TEETH WITH AN HILARIOUS SPECIAL COMMENT FOLLOWUP — Marilyn Armstrong

Because maybe you’re wondering, Garry had two extractions today. It was supposed to be one, but it turned out to be two and the $200 turned into slightly more than $500. CareCredit, we’re back!

We went to our dentist’s office and the specialist who had come in for the extraction didn’t feel comfortable doing it.

So they called another oral surgery and we drove 50 miles to the edge of Boston metro-west. It turned out the tooth adjacent to the tooth that was rotten was brown and falling apart. Even with a filling, it would maybe — with good luck — last a year and then fall apart.

A falling apart tooth is not a tidy event like an extraction. It crumbles or shatters and can take months for all the shards to finally work their way out of the gum. Not fun.

So I said “You should pull it. It’s dying anyway, so let’s get it done before it becomes even more complicated.” Garry agreed. You can’t see it anyway. It’s on the side, so his lovely smile will not be ruined.

Even with a triple whammy shot of Novocain, it still hurt. The abscess was sitting on a nerve and no amount of local anesthetic was going to entirely numb it. He was trying to be very Marine Corp about it, but this was one of these “mind-over-matter doesn’t always work” events.

We’re back home. Our faithless GPS sent us home by “the short route” which takes twice as long as the “longer” way and sends you through every one-lane town. It was nice to see the trees changing. It would have been nicer had it not been raining.

Tomorrow, it’s me and the Pacemaker specialist for much of the day.

Meanwhile, while we were trekking the slow roads of Massachusetts, Owen was removing trash from the house — including that big box that had my writing in it. I guess I’m not going to find that script fo “Fall of Sauron Day.” Oh well. At least the basement is empty. We’ve got two dehumidifiers running, trying to get the dampness out. It has been a wet year.

Garry should be okay now. He’s on the equivalent of baby food for the next few days. And ice packs. He can have cold drinks, but nothing hot. No citrus — lemonade, OJ, or grapefruit juice is too acidic — but other stuff is okay.

Maybe it won’t rain all day tomorrow and maybe we won’t be at the doctor’s office all day so I can get a few pictures. It is ironic that Garry, the most dedicated tooth cleaner anywhere, is the one with problems. Not to worry. My turn will come again.


AND A FOLLOWUP COMMENTARY TO PUT IT ALL INTO PERSPECTIVE:


John Corcoran, Jr.
to Garry, me

Garry and Marilyn,

Total empathy. Been there, done that. My most memorable dental experience is so seared into my brain I remember it like it was yesterday. In fact, it was about 50 years ago. I was a wee pup — well a USAF second lieutenant.

One of the benefits of being in the service is if you get a horrific toothache, the military would cheerfully provide you with a dentist to extract it, or if one wasn’t handy, a civil engineer.

I had what is known as an “impacted wisdom tooth with a side of abscess.” My “dentist” received his training at the Ghengis Khan University of Dentistry and Yard Work.

He loaded me up with a few Novocain shots, then grabbed his ball-peen hammer and a set of clamp-nose pliers and immediately set to work. As soon as he began, I commented: “Aiiiiyeeeee.”

Since many metal implements, his fat mitts, and at least one of his feet were in my mouth at the time, he interpreted my screams to mean “Please continue.” My follow up shouts of pain and agony eventually got him to stop. He then brought out a new tray full of Novocain-filled syringes and unloaded them into my pie-hole.

“That should do yuh,” he said. It didn’t.

After a few seconds to let it soak in, he resumed pulling and I resumed shouting in agony. It didn’t help that the roots of my wisdom tooth went very deep. My orthopedist later estimated they ended up just below my femur.

Here’s the deal. I learned afterword, from another dentist, that they should first clear up the abscess with antibiotics — this may take a few days — and then yank the offending pearly. My uncivil engineer didn’t do that obviously, and it was the most excruciating pain I’ve ever felt. And I have gout.

The second dentist told me the abscess likely neutralized the Novocain (I’d had about ten shots) and I essentially had a tooth extracted without a working anesthetic. There was only one upside. Perhaps filled with guilt, my torturer wrote me a prescription for a big, big bottle of codeine-based pain-killers. I finished the last one Tuesday.

So, Garry, I hope you got the good stuff, and you’ll be all better soon. And Marilyn, thanks for a lovely piece.

Best,

Cork


AND THE ANSWER TO THE ANSWER:

Cork, shame on you. You got me (and) Marilyn laughing. Laughter isn’t the r/x here tonight. Not for me, at least.

I wore my USMC sweatshirt today so that made me very “special”. As the road gang worked on my mouth, one of them said: “He’s tough. He can take it.” I guess they were deaf and didn’t hear my screams. They didn’t see my legs flopping up and down.

I must confess they gave me 3 local shots to calm me down. I could feel them chipping at the dead tooth atop the abscessed tooth. It sounded like Dragline and the boys keeping the man with no eyes happy.

I kept waiting for Strother Martin to come in and tell me there was a failure to communicate. Of course, there was. I sounded like Boraxo’s Old Ranger from Death Valley days. One of the winsome aides kept stroking my arm as if that would make it all go away. She looked like Flora Robson so no luck there.

I must admit my GP (Sam Jaffe) gave me antibiotics last week to make things easier. Helped some, I admit, but not nearly enough. I tried to mentally escape but it was no go. I couldn’t conjure up a suitable fantasy.

I kept hearing them jack-hammering inside my mouth. I shudda taken off my cochlear implant and my hearing aid. I could HEAR everything they were saying, including “This is a tougher job than expected.”I guess I postponed the happy-hour for the dentist and his aides.

When the deed was finally done, dead tooth removed and abscess cleaned out, I remained hazy and woozy as in days of old when we conferenced at the local pub.

Sure enough, as I Walter Brennaned my way out of the room, one of the older aides smiled and said, “It was a pleasure. I grew up watching you on TV.”

That’s a wrap.

Vince Edwards

WE MADE IT – Marilyn Armstrong

The first thought I had this morning was “The phone is ringing. Answer the phone.”

Getting to the phone from bed is a stretch and a twist. I could make it easier if I moved my Disney “Someday my Prince will come” lamp. But this would also make it more difficult to turn the lamp on and off. Since I use my lamp more often than I answer my phone, the phone stays put.

Regardless, answering a ringing phone from a dead sleep is one of my more acrobatic moves. Most times, when it rings early in the day, it is either a telemarketer or a doctor’s office reminding me about an appointment. This time, it was a friend from whom I was glad to hear.

“Hey, Rob!” I said. You’ve got to love Caller ID.

“I’m alive,” he said. He sounded great. Considering he had just had two heart valves replaced during the previous week, that’s not such a small thing. I was amazed, delighted and impressed he sounded so perky and clear-headed.

Rob goes way back into the early teenage years of my life. We met at the college radio station. He was 13. I was 17. I felt very superior since I was obviously four years more mature than he was.

He always had a baby face, full of freckles. He still does, though the hair has become mixed with gray. Our lives have continued to intersect throughout the decades. When he was 14, he got cancer. He was treated. Went into remission. Decided to skip college because he figured he was going to die young.

Not.

He taught himself computer programming and morphed into a software developer. He learned to fly. Bought a small plane. I got to fly it too, even though it was a pretend flight as “co-pilot.”

It was fun, scary, and made me realize I love to fly. As a passenger. No piloting for me, unless I can grow my own wings.

He went to live in Brussels. I went to live in Jerusalem. Both of us came back and got married. My first husband — with whom we were all friends because he ran the college radio station where we met died following a mismanaged mitral valve replacement. I was married to Garry by then, having met Garry at that same radio station.

No exaggeration. Everything started there.

First dawn of spring 2017

So you can see why everyone in our crowd is more than normally nervous about heart valve replacements, even though Jeff’s death was at least partly his fault though I think more the result of an arrogant doctor who failed to take fundamental precautions during post-operative care.

Hearing from Rob was heartening. He had two valves replaced, the mitral and the aortic. He had previously, some years back, had a coronary bypass, so he was a little cranky this surgery. He takes exceptionally good care of himself — and his wife, Mira, would personally fight back death with her bare hands. I wouldn’t mess with her.

We had talked several times about surgeons, hospitals, mechanical versus tissue valves. I explained why I preferred tissue. No blood thinners and with all the other medical issues I’ve got, who needs to deal with potential bleeding issues too? Rob is not exactly free of other medical problems, either. He’s got his original cancer lurking. He will never run out of things to worry about.

Nonetheless, he sounded terrific. Alert. Alive. He had made it. If you live around here and you need serious heart surgery, I highly recommend Beth Israel. They are terrific. If there’s such a thing as a great hospital experience, you will have it there. I don’t say this lightly, having been resident in pretty much every one of Boston’s highly-regarded facilities.

It was deeply reassuring to not lose another friend. Given how small our “herd” has become, we try to grow closer. Because now, we really know time isn’t forever.

We are a strange herd of oddballs — musicians, writers, artists, mathematicians and more. Long may we live.

ONE THING I DID NOT WANT TO BE – Rich Paschall

Old, by Rich Paschall

When you think of all the things you want to be when you grow up, “old” probably is not on the list.  You may think about being a doctor or nurse.  You may consider lawyer or politician.  Fireman or police officer may be on your list.  In fact, in your elementary school days you may have changed your mind many times. It is OK to dream about the future and fantasize about what you should do some day.

If superhero is on your list, you may have to give that one up rather quickly, unless you are Robert Downey, Jr.  He is still playing Iron Man past the ripe old age of 50.  I guess that is a commentary on keeping yourself in good shape.  Of course, he is just play acting, like we do as kids, and he certainly has a stunt double.  Your own life does not come with a stunt double, sorry.

If we give it any thought at all while we are young, of course we want to live a long life.  Therefore, we do want to get old.  If accident or disease does not rob us of life too soon, then we will indeed get old.  It is all the things that go with it that I am not too pleased about.

Contemplating the years
Contemplating the years as the sun sets.

I did notice the changes in my grandparents as they got older.  I am certain that I threaded needles for both my grandmothers at some point in time.  I knew they could not see as well as when they were younger, but I never thought about that being me some day.  Yes, I can still thread a needle, but I probably have to hold it at just the right distance in order to do so.  In fact, I really need trifocals, but I have settled for two pair of bifocals instead.  The bottom part is the same on each, but one pair is strictly for the computer.  The top part of the glasses are set to optimize the view from where the monitor should be, a little more than arm’s distance away.

This is not fooling anyone, of course, not even myself.  People can see I switch glasses in order to see.  I should have gotten the same style glasses so it would be less obvious.  When I am on Skype, and can see myself back on the screen, I really do not like the look but I am stuck with them for a while.  At least glasses have gotten better and these are not as thick or heavy as ones I wore years ago.

72-LensCrafters-Auburn-Mall_22

As my grandfather got older, I noticed he sometimes used a cane to help him get up, or walk around.  When he was in his 80’s, he never left the house without the cane.  He just might have too much trouble walking while he was away. Sometimes when I walk past a window or mirror, I think for just a moment the reflection I see is my father or grandfather.  My stepmother once said that I should take it as a complement that people see me as my father, since he was so handsome, but I began to think they saw me as they saw him later in life.  That is, old.

When you see pictures of me, you generally will not see the cane.  I set it down for the shot.  Years ago my doctor sent me to a sports medicine guy for a foot problem of still undetermined origin.  Maybe I was playing sports in the park long after a time when I should have moved on.  Maybe I suffered some trauma that came back to get me.  Maybe it was related to some disease I contracted.  In any case, I had it operated on, which did not help.  Years later I had another operation.  That did not help either.  I had many procedures in between.  Was it just an issue of getting older?  We will never know for sure.

I have heard it said that the aches and pains we feel as we get older are not a natural part of life and we should not just accept them.  Perhaps some accept them when they could feel better, but I have never accepted them.  I have spent a good deal of time getting to know my doctor and all that goes on in his business.  Yes, I might as well interview him a little, he interviews me a lot.  Together we have looked for solutions to my various problems.

The Gabapentin for the foot nerve pain does not seem to eliminate the problem, even if it lessens it.  The Lidocaine patch may numb the pain, but I cut the patch down because a completely numb foot is not a good thing for walking and creates a dull pain, which actually is not much better than a sharp pain.

My doctor does not like my diet or my cholesterol.  He seems to cast a skeptical eye at my insistence that I watch the cholesterol rating on the food I buy.  That does not include restaurant food, however.  Or what John cooks for dinner.  Statins did not work.  They created muscle and joint pain I could not stand.  The non-statin anti-cholesterol pills are not as effective, but hold less side effects, apparently.  Other problems and medications have come and gone. Parts wear out, you know.

Recently a high school class mate of mine wrote to say he had finally gotten in to a senior center he had applied for a while ago.  He had a variety of health issues in recent years and needed to get into such a community.  I wrote back that I could not imagine that any of us would be talking Senior Center, because it seemed like just a few years ago we were in high school together.

With any luck at all, old age will catch you some day.  You will probably feel it coming.

Related: Share If You Are Old Enough To Remember (humor)
To Not Grow Old Gracefully (Sunday Night Blog)

BRAIN DEATH AND FIBROMYALGIA – Marilyn Armstrong

I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia almost 20 years ago, but it never flattened me the way it has this time around. I’d like to blame the whole thing on Donald Trump. In fact, I think I am going to blame it all on him. He has raised the national stress level to such a degree that we have an actual national epidemic of high blood pressure and overall stress.

For the past six weeks, I’ve been too exhausted to function at any normal level. Unfortunately, life doesn’t stop because you’re not dealing with it well. Life charges on, crawls along, limps, wheezes and generally somehow or other gets the job — whatever it is — done. This has been a rough one.

I have been so tired that all I want to do is sleep. Except that sleep is difficult at the best of times and this is not the best of times.

According to the Mayo Clinic

Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals.

Symptoms sometimes begin after a physical trauma, surgery, infection or significant psychological stress. In other cases, symptoms gradually accumulate over time with no single triggering event.

Women are more likely to develop fibromyalgia than are men. Many people who have fibromyalgia also have tension headaches, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, and depression.

There is no cure for fibromyalgia, although a variety of medications can help control symptoms. Exercise, relaxation and stress-reduction measures can also help.

Widespread pain

The pain associated with fibromyalgia often is described as a constant dull ache. I think it has long passed dull pain and moved into higher thresholds but that’s just my opinion and not having a medical degree, what do I know? Oh, and it has to have lasted for at least three months. Do years count? To be considered widespread, the pain must occur on both sides of your body and above and below your waist.

You have no idea how much I hate being asked how much pain I’m in. It brings out my violent streak.

Fatigue

People with fibromyalgia often get up tired even though they have slept for long periods. Sleep is often disrupted by pain. Many patients with fibromyalgia have other sleep disorders, such as restless legs syndrome and sleep apnea.

Discovering you’ve forgotten how to think

A symptom commonly referred to as “fibro fog” impairs the ability to focus, pay attention and concentrate on mental tasks. Writing one or more posts a day has really been difficult. I feel like my brain is packed in cotton-wool.

Although no one knows exactly what causes fibromyalgia, it most likely involves a variety of factors working together, typically arthritis (rheumatoid, osteoarthritis, or both), IBS, insomnia, etc. Since fibromyalgia can be triggered by psychological stress, I blame Hizzoner.

Why does it hurt?

Researchers believe repeated nerve stimulation causes the brains of people with fibromyalgia to change. This involves an abnormal increase in brain neurotransmitters. Also, the brain’s pain receptors develop a sort of memory of the pain and become more sensitive, meaning they overreact to pain signals.

Fibromyalgia is diagnosed more often in women than in men. If you have osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, you are more likely to develop fibromyalgia. I have two out of three. So far, I’m missing lupus, but the future holds unlimited hope.

Complications

The pain and lack of sleep associated with fibromyalgia can interfere with your ability to function at home or on the job. The frustration of dealing with an often-misunderstood condition also can result in depression and health-related anxiety. Many doctors don’t seem to “get” the link between fibro and emotional overreaction.

I don’t see any problem connecting the dots between being in pain (everywhere), exhaustion, lack of sleep, and a feeling pissed off about pretty much everything. Mostly, I’m pissed about feeling so crappy and trying to somehow manage life anyway because it doesn’t take a pass while you recover.

So I figure, why not blame it on Orange Head? I loathe the bastard anyway, so it’s got to be his fault.

Why am I writing this?

I’m having a lot of trouble keeping up with life. I’m tired. I feel dull and stupid. It’s hard for me to read. It’s hard to think. I feel unusually awkward, clumsy — as if I’m always on the verge of falling down. So if I’m not reading as many posts or for that matter, writing as well as I think I should, all I can do is blame it on my dying brain.

And Orange Head.

THE STRETCHY BITS – Marilyn Armstrong

“Oh,” said the doctor on television. “It’s just a strain. Nothing to worry about.”

I always laugh, without much mirth when I hear that and you hear it often. If a bone isn’t broken, if your head hasn’t been bashed in, no one had a heart attack or brain aneurysm, it’s “No big deal.” Most people break.

I do not break. I stretch. I have never broken a bone — not counting my big toe which I broke diving into the water with my toes pointed, something I only did once. Talk about stupid.

I’ve done a ton of damage by stretching, banging, bruising and generally disarranging parts in and around some kind of joint (knees, fingers, feet, ankles, chest, shoulder, wrist, etc.). You non-medical people might be surprised at how many joints we have, many of which are really tiny.

Nonetheless, it’s official. A sprain is no big deal because all the doctors on television said so. We nod like good viewers.

Strains, sprains, and pulls are harder to heal than breaks. Bones usually heal, but cartilage, tendons, ligaments, muscles may heal and then again,  maybe won’t. All those stretchy pieces are in places that can’t be conveniently set. Ribs. Chest walls. Joints. Knees, hips, backs, groins. Ankles, feet, hands. Spines.

You can’t wrap these human parts in plaster or whatever they are using these days because the parts to which they are attached have to move. You break a small bone in your foot — common among hikers, skaters, skiers, runners — and while you can put a boot on the foot or a brace on the knee, you can’t lock it in place. It has to move because there are attached things that need to move.

We are all connected with strings

Your chest needs to move because you need air. When I was just out of the hospital, I asked how long it would take my sternum to heal.

“Three months,” they said.

Five months later I asked, “Really, how long before my chest heals?”

“Six months,” they assured me.

Five years later, it has not healed. The truth is, you can’t make it heal. There’s no magical medical voodoo that will make anything heal. Bones usually heal — but not always. Those stretchy bits are even less cooperative.

Anatomy. Knee Joint Cross Section Showing the major pieces which make the knee joint. I had the meniscus removed years ago. That was nothing. A bandaid!

When I tore all the ligaments and tendons on my left knee — just about 50 years ago — they wrapped me in plaster from thigh to ankle. I was young and everything healed except the anterior Crucis ligament — which has remained torn. Only surgery will fix it and the surgery doesn’t always work. It was considered a 50-50 bet when I was in my 20s and I turned down the option.

Maybe they’ve improved how they do it now, but since they can’t make my chest heal, I’m betting it’s the same story now. They just work with different equipment. They won’t even try to fix the stretched ligaments in my right shoulder. Healing is slow at my age.

I don’t get repaired. Instead, I am told I have to be more careful.

Exactly how careful can I be beyond how careful I already am? All it takes is a shoe catching on a rug, a damp spot on the floor, a dog underfoot, or getting tangled in my own feet. Garry fell trying to put on his pants and all I did was hit a slightly damp patch on the linoleum floor. We weren’t trying to climb mountains or run the marathon.

Design of the shoulder (Garry had this surgery)

Strains may not kill you, but they sure can limit you. It took me years to remember to not fully extend my right arm or it would dislocate the shoulder. More years to remember to put my feet down carefully so my knee wouldn’t slide out from under me. One error, one little fall, and you are back where you were.

It is extremely frustrating, not to mention painful. But really, the pain is less of a problem than the aggravation. There nothing you can do but let that piece of you rest until it decides to feel better.

I’d like to point out that a strain is not less painful than a break or a sprain and is far less likely to heal properly. Strains are like taking the elastic in your pants and stretching it beyond its ability to come back to the correct size. So you either have to replace it (in a human being, that’s called surgery) or throw your luck into the strength of a safety pin.

I often believe we haven’t been strung together with sturdy enough materials. I know I could use a major restringing.

YESTERDAY WHEN MY WORLD WAS YOUNG – Garry Armstrong

No, I didn’t pick the wrong day to give up sniffing glue!

If you write, professionally or just for fun, you’ll probably understand.  I’m trying to set down the words that have been conga dancing in my brain as I just showered and shaved. I probably shouldn’t have shaved because my fingers kept poking my brain in rhythmic harmony.

It’s the end of a truly bad week for Marilyn and me. We’re sharing a bug that includes migraine headaches, queasy stomachs and bodies lurching from one room to another.

Our Vineyard house

It’s the capper to a week where Marilyn has been battling the insurance company to pay for repairs to our house battered by the spate of recent storms and very vulnerable to the next storm on the horizon.  You’ll be shocked to hear that the Insurance Company is stonewalling us, oblivious to damage documented by one of their investigators and tone-deaf to our meager social security and pensions that cannot pay for the repairs.

As we assess the latest debate by the Democratic Presidential wannabees and aren’t as excited about a viable candidate to oppose the guy now squatting in the White House, we are staring at each other, two seventy-something wunderkinds, wondering how quickly we slid from the top of our game to “seniors.”

What happened to the world of youth, energy, and expectations?

Back deck Vineyard house. Did a lot of drinking back there. Eating. And reading. It used to have a huge rope hammock.

My bathroom conga line of memories, with bongoes banging on my brains, was back in the ’70s and ’80s. I was living in Boston, in my prime as a TV reporter with earnings that promised to rise with no end in sight. Life was a  pulsating 24-hour trip that kept recycling.

Work and play blended seamlessly. Everyone was young with boundless energy. I slept little, worked hard, and played harder. I paid little attention to health or finances. My pockets were always full.

I had a tendency to forget life wasn’t like that for most other people.

Those days of wine and roses were most obvious during my Martha’s Vineyard summers. There were more than 20 magical summers with other media friends who shared a house. We had the kind of life you thought only existed in F. Scott Fitzgerald novels.

The wine never stopped flowing. My box of unpaid credit card bills, growing in volume, sat ignored as I plied myself with more of that feel-good liquid.

Best of all, the summer Sundays. I was usually up with the roosters. A tall bloody Mary and the Sunday papers to peruse slowly. The sports section came first. Baseball box scores studied with the scrutiny of a lifetime fan whose life revolved around the fate of the Boston Red Sox.

Looking down on the Sound

The Bloody Mary intake accelerated as I looked at the stats of Yaz, Rice, Lynn, Pudge, Dewey, and the other Fenway bats.  I would always need to strengthen the drinks to pace myself — absorbing the gaudy numbers of the sons of Teddy Ballgame.

The numbers were always robust during the New England summers when home runs battered the old cathedral of baseball. The bloody Marys now had me dreaming that this would be the year the Sox would finally defeat those damn Yankees.

I gave little attention to the Sox pitching which was wise. Even with the alcoholic bliss. I thought that fall we’d hold the lead and not succumb to the chill of autumn and the Yankees’ superior pitching. I always ignored the suggestion of friends to eat a little something to balance out the alcohol which had been replaced by Cape Codders. Then, as sunset crept across the Vineyard, moving on to a sturdy rum with just a dash of coke.

All was blissful as someone started the barbecue in the backyard which faced Nantucket Sound.

We rarely talked about work. Our TV jobs were in another world where the less fortunate continued to toil while we played. As twilight faded into warm evenings, we would sit on the back porch, staring at Nantucket Sound. There was a mutual agreement: “We were living the dream.”

Vineyard art

I gave little thought to my future. Life was now. In the moment. If you worked in TV news, there was always a collective fear someone would call, demanding we leave our reverie and cover some breaking news – murder, fire, weather, or another politician’s dirty laundry uncovered.

We often ignored the phone. That was the world before computers and cell phones made it impossible to hide. Now and then, we did ponder a future. Maybe a communal home on the Vineyard for our lives in retirement.  Those idle thoughts were lost in the pungent haze that floated above the back porch. In my mind, I could see a vague future. Lots of free time, good health, and no money worries.

I figured I’d always look the way I seemed to look for so many years. No worries. I’d always be “the kid.” I smiled to myself. Another rum with a hint of coke and I was ready for dreams about a world I figured would always be good to us.

Things promised to get only better when Marilyn came back into my life, solidifying our relationship that began in college when LBJ was president. Marriage began a new chapter in my life. Little did I envision how the future would change life’s trajectory.

All the things I’d ignored awaited us. I had a lot of maturing to do as reality began to check-in. There would be the termination of a job I thought would go on forever. The joys and nightmares of homeownership in a misty mid-region valley. A plethora of health issues that almost took Marilyn’s life.

A wakeup call for me about my own health issues, finding recovery and the backbone to be a dependable spouse. Facing survival in a world I never thought I’d see.

POSTSCRIPT: I finally put a cork in the bottle on December 7th, 2004. I’ll always be grateful to Marilyn and my family for the support, patience, and encouragement as life seemed to be going down the drain for me.

Now, I celebrate those olden days with raspberry lime rickey and lemonade mixed with ginger ale. All current problems notwithstanding, I’m a lucky guy. And I’ve still got a working liver!

THE JOY OF MEDICARE – Marilyn Armstrong

I belong to Blue Cross Blue Shield Advantage Value Added PPO group, which is a Medicare plan that offers extras but costs just a tiny bit more than basic Medicare.

Last night, in a moment of mindless stupidity, I decided to register for my medical plan. Usually, I just call them, but it was after hours and I just wanted to look up the price of a  medication. Which I could do online. If I registered.

This is the cutest little Tufted Titmouse I think I’ve ever seen.

No big deal, right? Fill in the form and voila, registered. Medicare was even easier. You could just call them and do it all by phone. I think it took me all of 10 minutes to register for Medicare in the five years I had straight Medicare before I switched to the BCBS Value Advantage plan.

I entered most of the registration information at which point I was told that I had “timed out” and would have to do it again. So I tried to do it again BUT it would not let me because it already had my ID and password — basically everything except my Medicare number.

The gallant Tufted Titmouse – He’s blue and yellow!

I have a week coming up of major medical exams — heart and head and back and more about my eyes.

I was going to die as a result of software glitches. I could cope with being eaten by an alligator or a Gila monster … but SOFTWARE? Seriously?

I tried to call them to fix it but got the “closed for the weekend” message. Starting October 1, they are open 24/7, but this isn’t October. Close, but no cookie. I ultimately discovered that the databank is closed all weekend because they are setting up for the incoming members for 2020, but I didn’t know that until later.

Finally, I finally managed to connect with someone who informed me that my membership had expired.

What?

Expired?

I pay my Medicare/BCBS advantage plan straight out of Social Security. When I was told I belonged to Aetna, not BCBS, I gurgled. I’ve never worked with Aetna AND. I had the BCBS card in my hand. It was blue, blue, and blue. A Blue Cross. A Blue Shield. A blue card. All the ink was blue. \

I had the wrong department and the person I was talking to didn’t have any idea what was going on. I’m not even sure she knew was software is. The right department was closed until Monday and I have a doctor’s appointment early in the day.

By now, after 2 am. I was tired. I knew I’d be even more tired by morning. At this point, all I now wanted was an assurance I was signed up and hadn’t somehow inadvertently or via glitchily cancelled my medical plan.

Forget the price of medications. I was too tired to keep on keeping on, so this morning I got up and called the number that was supposed to work, but it was closed until Monday. Of course.

I also got transferred a lot, but at least not disconnected. Everyone was enormously polite, friendly, and unable to help me. At all.  Of course, no one mentioned that the databank was down, too. That was the guy at Medicare who told me. How come HE knew but the people at BlueCross didn’t know?

One Titmouse and a Chickadee. They will share the feeder … but from opposite sides and they never touch.

I was getting increasingly frustrated. So after I had coffee in hand, I tried calling in a prescription. I figured if I wasn’t signed up, they’d tell me because my card wouldn’t go through. Nope. It went through fine, no problem. Not only did it go through fine, but it went through for a medication that had no refills left. I have to call back and make sure she has the right number. Regardless, it was the first good news of the day.

Having tried every single number for BlueCross and getting nothing but people who didn’t seem able to access my type of BCBS care, I chanced upon the 24/7 number for Medicare. Even though I have an Advantage plan, it’s still a version of Medicare, so one way or the other, I had nothing to lose by trying.

And this is why I love Medicare. Not merely are they REALLY open 24/7 all year long, but they are consistently helpful, polite, and cooperative. If they don’t have the answer, they will find it, no matter how long it takes. And they never put me on hold.

I explained that I had had a software glitch with BlueCross and with an early doctor’s appointment Monday, I didn’t want to find myself dying due to a computer glitch. That would be too pathetic.

The guy at Medicare checked and said, “Don’t worry. There’s no problem. You are paid up and everything works.

So for all you people who are afraid of Medicare? Don’t be. It’s great. It really isn’t one of those messed up government agencies. In fact, I am convinced it is the ONLY government agency where everything actually works just like it is supposed to work.

Now at least I know I would not die from bad software and be buried in an Amazon box.

You all will LOVE Medicare. I promise.

To make things even better? The birds have already begun to return. There was a flock of Tufted Titmouses on the feeder this morning. Where there’s a Titmouse, can the American Goldfinch be far behind?