’til death do us part


I’ve been surprised by the number of folks who’ve voluntarily offered advice related to my transition from the work world to retirement. Just yesterday, my doctor added his two cents worth. After reviewing the results of my lab work he said: “Whatever you’ve been doing just keep doing because everything looks great. He then asked about the medication he’s prescribed. He said, “Don’t get mad at me if I can’t remember because we’ve changed it how many times in the last twelve months because of your insurance?


I was a little embarrassed because he is right. My health insurance company and subsequent changes related to Medicare and supplemental insurance haven’t made it easy. Seriously, my chart is probably filled with documentation of telephone calls and communication from me that my insurance won’t pay for… and my question: “Can you order something else?”


He then said: “You look like you’ve been in the sun”. I answered, “Yes, I have.” He responded: “You have what?” I was puzzled by his question because I thought I had simply answered his question. Consequently, he asked again: “You have what?” Were we playing a game? If so, I tossed the answer back in his direction: “I have been in the sun.”   He smiled and said: “When you answered ‘I have’, I thought you were going to tell me what you’ve been doing in the sun”.


I was still a little stumped. I can’t confess that I’ve been outside doing yard work or anything else. My sun exposure is related exclusively to windshield time. How many mornings have I headed to Houston facing the rising sun and subsequently headed homeward facing the setting sun? The answer to my question is: “Every time I go and I can’t count that high.”


Instead of saying all of that, “I explained that my commute time from work to home is two-to-two and a half hours a day and my sun exposure is windshield time.” He asked: “Are you crazy? You’re not telling me that you drive two to two and a half hours everyday to get home from work”. Okay, so we were playing a game. That is exactly what I was telling him.


I decided to tell him my windshield time is limited going forward because I’m retiring in a week. I expected him to respond: “You’re way too young to retire”, but he didn’t. Instead he asked: “Are you going to play golf?” I replied: “Only if I am crazy. Isn’t “insanity” the definition of golf?”


So I set myself up to get the doctor’s word of congratulations and subsequent lecture on the need to maintain structure in my life. He obviously hasn’t met the General. I figure when it comes to structure, I’ve got it covered. He has no idea of the “’til death do us part” resource I have in adding structure to my world. The way I see it, if the structure becomes too overpowering, I can always set myself up to be the designated target for a “Silver Alert”. After all, I’ve got experience with the game of windshield time and I like to drive with the top down. In addition, what better way to get sun? It certainly beats yardwork or golf.


I recently also talked to a friend who retired about three years ago from the world of “adult protective services”. He told me the same thing. “Stay in contact with people and build structure into your routine.” He, too, hasn’t met the General. Like I said, “I’m way ahead of the game when it comes to structure.”


My friend from adult protective services said he had to retire because the work was killing him. Reportedly he should have had a caseload of 40 old people, but instead it was 148 plus old people. He said, “There was no way anyone could adequately cover that caseload.” He said, I have a fond memory of one of the last protective services cases I investigated. Because of the content of the report, I could have taken up to seven days to make contact and investigate the case, but I opted to do it immediately”.


He opted to do it immediately because there was only a twenty-four hour window that the nursing home would keep the man’s space reserved in the nursing home. If he didn’t return in that window of time, he’d be forever out of the place. So what were the allegations?


Because of advanced Parkinson’s disease and the inability to live without assistance, the man had been placed in nursing home care. Yet, his wife who has Alzheimer’s had come to visit and he convinced her to check him out of the nursing home and take him home. The referral to adult protective services had been made because the social worker at the nursing home knew it was a catastrophe in the making.


So when my friend went to the home to investigate conditions, he asked the wife about her plan to provide support in caring for her husband. She said: “I’ve got people I can call.” He asked for names and she didn’t have any. She did verbally agree that she wasn’t able to provide for her husband’s needs, but that she’d find help when the time came. He asked again about her plan for doing so and she didn’t have a plan. In exasperation she said: “I can always call our son.” My friend responded: “That’s great. Lets call him now”. When he called the son, the son was astounded. He screamed into the phone: “She did what? My mother isn’t able to take care of my dad.”


My  friend then went to the back bedroom to talk to the husband with Parkinson’s. When asked if he thought his wife was physically capable of providing for his needs, he said “Yes”. My friend asked: “Do you remember your wedding vows? What did you promise your wife you’d do?” He said: “She promised to love, cherish and obey me.” “So, what did you promise her”, was my friend’s reply. The husband responded: “To love and to cherish”.


That led to: “So if you really love your wife, you’d understand that she doesn’t have the capacity to physically take care of you. In the process of trying, it will become too difficult for her. The stress associated with her need to take care of you when she’s not able,  will eventually kill her.  Is that what you want to happen?”. The man replied: “My room at the nursing home is too small.” My friend replied, “My question about your wedding vows has to do with what you promised to do for your wife. It isn’t about you. If you really love and cherish your wife, you’d know this is too difficult for her to do and she will die trying. Are you willing and ready to go back to the nursing home?” The man responded: “I guess so, but I don’t like it.”

My followed in his car as the couple as they made their way back to the nursing home. Once inside, the social worker at the nursing home asked my friend: “How did you manage to do this?” He replied: “I asked about their wedding vows. The husband knew I was right. It simply took a reminder for him to opt to do the right thing.”


All My Best!





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