A Time for Healing

Some will tell you that time flies, others, it marches on. Shakespeare says that tomorrow creeps in a petty pace from day to day. As for Ma, she and her roommate at the rehab facility are caught in that time-worn frustrating web of hurry up and wait to get better.

On one hand, Ma is in better condition than that day nearly three weeks ago when she fell and broke her hip. On the other hand, due to the nature of the bone breakage, she is not allowed to put any weight on her left foot. So, she hops holding onto a walker twice a day in the therapy room from her wheelchair to the bed she is asked to lie down on and do muscle strengthening exercises. This can go on for two more weeks until she is permitted to progress to the next step in the road back to self-sustenance.

Later in the coming week, she will be re-evaluated and told whether the rehab will continue at the facility or as an outpatient at home. This obviously is of concern because she cannot be by herself for now. In today’s world the decision is made by those who finance the effort to help her recover. Medicare pays for the first twenty days at a 100% rate for all allowable billing. After that, Medicare pays 80% and the private insurance company that handles the part B coverage pays the remaining 20%.

The fly in the ointment is that Medicare has to be persuaded that she can recover in a realistic time frame of six to eight weeks. Otherwise, all bets are off with funding.

The lady who shares her room also improves each day. However, she has a greater road to recovery. She was found by her son laying at the bottom of the stairs in her basement after 8 hours suffering from
a partially broken neck, facial cuts, fractured arm and other surface injuries.

When I first saw her, she was lying flat on her back all bandaged up like a mummy. Now, she can sit in a wheelchair and even goes through daily therapy. Her wit is about her, too, as she readily switches between speaking in English and Swedish depending on with whom she converses. What helps make the sharing of the room pleasant for both ladies is that they are also both long-suffering Chicago Cub fans.

Ma asks me if I write about her and I nod in the affirmative. So she says, “well, make sure you spell my name right, ha ha.” Like I’m gonna screw up two letters?

Ma is impatient to go back home and to the way things used to be. She has been down this road before. Five years ago, she fell and it was her left hip and shoulder that took the brunt and both required reconstruction. At that time, it was while visiting my sister in the East coast. So she spent two months rehabbing there only to find out when she returned to Chicago that the doctors butchered their medical decision out East to ignore the shoulder and let it heal on its own. It required a re-break and more surgery.

How much can a person endure pain and the aftermath of getting better? I guess time will tell.

Rehabbing Medicare

There has been a lot of talk lately about the concern of severely curtailing Medicare benefits. Some of us who are years away from the curse of old age do not appreciate the situation. Medicare takes care of the rehabbing that a senior citizen endures in an authorized facility as long as the patient shows signs of improving.

Knowing this Federal largesse, everyone who recovers from hip or shoulder or knee surgery and bone injuries in general tries to get placed in the best care facility possible.

Ma was no different. She knew about the excellent rehab center three blocks from my condo and we lobbied with the social worker at the hospital to get her placed there. Luckily, there were several bed openings and for at least one week she had the pleasure of having the room to herself.

Another quirk in the Medicare laws apparently is that if one has surgery on the injured bone, Medicare will pay for two therapy sessions a day. Without surgery, the patient receives only one session. When two sessions are involved, one session covers some occupational and not only physical therapy.

Once the patient’s doctor and therapist agree that the person has plateaued, Medicare cuts off funding. At the place that Ma is at, this means that the patient is either sent back to their own residence or to a long term care facility in which chances are they will never be able to leave. This is because there are a percentage of facilities that recognize it is in their own long-term interest to keep the patient, now called a resident, there as long as they can.

Of course, not many people are able to pay the six to seven thousand dollar a month cost to stay at a nursing home. If they do not have long-term care insurance, which most people do not have, then they may have to apply for Medicaid, in which the State agrees to finance their stay but requires the patient to pay down all their assets befre getting assistance. This will include, of course, the sale of the house. Exceptions are made if a spouse is still living in the house.
Continue reading “Rehabbing Medicare”

I Stopped Wearing My Cubs Cap

Yesterday I stopped wearing my Chicago Cubs baseball cap. It’s true that is was dirty and getting a little worn. But, there was a statement to be made. After all, the warranty on blind loyalty expires after about fifty years, right?

It doesn’t mean that I will start rooting for that (cough) other team on the South Side. I just can’t. It would be like voting for a Democrat for President. Truth be told, though, I took the Democrat Ballot in the last national primary three years ago because I did what any true blue Chicago suburbanite would have done- voted for the person I wanted to face the Republican candidate in the national elections that November.

I’ll sit on the sidelines while this disgrace of a major league team goes through the totally embarrassing motions of playing out the remainder of the schedule. In my heart, I know they’ll win it at some point in this century, even if not this decade.

When Mark Cuban showed strong interest in purchasing the Cubs two years ago, I along with all the real fans were excited because he was as much as fan as the rest of us. He was willing to make significant changes to put the entire organization into a winning attitude. But, he took one look at the asking price, the non-willingness of the former owners to budge and the realization that the team was no where near the perceived value. At the time, I thought that the club was over-valued by two hundred million dollars. Now I hear that the debt is more like four hundred million. So, why bother to take on such an investment? As had been done with other ball clubs in the past few years, the Cubs should have been allowed to go into bankruptcy and let the creditors, banks and courts find someone at a more reasonable price to take on this giant mess.

But, greed, ego and stupidity get in the way. I read where the club management acknowledges that attendance is down about 8 percent, which supposedly translates into three thousand less per game.
However, that does not tell the real truth. There has been many games where less than half the official attendance was actually sitting in the park. True, the weather has been bad. The sale of seat regardless if occupied does count but it also means less money to be made on concessions.

Management had a chance to hire a popular ex-Cub who is also a hall-of-famer as well as a winning manager at the minor league level. Instead, it felt an obligation to give the job of manager to a perennial minor league coach with little big league credentials and charisma to offer to the fans.

If I had a chance to meet the Cub owners, I’d break out in that classic early 1960’s Allan Sherman hit parody, “You Went the Wrong Way, Old King Louie.”

Now, at least for the time being, I wear a black cap with white trim- yes-a little dorky looking, that is emblazoned with the word Ottawa in the front. A neighbor whose parents live there brought it back to me on their last vacation a couple of months ago. I hear it has something to do with hockey, whatever that is.

Now, if someone wants to buy me a new Cubs cap, it has to be all-wool, not the cheap stuff. I’ll hold onto it even if I don’t wear it because you never know. Hey, c’mon- didn’t Sherman also write words such as, “wait a minute, it’s stopped raining. Mother, father kindly disregard this letter”?

Half Full or Half Empty?

Some people make a living from analyzing if a glass is half full or half empty. Not me. To mix metaphors, half a loaf is still half a loaf. It doesn’t matter whether you think positive or negative, you can only feed so many souls with half a loaf. You can quench so much thirst with half a glass.

I look at this quandary as a three-legged point of view. There is the optimist, pessimist and realist. We generally define an optimist as one who looks at the sunny side of the street. He sees only the good in a situation. The origin of the word comes from the latin optimus, which means ‘best’. One who has positive vibrations about a predicament does not necessarily think it is for the best, but that it is better than the alternative.

The pessimist, conversely, looks at the shady side of the street. He sees only trouble ahead. The word comes from the latin pessimus, which means worse. I don’t think that a pessimist truly believes the worst is going to happen but that it just isn’t going to be pleasant. In other words, with two minutes left to play and his favorite team is losing by ten points, the pessimist has an inkling that it is all over. But, it ain’t the end of the world, right? Just change the doggone channel and watch a movie. And if he is attending the game in person- well, then- he should have parked in such a way that he can quickly exit the parking lot. If it was me, I would have been gone five minute left in the game.

That’s right- I’m a realist. I know that there are real forces in the world out to get me. Nothing I can do about it. By June 1, I know that the Chicago Cubs don’t have the talent and decision makers to compete successfully.

I know that when a famous television or movie star dies, you can pretty much guarantee two others will die within forty-eight hours. I’m not being negative- just stating a fact.

A realist hold certain beliefs:

I believe that for every drop of rain that falls it means that someone I’m related to’s basement is flooding and is going to call and ask me to come over and drain it out with a water vacuum.

I believe that someone in the great somewhere not only hears every word but has recorded them waiting for the day to use as evidence to send me on a two to five year stay at a federal establishment.

I believe that for everyone who goes astray there are three more who didn’t get caught.

I believe that in the darkest night somewhere someone is getting mugged.

Every time I hear a newborn baby cry, I wonder if the mother convinced the father to first get married .

Every time I touch a leaf I get concerned that any open skin wounds will get infected.

And every time I see the sky I look for clouds and any oncoming weather conditions.

Yes, I am a realist. I’ll take the glass half-full or half-empty. It’s all the same.

Where There’s a Will, There’s a War

“You can’t take it with you” is one of the cruelest jokes played on the wealthy. In this one story, it takes on the sublime when a daughter of the deceased interprets that to mean “all or nothing”.

A rich dowager lady abruptly passed away. She lived a very comfortable lifestyle with a residence in Chicago as well as one in Florida for the winter. Despite her wealth, she had been forlorn about losing one hundred fifty thousand dollars in property value on paper for one of her condos as a result of the housing market crash. As if no one else had. As if she had a mortgage to pay. As if she was going to sell it at some point and move somewhere else. One day, she fell down and with the blink of an eye and the formality of a doctor to place a sheet cover over head, there was no longer any fretting over lost income.

All the beauty parlor appointments were memories to no one else. All the rides to and from airports, arranging for her car to be taken down to Florida for the winter and back to Chicago, the worrying about hurricanes, the cleaning lady coming over on the designated day of the week were insignificant facts that caused no one else to lose sleep.

It was not an end, but a beginning to a drawn out process on how to distribute the dowager’s assets. Sure, there was a will and a trust but along with that invariably went hard feelings.
Continue reading “Where There’s a Will, There’s a War”

Hanna Barbera and Baby Boomer Cartoons

By Larry Teren

Enjoying cartoons is one of those things a person never outgrows, right? It must be- Matt Groenig’s The Simpsons has been around for more than twenty seasons of new-run episodes and still going strong. The 1930’s and 40’s have Walt Disney, Max Fleischer and Leon Schlesinger. The 1950s and 60s have Hanna Barbera. I and most baby boomers will take that ex-MGM animation team, Hanna Barbera, thank you.

huckleberryhound yogibear flinstones topcat

Continue reading “Hanna Barbera and Baby Boomer Cartoons”

A Senior Moment

Having split her right femur bone in half nearly two weeks earlier, Ma was now resting comfortably at a rehab facility four blocks from my condo. She insisted that she go to a place dedicated more to helping a person regain their walking skills rather than to a “shut up and lie down” nursing home environment.

She was starting to get used to two-a-day grueling therapy sessions where she was not babied in the least bit. I thought about that movie Ruthless People where Bette Midler is kidnapped and tossed into a basement but given free reign. She uses the time to start exercising and by the time she is released looks like a sculpted athlete.

On Sundays and holidays there were no therapy sessions because the management did not want to pay extra to the therapists. This meant Ma would be sitting around doing nothing on Memorial Day Weekend.

I dropped in on the Monday holiday afternoon figuring she would be miserable watching the Cubs lose another ballgame. Instead she was not in her room. Instinctively, I went downstairs to the lower level entertainment center where I caught her watching a live (well, he wasn’t dead) musician play an electric violin accompanied by a Karaoke instrumental background music-making machine.

My sister was sitting there with Ma as well. Show business is in our family blood so the three of us unabashedly sang the words to the songs being played and we corrected along with another member of the audience the mistakes made by the entertainer on the background information to each piece. (Stuff like- Marlon Brando sang Luck Be a Lady in the Guys and Dolls movie, Sinatra sang it on a hit album.)

About a half hour after the performance was over and Ma was ensconced back in her room, I decided it was time to depart. I went down to the first floor at the entrance area and gave the attendant my name so she could record that I had left. As I was about to walk out at the electric sliding door, the two ladies who had been sitting to the right of Ma during the violinist performance stopped me. One had hair that was dyed black while the other a very white bouffant. Whitey was sitting in a kind of contraption that not only enabled her to be mobile but also provided a shelf for her to store accessories.

They both said in unison how much they enjoyed my singing voice. I told them that I wasn’t that good and figured they suffered from loss of hearing. They insisted that I was being humble. Trust me- I wasn’t. The younger one then went on to gush how she had seen the performer twice before and thought he was just grand. That’s when I knew she was definitely no judge of talent.

I asked the presumably younger one how long she had to be there. She said she had hip problems and had been in the place on and off for six months. I then turned to the white haired one and carefully tried to frame my question so it wouldn’t sound as if I thought she was stuck there for the duration.

I bravely asked, “and how long do you need to be here?” wincing as the words came out of my mouth. She replied, “oh, I’m just visiting. She’s my daughter,” while pointing to the alleged brunette.