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Copyright © 2003 by Ralph Robert Moore.
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Return to lately 2003.
a wonder to the whole fucking world
july 12, 2003
I receive a number of e-mails each week.
I got a really nice e-mail from Fern (I don't use full names out of courtesy to the writer, in case they don't wish to be identified), who had a lot of kind things to say about my writing, and who also shared, very movingly, a number of experiences she's had which are similar to quite a few of the subjects I've written about in my Latelys. Her e-mail was a joy to receive.
I also had e-mails this past week from people who were about to undergo surgery, or who had to put one of their cats to sleep, who wanted to talk about what they were feeling; someone whose spouse had just suffered a stroke; an e-mail from a reader who had a suggestion on how the JonBenet Ramsey investigation should proceed, sent to me, evidently, because I once wrote about the JonBenet Ramsey case; and a request for an autographed picture.
The oddest e-mail I received this past week though was from someone who says he's a periodontist, commenting on a Lately column of mine in which I discussed how I needed bone graft surgery for a tooth, went to a periodontist, thought about his recommendation that I have the surgery, talked to my own dentist about it, then went ahead with the surgery.
Here's the text of his e-mail in full, except that I've deleted the name of the innocent periodontist he thinks I went to (like virtually everything else in his e-mail, he got this wrong, too). I've preserved the misspellings and grammatical errors.
So I wrote him back:
I haven't heard a peep from him since. Maybe he's too busy at work, in his private office, smashing his fist into the wall, muttering angrily to himself about how fucked-up his patients are.
I wrote a while back that we've applied to Social Security to see if Mary might qualify for disability benefits from that agency as a result of her stroke in April of 2002.
Mary currently receives long term disability benefits from her insurer. After a year, the insurer requires that claimants apply for Social Security disability, as a way of reducing the insurer's cost (if Social Security agrees to provide disability benefits, the insurer's monthly long term disability benefit is reduced by the amount of Social Security's benefit).
Last Friday, July 18, we were going through our pile of mail, me looking at a bill from a doctor stating my health insurance had denied a claim of Mary's, saying their coverage was secondary (I've called my insurance several times the past two months to tell them their coverage for Mary is in fact primary). Mary held up a multi-paged letter, a frown on her face.
I took the letter from her, read the first paragraph.
The letter was from Social Security. Incredibly, they denied Mary's application for disability benefits, saying they felt she could find some kind of employment, even if it wasn't as remunerative as what she used to do (when she was head of Human Resources for her company).
It's been fifteen months now since Mary had her stroke. At first, and I now realize, naively, Mary and I assumed she would receive therapy for a few months, then be able to return to her former job.
It hasn't worked out that way. Mary suffered a devastating stroke, and although the stroke did not at all affect her intelligence, it did severely affect her ability to communicate. Her speech improves every day, but there is no way she could, at present, hold down a job. Will she ever be able to? We'll have to see. (All strokes are different. For those of you reading this who have had a stroke yourself, or are the caregiver to someone who has had a stroke, your case may very well be different. Our neighbor, Jim, also had a stroke, but his was much less severe, and he was able to find a new job in a matter of months. I don't want to take hope away from anyone who might not have been as severely affected as Mary).
We're in the process now of appealing Social Security's decision. We spoke this past Monday with the doctor who is overseeing Mary's recovery, and who himself was once a screener for Social Security disability claims, and he said this is the typical Social Security response. "It's geared towards people who have physical disabilities, rather than functional disabilities. If you lost both your legs, you get benefits. If you can't communicate, that falls outside their screening process."
Mary's long term disability insurer requires that we file an appeal when Social Security denies benefits. I sent a copy of the denial to the insurer. They'll put us in touch with a law firm that will help us with our appeal (the insurer pays all the legal costs).
So we'll see what happens.
I've written about this in some detail because I know a lot of you are following Mary's progress, and also for those of you who are in similar situations in your own lives, so you have something to which to compare your own experiences.
Mary and I had lunch with my friend Dave this past Friday. He'd finished my recently published novel, Father Figure, and wanted to discuss it with me.
I suspected Dave would not like the book because it is quite dark (Dave is currently reading the latest Harry Potter novel), and in fact, that was his reaction.
"It was just too disturbing for me, Rob. A number of times, I'd get to a particular passage, be overwhelmed by what I was reading, and just put the book down, once for three days. After I finished it, the ideas and certain images stayed in my head for days, which bothered me."
I appreciated his honesty. Father Figure is not for everyone.
Later, Dave e-mailed me, saying he hoped he hadn't offended me with his reaction to my book. And of course he hadn't offended me at all- part of the test of friendship is honesty.
Mary and I were in the supermarket the other day, doing our food shopping for the week, when Mary spotted an Artie Bucco's Gourmet Pizza in one of the freezer cabinets at the head of the frozen food aisle.
I didn't know who Artie Bucco was, offhand, but then saw near the bottom front of the package the logo for the HBO series, The Sopranos.
I flipped the cold, square pizza box over. On the back was a brief "biography" of Artie Bucco, who, as it turns out, is a character on The Sopranos, the owner of the restaurant Tony and his clan often go to for dinner.
I knew there was a Sopranos cookbook. The idea a food company would start manufacturing pizzas based on a fictional character in the series intrigued me as an odd merchandising tie-in. I could see where future marketing gambits might include Tony Soprano anti-depressants, Ralphie dildoes.
The pizza comes in three varieties: Cheese, Mushroom, and Pepperoni.
We bought the Mushroom pizza. It was described on the front of the box as, "Mushroom pizza topped with a parmesan cream sauce, mozzarella and parmesan cheeses, sautéed portabella and button mushrooms, with caramelized onions on a stone-oven style artisan crust."
Frozen pizza is usually pretty bad. A good pizza, meaning freshly made, not frozen, is a perfect blend of crust, olive oil, tomato sauce, and cheese, to where each slice is hotly moist and heavy in the hand, the triangular tip dipping forward under the weight of its nostril-filling deliciousness.
The only frozen pizza we've found somewhat tolerable is Frescheta, but even that is nowhere like a real pizza fresh out of the oven.
The fact "Artie's" pizza had few toppings was an encouragement to us, because it made it sound more like the authentic, east coast pizzas I grew up on (however, I noticed on the box "Artie's" pizza is a "Product of Canada", a truly great nation, but not a country that immediately makes me think of pizza. Maybe Artie was up there evading the FBI when he came up with the idea for merchandizing his pizzas, to raise enough capital to bribe the Feds).
Anyway, the pizza itself, which we had that same evening, was truly awful. It was one of the worse pizzas we've ever eaten.
No wonder everybody's so grouchy on that show.