BRING ON THE ANGRY MOBS! – Marilyn Armstrong

I’m mad at life. This is not what I planned. In fact, it’s not even close to what I had in mind. I was planning to go gently into my elder years, able to do whatever I always did, but perhaps a bit more slowly. Gray hairs which turned out to be white — about the only thing that worked out the way I planned.

But all the other stuff? Poverty and ill-health? The endless crumbling of the house? It’s just not fair!

I do not feel insightful, but I could probably incite a riot. I feel very non-insightful. Mostly, I’m pissed.

I want is to win a ton of money so I can not only fix the house, but improve it so that it’s comfortable for both of us. I want our lives for the first time ever to become easier.

My childhood was rough. Adulthood has been, to say the least, bumpy. Somehow, I thought as I wandered into Older Age, life would get easier. Those things we’ve always needed to do would slow and maybe even give up. We could relax, surrounded by our nurturing family who would take care of our needs and maybe even provide a few small luxuries.

That has not been exactly been how it has worked.

Meanwhile, I’m just pissed about the whole “getting old” thing. Why doesn’t someone else cook dinner? Why are we both still scrubbing and vacuuming and cleaning? Why does the house persist in requiring maintenance and repair even though we’ve already fixed it more than once? Isn’t there an “end” point when you don’t need to fix it anymore? What’s wrong with this picture?

I say let’s round up the angry mob and attack age. Who’s with me? If we can’t evade age, maybe we beat the crap out of it.

WHEN YOU GET TOO OLD TO BE COST-EFFECTIVE – Marilyn Armstrong

DISCOVERING I’M PART OF THE EMERGING DEMOCRATIC RESISTANCE (ALSO LEFTWING, SOCIALIST, AND NO DOUBT COMMUNIST)


If you have asthma or any kind of chronic medical problem that requires continuing care and medication, that’s the message you are getting. We have had a brief interruption during which almost everyone had access to at least basic medical resources. You could go to the doctor, get some medicine. Have your cancer removed, your broken leg treated. Now … well … who knows what lies ahead.

If you’re on Medicare, that’s the message you’ve been getting for a while already. Several years. They’ve been chipping away at the benefits. Fewer dollars for medication. Fewer covered medications. Deeper deductibles for tests. The out-of-pocket costs for an MRI or CAT-scan are ridiculous. Garry hasn’t had any major medical issues, but I’ve had enough for both of us.

Yet, I turned down a cancer CAT-scan last year because I didn’t have the $450 co-pay … and I’ve had cancer twice, so it wasn’t a decision made lightly.

medicare__estelle_carol___bob_simpsonMedicare doesn’t cover eyeglasses, dentures, dental care of any kind, CATscans, MRIs, or asthma inhalers. In the 1990s, when my asthma finally got bad enough to require treatment, a daily inhaler cost (without insurance) about $75. Which wasn’t cheap, but I could manage it, especially if I didn’t use it every day (no matter what the label advised).

One day, two or three years ago, the same Advair inhaler shot up to more than $500 a month. Medicare will only pay for about $12 of that price. Although they are not paying for it, they will charge the entire price of the medication against my annual drug benefit.

Let me repeat that because you probably think it doesn’t make any sense.

It doesn’t make sense, but it’s true. If a drug costs $535 per month and Medicare contributes $12, they charge all $535 against my annual drug benefit. The amount of the benefit has been dropping each year while medication prices have soared. This makes sense only if the real goal is to kill off the older generation.

In another bizarre but real piece of anti-intuitive reasoning, if you are prescribed a medication, towards the cost of which Medicare pays not a penny, and you pay for it out-of-pocket, Medicare still charges the entire price of the prescription against your benefit. “What?” you cry. Nonsensical, but true.

It’s a lose-lose. If you don’t get any medication, you will have trouble breathing. If you do get the medication, it’ll break the bank and burn through your benefits, even though Medicare isn’t contributing anything towards the cost.

It’s absurd and true.

medicare confusion

From the government’s point of view, I am not cost-effective. I am sure my compassionate government would prefer I cast off my mortal coil. Save them a few bucks.

Never mind that over a lifetime of work, Garry and I paid enough taxes to fund a small country. Our contribution vastly exceeded any amount we will get back. Even now, we aren’t exactly free-loaders. We pay income taxes, excise taxes, and some hefty property taxes. And Medicare, while not expensive (compared to no medical care), is not free.

Ever since I turned 65, it’s been downhill.

The day I turned 65, I was dumped by MassHealth (Medicaid). I hoped I’d be protected by my disabled status. I’d been on disability for years which was why I was entitled to MassHealth.

Medical marijuanaNo problem getting around that. Social Security reclassified me, eliminating my disabled status. Poof — I’m just old and not disabled.

They switched me to standard Social Security, so I get the same monthly check but without the extra medical protection conferred by disability or the other discounts on electricity and heating oil. They also lowered the poverty guideline so we no longer qualify for any extra help on anything — not fuel, medication, electricity and are not entitled to senior housing. In short, we get nothing. Because apparently when you turn 65, your costs go down. You don’t need money when you get old. Nice.

We’ve outlived our usefulness, so how come we aren’t dead? Why do we stubbornly cling to life? If we cared about our fellow humans, we’d get out of the way.

My doctor found some free samples of asthma medication so if I’m lucky, it will keep me breathing for another 6 months. Used cautiously and only when I’m really desperate.

As of today, we have a president — if you want to dignify him with that title — dedicated to making the lives of everyone whose life is already difficult, worse. Compassion, common decency, basic fairness? What? Huh?

medicine wheel 8

Today was the first time, I realized being a Democrat is not just being part of a political party, but makes me part of “the emerging Democratic resistance.”

I have to admit, being part of an emerging Democratic resistance sounds more romantic than just being old, sick, poor and not Republican. Maybe they’ll write books about us. Sing ballads. Talk about how brave we were right up until the moment when they put us up against the wall and shot us.

GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN HOPEFULLY – Marilyn Armstrong

Friday RDP: ABSENT


I couldn’t have chosen a better word for the day if I had tried.

Garry’s got another audiology appointment in about an hour and I have a doctor’s appointment in another section of the valley at three in the afternoon. Between one appointment and the other, we’ll be absent all day. By the time we get back, I’m pretty sure I’m not going to feel like writing more stuff.

These are two places that aren’t far apart, mind you — but there is no road that goes between Worcester and Upton. To get to Worcester, it’s north on Route 146 to 290, a quick right on Route 9 and voilà.

To get to Upton, you basically have to come all the way back to Uxbridge to pick up Route 16 and head east to Milford, then north to Upton. We have lots of north-south roads, but few east-west roads. No idea why.

Sometimes, living around here is very inconvenient. Getting old in a place that lacks basic services for older people is more and more difficult.

One of these issues is trash and recycling. I know we don’t have recycling locally. We also don’t have a dump and our trash people are having a very hard time finding places to put all that stuff.

Upwards toward Route 98

We’re going to recycle again because I live in hope that at least some of the stuff will actually get used to some better purpose, but I don’t hold out a lot of hope. New England does not have the services it needs to do this job right. Our dumps are full and have been for 100 years or more and it’s a small area without a lot of open lands to build more facilities.

It all costs money to recycle around here. Much of the recycling gets shipped overseas to whoever is actually recycling. It used to be China, but they seem to be overdosing on their own mess, so I have no idea where we are shipping it these days. I suspect it just lives on trucks and moves from one place to another and eventually gets dumped in the ocean or a river somewhere.

Garbage is going to kill us. How depressing is that?

The standard recycling bin here is an open bin with no wheels. Which would be impossible to get up the driveway to the road, so we are paying an extra two dollars a month to used a wheeled barrow to move the plastic bottles and cut-up cardboard every first and third Tuesday to the front. We did this before, but the truck never stopped to pick up the stuff. They kept saying we didn’t have it outside in time, but since we put it out the night before, that’s not true. They just didn’t stop. We were not on their agenda.

I’m hoping it works out better this time.

They will adjust our bill. We get the senior discount but we don’t get a senior assistance program, so we are still — no matter how old we get — required to push that barrel up that long driveway. Not me because I physically can’t do it, so it’s Garry. He’s 76 and I have this awful mental image of 90-year-old Garry pushing the trash up the hill in the middle of the winter or in the pouring rain.

It’s not a happy thought.

Of all the things that are annoying about getting old? Many of them seem like such small things until you realize you can’t do them. Suddenly, they aren’t so small.

So absent is the name of our day. I apologize, but I’ve been writing a lot more than I can manage. I will do the best I can … but if I can’t get it done, I apologize in advance.

I also can’t read and comment on everyone’s blog, even if I love you to death. I don’t have the time to even open all the blogs, much less comment on each. I try to at least take a look, but I’m out of time.

Life has entered our world. Blogging is great, but it won’t get us to the doctor on time or get the dog to the vet or clean the kitchen floor.

Life.

Can’t live with it. Can’t live without it.

RIGHT AS RAIN – Marilyn Armstrong

One of the ways I know I’ve gotten old is when someone goes missing, I’m afraid they are in the hospital or some other catastrophe has befallen them.

I worry about the fragility of the people in my world. My family. Garry. Me. The dogs. Online. Personally. Distant and nearby. To be fair, I also worry about the fragility of our planet, the insanity of our government, the likelihood of catastrophic climate change.

Fires. Dogs. Pretty much everything, come to think about it.

Rusty pickup truck

Almost every day, someone Garry worked with dies. Because he worked on TV, he usually finds out when they announce it on the air. I can see him wince when they announce the name on the local news. Mostly, we don’t go to funerals. There are too many and we’d be going to funerals all the time.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

I remember — probably like 40 years ago? — my mother said, “You know you are getting old when your friends start to die.” And sure enough, that’s exactly what is happening.

While I was pondering this, I realized that there’s another side to this which is (are you ready?) — we might live a really long time. Considering all the crap I’ve already gone through physically, I’m still alive and doing pretty well, all things considered. Garry is amazingly healthy with relatively minor creaks and groans … and both of us come from families that live long lives (but were not necessarily prosperous) …

We could live to 100. Or more.

Oh no! If we are going to live that long, the world better improve a lot. Soon.

I’m pretty sure a very long life might be almost as bad as eternal life — another appalling concept. I mean seriously, how many reruns could I possibly watch?

Meanwhile, we are right as rain. One quick question

Why is rain right?

READY TO INCITE? – Marilyn Armstrong

INSIGHT IS NOT INCITE – BUT THEY SOUND THE SAME


Sometimes, you just have to love this language. I do not feel insightful, but I could probably incite a riot. I know it’s merely a homonym. Not the same word except by sound, but I feel very non-insightful.

I want is to win a lot of money so I can fix the house. I want my life — for the first time ever — to become easier.

I’m not sure when I started believing when you got older, things slowed down and you could relax, surrounded by caring family who would take care of your needs and maybe even a few small luxuries.

That has not exactly been how it worked. I’m just pissed about the whole “getting old” thing. Why doesn’t someone else cook dinner? Why are we both still scrubbing and vacuuming and cleaning? Why does the house persist in requiring maintenance and repair? What’s WRONG with this picture?

Round up the angry mob. Let’s skip insight and go directly to INCITE!

Who’s with me?

COME TO THINK OF IT

Getting old isn’t all that bad, come to think of it.

There was a question on my local Facebook page asking for suggestions about local pediatricians. I suddenly realized … I don’t know any pediatricians. Considering my son is 48 and my granddaughter is 21, that ought to be no big surprise … but it was. I don’t remember exactly when I became free of worrying about “kid stuff.” As long as Kaity was a child, it was still part of my world, if only indirectly. But now … it’s finished.

I’m no longer worried about the routes for school buses. I’m not looking for a great playground — or wondering how many pairs of shoes the child will need this year. I may be wondering whether or not I can afford to get her a better camera, but that’s a grown up concern. No more am I wrapped in the world of children.

Do I miss it?

Are you kidding?

I won’t be packing lunch or overseeing homework assignments. I will not have to listen to the kid lying about how he did his homework during study hall and trying to decide whether to call him on it, or say “fuck it” and move on.

I won’t need to update my résumé. I won’t be commuting to a faraway office or planning a vacation based on a two-week vacation schedule. I might not get any vacation, but on the positive side of that equation, I don’t really need a vacation. A short break to visit friends will do nicely.

I will probably only set my alarm half a dozen times during the coming year.

There are worse things than being old. Retirement. Way to go!

THE MAZE OF AGE

Growing up and getting old are not the same thing. You’ve probably noticed.

We went to the eye doctor yesterday. Eye exams for both of us and amazingly, neither of us needed new glasses. What a relief! I did need new computer glasses and Lenscrafters was having a fabulous sale — a complete pair in an hour for $99. The ones I’ve been wearing have gotten scratched, which after three years was probably inevitable.

While I was talking about eyes and glasses, the eye doctor wanted to know what Garry does to stay so young. He was very impressed. “Does he have a workout routine or something,” he asked.

“He was a Marine,” I said, “And he has always taken good care of his body. Better these days now that he doesn’t drink or eat junk food.”

“Well, I get a lot of people his age in here and they are old. He looks great.”

Garry does look great, even if he doesn’t always feel as good as he looks. This weather is hard on his arthritis, as it is on mine. Garry told me he doesn’t feel old. Yes, of course, he complains about aches and pains, but he doesn’t “feel old.” Whatever that means. I said neither do I. My body has its own agenda and I have to deal with it, but it’s not something I’d choose. The body is separate and it has issues, but my mind isn’t old. A little forgetful, but otherwise, pretty good. Mostly.

What does “old” feel like? Not whether or not you get Social Security or have grand children. How does it feel? How do you know you’ve made it? I was first told it would be when I had children, but my son is heading towards his own lack of maturity. Does this stuff run in families?

Thus we got to talking about the people we know. Who is “old.” Who isn’t.

In our age group, we know some old people, including a few who seem to have been caught in a generational time warp. They aren’t old exactly, but they aren’t living in today’s world, either and no it isn’t dementia. They just loved the sixties so much, they never emerged. I sometimes think I should have done the same, but I digress.

Other people we know have always been old. They were born with an “old” gene. And the rest of us don’t feel like we’ve made it into adulthood. Are “adulthood” and “adultery” variations on one bizarre word?

Personally, I was sure by the time my granddaughter was breaching 21 and Garry and I were getting Social Security, this was as mature as we will get — and I suspect I was right. Apparently feeling grown up is not a “calendar” factor. More like a maze in which you wander twisting hallways. Some roam down “old” halls, others not.

It is interesting, this “getting old” thing. Your body goes its own way. Your mind travels differently. Even when my physical self feels like road kill, my brain is ready to go. That my body won’t do what I want presents me with a conflict I cannot resolve. I’m sure this is something every one of every age deals with if they are disabled. You deal with it. Learn to recognize what you can and cannot do, but you never get used to it.

I have rebellious days, even now, though fewer as time goes on. Is that maturity? Thank God for computers! At least here, I can fly.