Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas to you. I expect to enjoy the day tomorrow. Friends and two grandsons will share a meal, watch a Christmas video, talk, listen to Christmas music on CD or on the radio. A few modest gifts will be exchanged, but gifts are not the big issue they were when I was a child. What is important now, is sharing time with friends. That is the biggest blessing.

Andy may or may not be with us. His mother sent a gift for him...all the way from Australia. Will He show up to claim it? I don't know. This is what happened:

After his hospitalization, the social worker made arrangements for Andy to stay at a shelter. She also made arrangements for Andy to get free samples of his medication. This would save him money. She made an appointment for Andy at the New Haven Clinic. I agreed to drive him there. At the hospital, He looked good. He had shaved. He paid attention to conversations. Living at a shelter isn't the best solution for the mentally ill, but our society has failed...big provide the necessary services for the mentally ill.

I had read that our mental institutions were abusing the clients. It seems to me that the solution to this ill, is to reform the institutions....not to throw the clients out on the street to fend for themselves. A Policeman said to me that most all the homeless people you see , are mentally ill. These people need help.

I think that our government closed the institutions to save money. Funny, they didn't cut their salaries or benefits to save money. The mentally ill don't usually vote. From what address would they register? They don't send big checks to help our legislatures get elected. They can barely put food in their stomach, much less form a political action committee to raise money and promote their agenda. Isn't government supposed to be the servant of the people? Here are a large group of people that desperately need services. Ignored. They are dying on the streets. They are cold, hungry, ill. They become victims of crime. My grandson will probably die alone on the streets in Connecticut.

The government said they would provide services for the mentally ill, instead of institutions. Seems to remind me of "separate but equal". Oh, never mind.

Andy has services, but He doesn't understand how to use them. All He knows is He gets a social security disability check. He thinks it is his "play" money. He gives no thought to shelter, or medical care or food. He gets a check. He spends it. He had food stamps. He forgot to use them. The state took them away because Andy didn't use them. Our mental health clinic did the paperwork so that Andy could go on Title 19. This program would have paid for his medications. I don't think the papers got filed in time. He now has no medical coverage except for medicare.

The imperfect social support system available to my grandson consists of a bed at a shelter....if he can get there by 3:30 and stand in line. The doors open at 4:30. There is no way that He will cooperate with this system. His appointment for social services? He doesn't want to take his medication. He threw away the free samples. Why would He keep track of an appointment that would lead to more medication? He didn't even bother to find out where this clinic is located. He doesn't understand about the food stamps.

Andy's best option would be to get a bed at a group home. This is also imperfect, but better than standing in line for a bed in a dormitory shelter. The group home is no lock up. Andy would be free to come and go...signing himself in and out. The administration would take most of his social security check, but He would have a small amount given back to him for personal expenses. I think this is bargain. He would have a room mate. He wouldn't like that, but He would have three meals a day, prepared by some one other than himself. He would have a warm bed and safety. A nurse is on duty 24 hours. She would administer his medications or respond if He became sick.

The trouble is, this requires Andy to be cooperative. This situation requires that Andy understand the situation. He wouldn't have his "play" money. He would have to take his medication. He would have to cooperate with the schedule for meals, etc. If by a miracle, Andy got into the group home, I suspect that He would walk away from it the minute an administrator corrected him or asked him to accept a responsibility.

My grandson is passive aggressive, among other things. No one tells him what to do. That is what happened the day I picked him up from the hospital. He got his wallet, his birth certificate, photo ID and what was left of his SSI check. Then He walked away. Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The sad part of growing older is losing friends. When people keep learning through life experiences through time, they gain wisdom. It doesn't happen automatically. It takes work, tears and discipline. Eventually, wisdom comes. This is what makes old people very special. Their life experiences are like a rich tapestry. If I am lucky, they tell me some of it. They are like precious jewels. Each one is different. Each one is special and irreplaceable. That is why, when they die, they leave a big hole on earth that no other person can fill. We should honor the elderly and rejoice that they play a part in our life. They should not be exiled to Florida. They should stay connected with their friends and family.

A Christmas card came back from an elderly friend. His wife said that he had died in April of this year. I am so glad that I knew this man. He was my financial advisor until he retired. He guided me from poverty to a comfortable retirement. I learned so much about money from him. Best of all was to be exposed to his personality, to enjoy conversations . I was surprised to learn that He collected china. I thought only women did that. He played tennis well into his 70s. We met at a singles dance. A girlfriend coaxed me to go. I went directly from work. At the dance, I realized that I still had my steel toes safety shoes on. I danced with Bud...told him about my shoes. He surprised me by saying that He had steel toes safety shoes on too. He loved to dance, but some of the women he danced with, would step on his toes. The safety shoes protected his feet from his clumsy partners. We had a friendship that lasted over 20 years. I cherish the memories.

Even though We are equal in the eyes of God, We are different in our individuality. Some people don't function very well. Others dedicate their entire life to a cause. It becomes their passion. Most of us are somewhere in the middle. I risk stating that We can rank people according to how well they function. Are they all they are capable of being? Did they grow and flourish, or are they stagnating, burdened with negative thinking, poor habits, inability to set goals and accomplish those goals through a lot of discipline and sacrifice? When I meet people at "the top" of this ranking, I rejoice. they are a pleasure to know. My financial advisor was one at the top. He was a CEO of a copper manufacturing plant. He was a friend of Bruno Bic...the CEO of Bic pens and lighters. He was competent. He was not a snob, although He was a millionaire. You would never know it. You only would know that he seemed interested in what you had to say. Bud had class.

Still grieving for two losses in a month, the phone rings. It is my "almost" brother, Harval. The term "almost" needs an explaination. His mom and dad and my mom and dad were friends their entire lives. Only Harval's mom, my aunt Valeria is still living. Harval's dad at one time, dated my mom, but this broke up and each married someone else. If Harval's dad had married my mom, Harval would be my brother. It's a stretch, but you can do it. Both couples produced their children around the same time. I grew up with Harval. We slept in the same bed as children on vacation. We visited with his grandmother in Pennsylvania. We swam at the beach, ate watermelen, played like kittens and puppies together. We lost contact for a while, but We're back in touch again. Harval's message on the phone was He has cancer...again. Both he and his wife were chain smokers. They would light up the next cigarette from the butt of the first cigarette. Nancy died a horrible death from bone cancer. Harval has had SEVEN bouts of cancer. This is number eight. My first husband and my second husband died of cancer. Each suffered one bout of this disease. It was exhausting. How can my friend suffer like this? He had lung cancer, prostrate cancer, bladder cancer...I don't know what else. About 9 months ago, His shoulder started to hurt. The doctors thought He needed physical therapy . The truth was he had bone cancer. Now he has to go through what Nancy went through. His attitude is good, thank heavens. His doctor said that cigarettes "are the gift that keeps on giving". Don't smoke.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The funeral was Saturday. I wore my black dress and heels. First time I've worn that outfit in a long time. There was no body to view. Instead, on a table at the front...sort of an alter, were symbols of my neighbor. There were fishing poles, a folded flag representing his service in world war two...and photographs. In the reception area, was a display of photos taken at various times of his life. I knew only the old man, not the young man in some of the photos. His family was there...six children and one ex-wife. They had a wonderful relationship even though they were divorced. Dee paid his bills, as Bob was disorganized. Dee has ocular degeneration, so Bob drove her to her hair appointments and to the doctors. Dee gathered her family around her...all three children. It seems that Bob had been married before and has three children from the previous marriage. The first hour was a reception and greeting. Condolences went to family and friends.

The second hour was a religious service. Half way through the service, the minister invited family and friends to speak. I was one of the speakers. Most funeral services don't make me feel any better about losing a good friend. This one did. It is interesting to hear other people speak of their experiences. It shows another side of a many faceted man.

We went to a public room in a local motel for the reception. I bet that Suzie was in charge of organizing it, because it was very well organized. The food was plentiful and varied. Music played. There were flowers. There was time to hug people...and to get to know other people from out of town. I think I made several new friends. Since Dee still lives here, they will be back for family events. Perhaps they will show up at the house across the street where Bob used to live.

The following day, the family met at the Buckingham Bridge where Bob used to fish. Per his request, they put his ashes into the water. Hat took pictures and sent one to me via E-mail. The family went to Hat's house, but Spence and I are not family. We went to Maxine's for breakfast...same as what Bob would have done.

So far, I haven't lost it. Then I did. Dee and Barbara came to my house unexpectedly. They gave me a poinsettia, just like Bob did every Christmas. They went to Tina's house, too. She got a poinsettia as well...just like Bob used to give her for Christmas. I keep my Christmas plants all year and get them to turn red for another Christmas. As I was putting my plant from last year into the closet for conditioning in the dark, I thought that it would be the last plant I would ever get from my neighbor. Then Dee and Barbara came to the door with this year's plant. I was overwhelmed by the plant, by the lovely family that reached out to me when they are the ones needing comforting. Surely mercy and goodness shall follow us all the days of our lives.