Surrendering to "The Man"

Actually it’s the woman, but it doesn’t matter. What am I blathering about? I had my followup meeting with the Medicaid lady, the meeting where we were supposed to get things started so the government pays my husband’s nursing home bills and I don’t get to live off his income anymore. I was nervous enough going in. It was a lot like Confession, where you sit outside this little room, going over your sins in your mind, trying to remember the words to the Act of Contrition and then you’re alone with the priest in this spooky little room laying bare every bad act you ever did.

In this case, I laid out our financial life and what I have done with our money since I met with the other lady in an even smaller room last summer. She had barked at me, made me sign papers and sent me away, telling me to call back when I had “spent down” my excess money. So now the money was gone, and I was back with a new lady, the original one having gone on extended medical leave. No one is saying why.

The new lady was tired, and not interested in anything I had to say. She just kept calling for papers. To most of my questions, she answered either “I don’t know” or “I don’t care.” She scolded me for spending more than I needed to. Apparently the first lady misinformed me. Great. I wept a little at that point. Of course I didn’t have every paper she wanted. If someone had just provided a list ahead of time, I would have had them. My marrige license? The original papers my husband signed when he retired 17 years ago? His health insurance cards? And why did no one tell me that the bank account with Fred’s name on it must not have more than $2,000 in it?

We’ll be needing something called an “income cap trust,” which means Fred’s income goes into a special bank account from which his bills are paid (good) and I get what some authority determines is enough for bare-bones survival, basically the house and utilities, not counting cable TV or Internet connections.(bad) “Do I get some money for food?” I asked. “I don’t know,” she said, shuffling my papers. “What about my car payment and my student loan?” “I don’t care about that.” Well, my creditors certainly do.

Don’t tell me to get a job. I have several, none of which pay much. They didn’t need to until now. I’m looking for ways to ramp up my income. The really hard part is that what I make will be subtracted from the money Medicaid gives me, so the total will remain far from enough to live on.

I signed some papers and left with the words “I don’t know” and “I don’t care” echoing in my ears. I cried all the way home, taking the long way along the Bay Road. The Yaquina River rolled glorious, wide and bottle green beneath the foothills. I had to fight the impulse to drive my car right off the edge into the river and become my family’s third suicide.

After seriously considering two other options: paying for Fred myself until I went broke or somebody died; or divorcing him, immediately losing my husband, my heath insurance and the pittance I was going to get. Eventually I calmed down and surrendered to what must be. Things WILL work out. But I sure wish the staff at Senior Services could be compassionate, eager to help, and know more about the system than I do.

On the happy side, after two weeks of being doomed to Fred’s old office with the plug-in DSL connection because my wireless hookup didn’t work, the phone company guy came out five days earlier than scheduled. He was cute, caring, and got me back into my own office without charging a cent. Why can’t everyone be like that?

If your life is making you crazy, too, try a technique I learned at yoga class this week. It’s great for clearing the bad stuff out of your head. Sit comfortably, put your thumbs and forefingers together, use the other fingers to block your ears by closing the little flaps, close your eyes, then inhale deeply and hum as you slowly let out your breath. Do this five times, and things will look a lot better. Thanks to Sue Humes, the best yoga teacher ever.

Author: Sue Fagalde Lick

writer/musician California native, Oregon resident Author of Freelancing for Newspapers, Shoes Full of Sand, Azorean Dreams, Stories Grandma Never Told, Childless by Marriage, and Up Beaver Creek. Most recently, I have published two poetry chapbooks, Gravel Road Ahead and The Widow at the Piano: Confessions of a Distracted Catholic. I have published hundreds of articles, plus essays, fiction and poetry. I'm also pretty good at singing and playing guitar and piano.

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