The Final At Bat – Chucking His Things

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It took my brother 3 years after my mother passed away before he had the courage to go through her things, laugh a little, cry a lot and much like a funeral service, put articles of meaning to her in boxes and stowed them in a place surely to be forgotten in some hard-to-reach corner of the attic or dark corner of the basement.

After that one day when we finally removed the evidence of my mother, we have not, not even once, discussed those boxes or rummaged around to discover them.  It was as if, like herself, her belongings were put to rest.  But I know for certain that that Sunday afternoon was the most painful day of my brother’s life.

And now it’s my turn, with the exception that there’s nothing I want to keep.  I don’t want to remember him by furniture or china oraa-nothing artwork or clothes. Nothing, not trophies or photographs or clothes or christmas ornaments could possibly compare to the degree of intimacy and occupation I put into motion as part of a strategic plan to keep my brother solvent, without jeopardizing my life in Chicago.

I invaded the privacy of every nook and cranny of his life; I strong-armed him to go to an attorney to draw up the correct documents. I took over his finances. I questioned every single charge on physician statements. I carried a valise with copies of every important event that produced documentation at the ready, attorney drawn HIPPA forms which provided, without question, unfettered access to every health insurance plan and their schedule of benefits, physician bills, EOB, ridiculously high deductibles in lieu of capping monthly premiums, and finally negotiating Medicare physician costs (if they take Medicare), (non)compliance with orders to manage his chronic maladies gain access to all of his medical records back to 1985. There aa-occupationwasn’t a single part of his life that I legally did not have access to or was managing or that I would be denied access. In essence I represented my brother, except those requiring an actual body. And frankly, I think he harbored significant anger and to a large extent resentment. But if I and my partner were to first pull him out of his morass, I needed to take extreme measures and I needed the legal system as my wing man. And what evidence do I have to draw this conclusion?

The Best Friend relationship which I had so cherished before I commandeered his life was, at once, extinguished. The day that Social Security deposited his first monthly benefit he furtively initiated a quitclaim of my occupation and immediately liberated his Self from my subjugation like a dog freed from its leash and running, really running, the odors and aromas of independence challenging his speed, agility, and actions of being, in the simplest of terms, a dog.

And I think that’s precisely what occurred when his income was deposited into his account and he didn’t wait for permission or evaluation or reconciliations. It takes a desperate man to abdicate the course of his life and a man aching with humiliation to admit he doesn’t possess the forbearance and seasoning required to navigate the craggy cliffs of reinventing oneself at fifty-eight.

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The moment we cleared danger however, he was resurrected in action not in speech and said, “Let go of the wheel boy, I’ll take her from here.”

A Comment Worth Mentioning

aacommentDr. Culpepper writes in response to my recent post, “Thank You, Doctor.”

Dear Mr. Mulligan:

Medicine is a calling and I suspect that you would have served beautifully in this profession. A real physician does not have a job as a doctor, he or she becomes a doctor.

In the process of medical training, one takes on a new life… well, that’s the ideal. Much of the challenges of our healthcare quagmire result from medicine becoming instead a business.  It’s as if church and state combined into a disaster. So it is with healthcare becoming a business. No one begrudged a well paid physician, our community supports that concept. It is instead the focus on business: the margins, marketing, middlemen, and entrepreneurs (some of whom are doctors) that has poisoned this noble profession. Those physicians that are still true to the calling are swallowed up by the toxic agendas and often not seen except floating below the surface.

Please continue pointing to those brave souls. They need the attention and a lifeline.

Dear Dr. Culpepper:

it’s nearly impossible to practice a passionate profession be it medicine, applied sciences, mathematics, art, performing art, music or writing.. aacommentresponse While these passionate professions are often enjoyed by many, they fall far outside the gated community called business.

Your irresistible “calling” metaphor is the perfect rational as to why men and women pursue professions which require the volitional abdication of varying aspects of their human nature like sensibility, acceptance, support or reason. But it also provides a pathway to genuine propriety and inclusion in one of the most reverent and honored professions on a global scale. It is a profession which treats humanity not borders or anarchy or tyranny.

Physicians transcend the pettiness of our human condition to oversee the miracle of humanity. I myself have heard a calling; to ignore convention and weave together language inviting the curious to hear the harmony of words. To others blessed to hear their calling, I recommend you listen to its invitation; yet most discard it as folly. True Callings  never quiet; they continue to knock, disrupting whatever future you planned with doubt and obstacles.; then one day an example of the difference you could make persuades your abandonment of a false life to step off the canyon’s edge and begin your true life.

If it’s fear that stops you, consider your patient’s eyes filled with fear and the strength they see in yours; passionate eyes sparkling with compassion and the quiet strength of a truthful life.

Thank You, Doctor . . .

There was a time, oh, not so long ago that friends Michelle and Peter and Nick would remember that I sat in a chair in a public forum and wept because I never became a doctor.  Friends recommended nursing, but on my first day my instructor, wearing one of those origamitized hats mentioned the adjective caring in hundreds of examples.  By the end of the day I’d grown so weary of the word caring I returned my shiny new mules and knew I didn’t have the dedication to the lives of total strangers simply because your unyielding care and uncompromising affection for humanity seemed as close to grace as most of us will ever know.

I’ve been very lucky to have been able to continue my 20 year relationship with my primary care physician.  In 20 years we’ve both learned a lot about each other: he more so of course, especially with those physician distributed x-ray glasses (and we thought they were some manifestation of a cartoonist’s imagination) because how else could doctors have the degree of insight simply by engaging in an innocent conversation.

I’ve been thinking lately that all these men and women who voluntarily step up to education and raise their hands so strongly, so surely, and so hopefully that witnessing that depth and degree of service to strangers must be one of the most moving examples of humanity stepping into a life where their life is secondary.

Why they do this happily, proudly, compassionately in order to be in the presence when most of us aren’t gussied up for prom astonishes me and thanks God for loaning humanity a few hundred thousand angels to leave Heaven and come to earth (by way of unimaginable hours pouring over manual after manual after manual and I can’t even remember 3 things to buy at the grocer’s), then share their own type and degree and experience of the comfort they know to be true once we let go and become fine examples of colorful balloons rising higher and higher and out of sight but not out of mind.

To all those selfless and defenders of the weak or ill or mentally compromised or children or any other of the millions of disenfranchised a mere thank you will never repay your kindness. But maybe God’s set up a 401(k) for you in heaven.

 

 

A Patient Physician Waits For My Question . . .

Will this Failure affect my . . .  Durability?

In a broad sense, of course.  I mean, who can possibly predict someone’s . . . permanence, so to speak . . . not that death is, in any way, humorous, but if we did know, one could make plans . . . which is when I trailed off, consciously fleeing The Doctor’s adying1despairing and melancholic answer which, upon delivery, affirmed my inkling and, at first, felt promising, that is until the import of his answer felt as heavy as a saturated woolen coat.

My disquieting understanding was followed by remorse and the physician‘s shifting of weight left right left right; my attention lost to the ticker-tape listing of buoyant memories; then, hailing from afar like a sea boat captain, a nervous cough interrupts my avoidance with sharp and determined finger-snaps by a now brusque and tidy physician whose demeanor is demanding (disguised as cheerful support) takes the tone of an impatient boss, Is There Anything else, then?

adying4That’s when we resumed our assigned roles of patient and doctor.  Long gone was the arm-across-the-back-and-onto-the -other-shoulder fatherly imitation of empathy.  Tucking his humanity neatly in a breast pocket below his blue-stitched name and title like first graders whose names are also stitched but for opposite reasons: The Doctor: To tell you who he is and his department (lest you wonder): And first graders: To remind themselves who they are and what they wore.

Upon empathy’s discharge, a muddy silence quickly appeared swallowing the Doctor and I and filling the tiny room with despair, melancholy, and a dreadful load of confusion.  It reminded me of a time long ago when a generic teen-age girl gave me the sign to try for home, only to be quickly slapped by my host causing my retreat and a kind-of cease-fire and the same shameful silence which the Doctor cast by answering my foolish question:even though I was all-too-aware of the penalty, I asked the question with the same tentative, cautionary, and deliberate way that I behaved with that tart.  And coincidently the responses were eerily similar: the tart with a sharp slap and immediate rejection, and the Doctor with a representational slap and unsettling honesty saying It’s got the moxie, it’s got fervor and doggedness. It’s very rare to be strong and efficient; even rarer still to be too strong and to be too efficient.

His foot steps down the hall seemed to whisper apologies until he turned and they both disappeared.  And there I was, alone, all alone, all-by-myself alone except for the damned answer, of which I’d had some degree of premonition.  But hearing it in your head isn’t official thereby maintaining a small degree of hope.  And then I asked and then he answered and then neither one of us would ever be the same.adying2

One More . . .

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One more trip to the doctor.

One more admission of humiliating symptoms.

One more physician‘s persevering uncertainty.

One more hunch about drugs even after repeated failures of 6 week trials.

One more hopeful bottle of toxins to ingest.

One more set of side-effects to endure.

One more crippling debility: Illness’s strong swing of a sharp ax into the pulp of my dignity cutting deeply.

One more intentional assault leaving me with a staggering and teetering propriety.

One more debility before I’m disqualified from sovereignty; stripped of my liberty, freedom, and independence, my self-reliant character reverts to childhood, a time of absolute dependence for survival.

One more obedient abdication of my extinct identities and forthcoming dog’s age.

One more no more.