Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Big One

The Big One

Today I was scared. I mean, really really scared. The kind of scared that they can't portray in the horror movies.

It all happened when I went to return those important letters I found in my kitchen clutter. The ones that belonged to my mother. The ones with the check from the title company. And the insurance policy. And the deed to the house my mother just bought.  Or something like that.
My mother moved in across the street 4 months ago. On Christmas Eve. Not a week has gone by since then that she doesn't tell me about how she “almost died in the night” or how she “thinks this is a cancer" on her arm or how her “heart is racing.” She is 77 years old. And in poor health. And that is why she moved closer. So that we could help take care of her. 

Problem is, it isn't easy.  Her health care plan in Arizona didn't work in Utah.  Except for going to the emergency room.  Which we did once.  When she was having chest pains.  They did a bunch of tests, but decided she had not had a heart attack.  Upon releasing her, they admonished her to meet with her primary care doctor.

But she didn't have a primary care doctor.  She didn't have health care in Utah!

Figuring out how to change her Medicare Advantage plan over to a plan valid in Utah proved MUCH harder than doing taxes.  Choosing WHICH plan was also a form of rocket science.  When she finally decided on a plan, the company's representative turned out to be a little man older than my mother!  He came over to help her fill out the forms.  Forms he didn't know how to fill out.  She had to correct him several times.  He brought his paperwork in a box.  Not a folder.  Not a briefcase.  A cardboard box.  When the forms were filled out (questionably so,) he asked HER for an envelope....and then for a stamp!  We were never sure what his role in the sign-up process was, but he did earn $200 for enrolling her.  And he looked like he probably needed the money.

The next task was finding her a primary care doctor.  She had been given a booklet with lists of plan doctors in it.  But that wasn't very straightforward.  The names of the clinics were listed separately from the doctors.  And each city in the state had it's own listings.  Only some cities were combined.  And each doctor was listed by specialty.  Only some crossed over.  And several different kinds of doctors were allowed to be her primary care physician.  And then a little star by their name meant they were board certified.  We didn't want to go to one that wasn't!  Finally she chose one that looked like a good doctor.

When she called for an appointment, their soonest opening was 3 months away.  She asked about some other doctors at that same clinic.  She was told they were all 3 months out, too.  In disbelief, she hung up without making the appointment.  She was going to call a different doctor at a different clinic.  But that never happened.  So her health remains a BIG concern and is ever-presently on my mind.

Then today I decide to take her the important papers that I have been apparently hoarding. I walk over to her house, ring the doorbell and then let myself in, calling out to tell her it is just me. I have a key so that she doesn't have to get up to answer the door. The system has worked fine for 4 months now.

But today, she doesn't answer. I call out louder. Still no answer. In the back of the house, I can hear the TV going. Raising my voice even louder, I walk past her bedroom and see that she isn't there. I walk past the bathroom. She isn't in there. I arrive in the family room where the TV is blaring loudly. At first I don't see her. All this time, I've been shouting for her. Louder and louder. Announcing that I am there.

Then, in horror, I see her body slumped on the couch. Just slumped. I practically scream at her. No movement. Panicking and thinking that this is just the way it happens in the movies, I try one last desperate scream before I will have to go over and touch her and discover my mother is dead.

Squinting her eyes and yawning, she sits up and blinks at me. She reaches for the remote and turns off the TV.

Mom! You scared me! I've been screaming and screaming at you and you wouldn't wake up! I thought you were D E A D!!!”

Oh, what time is it?”


Why did you wake me? Now I won't be able to get back asleep for the rest of the day.”


I give her the important papers.  She lays them on a pile of old newspapers.  I leave.  My son asks me why I am breathing heavy when I get back to my house.

Because I'm SCARED. That's why.

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