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one of our finest accomplishments
may 10, 2003
The past week has been mostly spent trying to catch up on things I have to do.
I mentioned a while back Mary is transitioning from long term disability (LTD) benefits to a mix of LTD and Social Security disability benefits (after a year of receiving LTD benefits, the LTD carrier requires that she apply for Social Security disability, to reduce the monthly LTD payment the carrier has to make). Tuesday, I woke at three-thirty in the morning, debated rolling over, but decided this would actually be as good a time as any to complete the Social Security application, which we had just received, so I spent the next three hours at the kitchen table with a bottomless cup of coffee, slowly filling out page after page.
Among other information, Social Security needs to know the name, address and phone number of each doctor or therapist who has treated Mary following her stroke, when the first meeting with that doctor was, when the most recent visit was, and when the next visit is scheduled, as well as a list of any and all tests performed on Mary.
That would seem like a formidable task, given she's seen twenty or thirty different specialists at this point, but actually, early on in Mary's recovery, once I realized how complicated her treatment was going to be, I did two very smart things.
For one, I bought a large wall calendar from Biz Mart, the type with huge blank squares for each date, and kept a record on the calendar of her various appointments, and what tests were performed during each appointment.
Secondly, I bought a huge, accordion-style file folder, with multiple pockets, labeled each pocket, in alphabetical order, with the names of all the different physicians, therapists, labs and institutes where Mary has received treatment, putting each health care provider's bill in the proper pocket after I paid the bill.
So although it did take a long time to complete the application, at least I was able to complete it. (For those of you who might be curious, it takes four to five months after an application for disability is submitted to Social Security before the agency makes a decision).
The LTD carrier has a policy of "estimating" what Social Security "might" pay, reducing their benefit by that amount, often months before Social Security actually makes its decision and issues its first check, which would mean Mary could see a greatly reduced LTD check for several months before the Social Security disability checks kick in, so my next task was to make sure that wouldn't happen in Mary's case (we're talking about thousands of dollars which are needed for living expenses and medical bills). After a few phone calls with the LTD carrier, we reached an agreement they wouldn't do that in Mary's case until she actually started receiving checks from Social Security, so that the transition will be seamless.
We have three of them, one in the bathroom attached to our bedroom downstairs, at the rear of our home, another at the front of our home, near the front door, a "half-bath" as it's referred to, meaning a toilet and sink, but no shower, for dinner guests, and a full bathroom upstairs for overnight guests.
This past week, with a synchronicity tinged with the demonic, all three toilets suddenly started malfunctioning. With all three, it was the typical toilet problem, a part in the ballcock assembly breaking (if you lift the heavy white lid of the tank behind your toilet, you'll see a submerged mechanism of tubes, chains, and levers that probably go back to da Vinci's time. That's the ballcock assembly. It's what allows your toilet to flush, stop flushing, and not flood. It's actually quite ingenious, and I've admired the efficacious simplicity of it many times. If you ever find yourself depressed with humanity as a race, remove the lid from your toilet tank, and be reassured by one of our finest accomplishments).
I've replaced ballcock assemblies in the past, and it's a lot of fun, but it does take hours to do, at least for me, and what leisure time I had this week I didn't want to spend with my forearms under water (actually it turned out only two of the toilets were malfunctioning. The third one only appeared to be broken, because of all the running water we could hear in the pipes in the walls from the other two).
So we called Roto Rooter.
The plumber who came out quoted me $175 to fix both toilets, nearly all of it labor (the ballcock assemblies themselves only cost about $12 each), so I made a sweeping gesture at the first toilet. Have at it. (When I led him upstairs to show him one of the toilets, he stopped behind me at one point, staring at the halfwall which follows the stairs up, stunned by the murals Mary had painted on the wall of various scenes from our life in California. "That's amazing," he said. Afterwards, I brought him over to Mary, who was sitting at the kitchen table reading, because he wanted to compliment her in person on her artistry.)
I also spent most of the week trying to get in touch with my dad, who had undergone open-heart surgery in Bridgeport, Connecticut this previous Friday, May 2.
I called that Friday evening, but he was in surgery. I tried Saturday morning, Sunday afternoon, Monday and Tuesday morning, but each time was told he was in post-op intensive care, where there aren't any phones.
Finally, Thursday night, I did get hold of him. His voice was weak on the phone, but he was lucid. He had had essentially the same operation twenty years ago (the only difference being that the first time they replaced his aortic valve with a pig's valve, this time with a cow's valve). He felt weaker this time, but of course he's twenty years older. He'll be in the hospital another week, for physical therapy, then be able to go home.
And, yesterday morning, Friday, our doorbell rang. By the time I got to the door the ringer was gone, but there, next to our green doormat, was a large beige box. We carried it in, set it down on the tiles amid a lot of sniffing kitten nostrils, yanked open the top flaps.
Inside were two tall glossy piles of my novel Father Figure.
I lifted out the top one, grinning.
After so many years, it was hard to believe I was actually holding my novel, but there was the realness of it in my hands, Father Figure on the cover, my name underneath.
I started flipping through it, pleased at the quality of the book itself, and the layout inside. By inclining the tip of my thumb deeper into the pages flipping rapidly by, I stopped the book every forty pages or so, to read a few lines of text, in the reading remembering when I wrote those particular lines.
After I gloated over the book for a while, I did something I've always wanted to do. Among the thousand or so books in my library, I made a space on one of the shelves between Brian Moore and Iris Murdoch, and inserted my book.