Thursday, April 28, 2011

One Man's Junk

Finally, a lesson out of this has burned through and instead of simply waiting in the path of the next avalanche, I have actually checked on conditions and avoided another disaster that was building up and ready to release furiously.

So simple, so counter to my nature.

Recently, I received a pretty new plastic card for my health insurance. Instead of tucking it into my wallet with the casual observation that the Three Marketeers had renovated the color scheme, a closer look informed me it was a completely new program.

Apparently, through a shift in policy, the data in and the data out, some one or some computer (more likely) judged my income (or lack thereof) justified a switch from a state subsidized program to outright Medicaid. For most, this would make little difference and likely improve their cash flow with food on the kitchen table. After a day or two in the back of my head, however, it dawned on me that I should probably double-check on their coverage to see how this might affect my surgery next month.

Sure enough, ten laborious calls later, it was confirmed that no way, no how would the Massachusetts hospital accept the Vermont payment, even if Vermont was willing to pay for something that could, in theory, be provided here. The clerical detail nearly cost me another year of frustration and discomfort.

Now there are plenty here likely thinking, “Duh!”, wondering why I would be proud not just to discover and act on this, but celebrating the fact I thought of it at all. I got a lot of that last June when the insurance behemoth determined the day before surgery that my condition was pre-existing and would not be covered. All I can say is that living alone and often uncomfortable in body, it is not always easy to see the stain on the back of my shirt when I go to put it on.

Perhaps it bodes more about my deeper confusion in life, but with all the pointless junk and recognizable bills in the mail, I find it difficult to uncover and scrutinize such notices of import. The details easily slip through the fingers as I continue to wrap my wobbly tube around my aching belly and pretend to live a normal life.

A friend who knew of my plight, but had not seen me in thirty years, commented politely when we met again last week that I look normal enough. I have been wondering ever since what “normal” really looks like.

In those same thirty years, a mutual friend was crushed in a wave while playfully body-surfing and leads on the surface today a wonderful normality with a commute to the office, daughters in college and a lasting marriage many of us could envy. Dealing for the rest of his life with more tubes and bags than I will ever suffer, he modestly shrugs his shoulders without complaint.

Often I visit people in decrepit homes, listing precariously on building blocks instead of sturdy foundations, yards strewn with what looks like trash to me, too weary to notice on their big screen TV that a better life could be theirs. Still, they laugh, celebrate, and love their children, happy enough and as normal as long days that end with the night just for another day to follow.

Judgment of another is most inappropriate and likely unfair. We cannot really know what fears and challenges beat at the hearts of our friends, family and neighbors. Acceptance of who they are and help for what they tell us they need are the true gifts we can extend. Pity is more about our own petty fears.

So I go forward towards this surgery regardless of others who have tubes or not, who seem better or worse. Comparisons are about as useless as the pity that some one well-meaning might lay on me. I yam what I yam, eat what I eat, and drive the ugly little Redster because it still works for now.

I could put down this pen and go clean it out properly. Some things are within our grasp.

Every day, there are piles before us that can be moved from here to there. Some piles make a difference and open a path to the doorway beyond. Others are just so many piles of dirty laundry moved around, dishes left in the sink, half-opened envelopes with important messages strewn across my desk.

With eyes wide open occasionally, we can recognize there is more to see than just the change in color.

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