature. Actually it’s a new kind of lack of maturity. I’m calling it postmature.
Postmaturie is a behavioral pattern adopted by elderly sufferers of intermittent dementia and chronic forgetfulness, often accompanied by belligerence and paranoia. Onset and duration of symptoms are exacerbated by alcoholic consumption in public.
Diagnosis: Aberrant behaviors observed include: making faces, repeating “no!” and behaving generally like a nap-deprived, ill-mannered serial tantrum-throwing brat. Advanced cases include additional symptoms of incontinence, staggering and falling down, crossing arms across the chest, lowering the chin, and other body language of unreasoning defiance.
Undisciplined young children, the self-absorbed, the mentally challenged,  those with a very weak sense of situational awareness, weaker powers of reason, few inhibitions, appalling manners, and those with few redeeming or endearing characteristics are all at risk of Postmaturity.
Caregiver Qualifications: Must be a survivor, not a victim. Self-medication is a survival skill. Being deaf is a blessing. Hiring preference to those with other sources of intelligent conversation. Qualified applicants will demonstrate a well-evolved inner life, excellent imagination, creative craft hobbies, and/or one or more adorable cats. Postmature Persons’ Caregiver status qualifies for prescribed Medical marijuana by prescription in California.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Making And/Or Keeping Promises

So, DOB fell again. Not once all of 2010. Well, once, but we were able to pick her up because we discovered her pretty soon after she fell.

Sunday’s event began sometime in the wee hours of the morning, when, as near as I can reconstruct from the only eyewitness whose mentis isn’t very compos lately, she went outside to hang a wet towel to dry because I would be in to pick up her dirty laundry. Wait, what? She wanted to dry a towel before I picked it up to wash?

So, I enter, unsuspecting, around ten am to pick up her laundry…

DOB:  Blah blah (the minute I open the door. Never mind that she knows I can’t hear when she whispers)

UCC:  Yikes! You fell!

DOB: (from the middle of the room where she is sprawled in what can most generously be described as an unladylike pose) I pulled a boner.

WISIMN: No shit. Now, you’ll repeat incoherent snatches of a story of how you came to be where you so gracefully are.

DOB: I don’t know what happened….

WISIMH: Bless your little heart, you never do. Do you, dear?

DOB: … I opened the door to hang a towel on the rack outside…  where towels go to dry?... must have fallen. Don’t know what happened, except that I fell outside when I went to hang up a towel. Or something. Anyway…

UCC:   Stay right there, I’ll get him.

DOB:  Ok, I pulled a boner when I blah blah (trailing off as I leave the room to summon her son)

UCC:  Take a hit of abuterol. She’s down.

TCG gradually, with much huffing and puffing and what?-ing, trails me as I return to where I left off in DOB’s conversation, fortunately not missing any important plot twists or story recounting.

Scroll ahead an hour later, as we give up after trying to explain, then demonstrate, then listen and repeat trying to get the old lady on her knees so we can flip her butt up into a chair. She can’t fucking figure out how to do that, amid babbling about the towel and the open door and the boner she’s pulled. Ibid. Ibid. When we actually did get her in the right position at one point, and then we tried to lift one under each arm, she goes all passive resistance and dead weight as soon as we ask her to heave ho.

TCG has called his friends at 911, explaining calmly that we need “lift assist” and this is not a medical emergency. Then, I walk down to the street to meet them and walk them up to her room, explaining that she seems fine and TCG has COPD.

Of course, despite having discussed this at some length before their arrival and decided when they made the inevitable offer to take her to the ER to be sure she didn’t have a fucking stroke we would graciously decline, she of course, said yup take me in to the hospital.

WISIMH: Why did I not see this coming? These people have the follow-through of a broken toaster and slightly less initiative and cognitive powers.

After sitting in a corridor of the ER watching them bring in stretcher after stretcher of old homeless men/women who probably only needed a meal and a warm bed and a nap, and realizing they were VERY busy, I came to a stopping place in my book and finished my thermos of coffee and ate my apple, the later only after moving several chairs down the row from DOB’s wheeled chair, far enough to diminish the smell of ripe urine enough to swallow bites of apple. Then:

UCC:  We don’t have to stay here, you know. Mother may be hungry, and may need to change her diaper, and may feel just fine now, and besides the day’s half over and I didn’t get the first load of laundry in and several more ibids and ibids while we gravely considered our options and checklists.

Rolling out DOB in the wheelchair while TCG tags along in his walker so I have to open doors, I leave them on the curb and walk a few blocks to where I parked after dropping TCG at the ER door. We get home.

DOB:  I don’t know what happened, ibid, ibid and fucking ibid.

TCG:  Huff and puff and glad we didn’t stay.

WISIMN:  Yeah, now I can get back to the laundry, after I make lunch for DOB, make sure she takes her pills, take my own pills, and perform the standard checklist of one-on-one attention TCG requires after stressful event like this. Note: the checklist doesn’t include a reminder about how we agreed the next time she goes to the hospital, we’re not bringing her back into our house. Oh, wait. I remember now. You will conveniently ignore that with the same degree of expertise you ignore anyfuckingthing else I ask you to actually fuckingDO.