Wednesday, December 22, 2021

The gifts of 2021

This has been a year, and not just because of covid. 

Last spring, Art had a lot of pain in both his legs radiating from his back. He spent several months dependent on a walker or a wheelchair. His neurological surgeon could tell by the path of the pain that he had at least six pinched nerves in his back. Art had a laminectomy, a day surgery, on June 11. We arrived at the hospital at about 10 a.m. and returned home 12 hours later. Already the pain was much diminished.

It was a successful conclusion to a careful process. Art had two pre-surgical consultations. Art’s son Peter, a nurse with orthopedic experience, went to the first conference with us and wrote up a summary of the visit for the rest of the family. Art’s son Jason went to the second consultation. Jason and his wife Kalei and son Kaleb lived on the main floor of our Brier home, and we knew that family would need to be watching out for us after the surgery. We had extra help during the first three post-op days from Art’s sister Mary, Linda’s sister Alyx, and Peter. It is great to have multiple nurses in the family. As it turned out, Art followed Peter’s suggestions more readily than he did his surgeon’s, especially in the area of pain control. 

Between February and June, Linda was the caregiver and cook, the errand runner and shopper and laundry doer. Linda was the one who hauled Art up off the floor after the half dozen times he fell. Linda was the one who ordered a “help” button, who loaded and unloaded the walker or wheelchair every time we went anywhere in the car. It was a long, grueling time, made tougher by pain in Linda’s hip.

Linda had been diagnosed in May with severe degeneration of her right hip. She, too, had two consultations followed by a day surgery on August 20 to replace the worn-out joint. 

By the time of Linda’s surgery, Art was up and about, using mostly a walker as he regained his strength. And Linda had a walker. We rearranged our living area so we had enough room for both walkers to move around. We laughed about our “dueling walkers," but both of us were more than ready to get back to our regular lives.

Now, in December, the wheelchair and both inside walkers are in the storage shed. Art uses a walker or a cane when he goes out; he also rides his e-bike around our Tucson neighborhood most days. Linda uses a cane or trekking poles when she goes out. We know these things take time to heal. Art is way more patient than Linda.

So, here are the gifts of 2021:
  • We have excellent medical care and great surgeons.
  • Our children have all been supportive of our challenges.
  • We lived for six months in our new daylight-basement apartment, and we got to furnish and accessorize it exactly to our taste. When we get home in May, we’ll be making some changes that Linda wants. Art doesn’t care, except he’d like to sit on something more comfortable than a sleeper sofa while he’s watching TV.
  • Linda did major decluttering of boxes in the garage - brought downstairs by Jason’s family when they moved in two years ago, or taking up space for years or decades because “you never know when you’re going to need something”. She gave away or donated nearly 100 items from those boxes, from scarves to kayaking gloves to camping gear.
  • Linda went through several memory boxes. She read the letters her father had written to her grandmother during World War II, then recycled them. She read the letters she had written during college to her mother - mostly saying the same thing: “I’m really busy and behind in my classes; I’m dating this guy; I need some money”. Those letters got recycled as well. She read the letters her mother’s father had written to his wife, back in the 1920s, when he was on the road for work, and then sent them to her oldest cousin. She read the cards and letters from a man she’d loved between her marriages, and her journals from that time. When Linda was finished with all the reading, her heart was full and she was grateful for her life, but more than ready to let go of the past.
  • We got to witness the fine job Jason and Kalei have done with their son Kaleb, our grandson. He was so helpful, taking our recycle stuff to the bin on the curb when neither of us could manage it; bringing us slices of pizza and delivering our mail. For almost every task, Art rewarded Kaleb with beef jerky, and Kaleb laughed each time. Jason and Kalei, too, were patient and loving during the times we needed extra help. Having them living upstairs was an unexpected blessing.
  • Kaleb has a hamster named Ricky, who made so much noise at night that Kaleb kept him in the laundry room. One day Linda saw the hamster and felt sorry for Ricky, so she bought a running wheel for Kaleb to put in the cage. It worked so well that Ricky now lives in Kaleb’s room. Grandma scored!
  • In September, Jason and his family moved to a house nearby with more space, and in October Linda’s son James moved in. He will remodel the upstairs in exchange for rent. It is very good to have our children close by
  • Once back in Tucson, we found an inside handyman and an outside handyman who do the “honey do” things. We have enough money to hire the work done, and Art is willing to let the jobs go.
  • Linda has read to Art nearly every night for the last 25 years, before we turn off the light. We’re grateful that we can download books from our Washington library even when we’re in Arizona.
So, we’re elders now. There are some things we can no longer do. We’re probably finished with ten-mile hikes, and walking miles on cobblestones in old European cities. But we’ve done those things, and remember them. Besides, there are gifts given to elders as well: the ability to listen, to appreciate the things close at hand, to remain calm in the midst of the chaos of the world. 

The gratitude continues.

May your holidays be full of peace.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Four hours on Monday

I'll say right off that I'm usually a patient woman. I've learned that if there's an issue that needs to be resolved, either on the phone or via text or email, I'm better off to allot plenty of time to get the job done. I'd decided that today, Monday, I'd take the time I need. I allowed seven hours. Seven!

1. Last month my husband Art and I drove just over an hour from our winter place in Tucson to Nogales, Arizona. We parked in a lot and walked across the border to Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, to visit our dentist, where we've been patients for the last eight years. Art needed to have three teeth pulled and I needed an implant. 

The bill was $300 for him and $1100 for me. We put both amounts on our credit card, and the front desk person filed claims for both of us with our our insurance company, Delta Dental. We would get reimbursement checks in the mail for the amount covered.

Each day USPS sends us an email telling us what mail we should be receiving in the next couple of days. Last week one of the envelopes shown was from Delta Dental. I was pretty sure there was a check for over $800 in the envelope. 

But there's a problem. Since we arrived in Tucson six weeks ago, we have received only one piece of mail forwarded from our Washington address. Just one. We have an issue with USPS that has not been resolved in two months of effort. So that envelope, with that check, was unlikely to reach us here in Arizona. 

Rather than making another futile call to USPS, I called Delta Dental and explained my story. The primary enrollee is Art, and I am his "adult dependent", and each of us has a separate policy. I asked the lady, Amanda, to change our mailing address and to ask the claims department to reissue the check. For this, I had to wake Art up from his nap so he could "authorize" the process, with his name and date of birth. He was a pretty good sport about being awakened.

Now we wait. Twenty minutes of labor for $800-plus.

2. My son James has a remodeling business, and I am his business manager. He's the creative and I'm the detail person. His business license renewal is due. Last year he lived in Edmonds and his business license was for that location. Now he lives in our upstairs and his business license should be in Brier. I spent 20 minutes on the website for the Washington Department of Revenue, trying to change his address and get his license renewed. I'm not a dummy around websites, but I couldn't figure it out. So I called. A very nice woman, Lisa, answered. I told her what I needed and she walked me through it, click by click. Got the address changed. It turned out I had to cancel the Edmonds license and get a new one for Brier. Pay the $129. Now he waits. Half an hour of labor for a good business license in two or three days. I'm ahead of my allotted time!

3. Back in July I ordered a set of silverware on Amazon Marketplace just like the one we already have, so we can have extras if we need them. PayPal processed the $39.19 order, to be shipped by Fedex. Three months later I hadn't received the silverware. I contacted Fedex and entered my tracking number. The record said my order had been delivered - to a different address in Brier, a different person, from a different vendor. I found the "different person", Sandy, on Facebook and asked if she'd gotten my silverware. She said no. I did a little more sleuthing and found the vendor on the Fedex tracking page. It was a medical company in Missouri. I called Sandy again and asked if she'd ordered medical equipment that had been delivered by Fedex. She said yes, a boot for a broken foot, but it had been delivered in April!

I filed a dispute with my credit card company. My claim was denied because Fedex told them my item had been delivered.  

Then I filed a dispute with Fedex. Again, Fedex said my item had been delivered.

Then I filed a dispute with PayPal. My claim was denied there also because the shipper said the item had been delivered. I asked who the shipper was and got no answer.

I probably spent three hours on the issue in September, then set it aside. Until today, Monday. First I called our lawyer and left a message for a callback tomorrow afternoon. I figured a letter to PayPal couldn't hurt. By now it was more a matter of principle than silverware. 

Then I went back and looked at the confirmation order from July. It was from a company called Henlastore. I logged into that site and then looked at the company's reviews. They were all negative and described a scam that was happening back in September. People ordered from the company and paid, didn't receive their items, and found out the company had found a way to "borrow" an actual Fedex tracking receipt for a person in the same town as the person who ordered. Exactly what had happened to me. One reviewer said she had called PayPal and gotten a credit. She included the PayPal number she'd called.

I called the PayPal number and eventually got a live voice. I explained my situation. The lady put me on hold for two minutes, came back on the line and said they'd opened my case again and decided in my favor! I now have a $39.19 credit coming from PayPal later this week.

I called the lawyer back and told them I had resolved the problem and didn't need a callback.

It's now Monday evening. I'm feeling quite satisfied. I'd allowed myself seven hours to take care of these issues, and it only took about four.

The USPS issue? I'll work on that some other day.