It’s expensive to be old and ill.
Add to the list of reasons why it’s a good idea to have some money saved up. Add to the list of reasons to save when the getting’s good when you’re young and energetic and making some money. Add to why it’s a good idea to invest prudently so you have some money put by. Add to it because it’s as expensive as hell to be ill, especially when you’re old.
My beloved wife, saint of saints, has been ill for months now. The expense is astounding. Breathtaking. You might think Medicare pays for it but you would be wrong. We don’t know why, but Medicare hasn’t paid anything. We hope they will someday, but not yet. Screen Actors Guild is useless. So I get and pay staggering bills for her private light, bright, cheery room. For home visits by specialists. Yes, they do make house calls but it costs your house. For private duty nurses. For round-the-clock home healthcare to bring Alex the many glasses of lemonade she needs each day. To give her an astonishing trove of meds many times each day, and no, Medicare does not pay for that either. Meanwhile I get billed a premium for Medicare. Someday they will pay, I hope and pray.
But I keep thinking, “My health care is as expensive as hell and my wife is still damned sick. The media talks about how bad health care is for the poor. As far as I can see, it’s not that great for the rich or for us upper middle class slobs.”
What would I do if I couldn’t afford round-the-clock nurses? My wife would clamber out of bed and be totally lost in our own home. What does the ordinary citizen do? Home health care is going to be a big business.
Anyway, I’m sad, sad, sad that we’re not up in Sandpoint, Idaho with our pals watching the fireworks and the 4th of July Parade. This is the second year in a row we’ve missed it because Alex has been ill. Obviously, she comes first. Still, I love Sandpoint and I miss it.
Plus, today was a shocker in another way. A cunning con woman tried to swindle my wife out of some jewelry. It’s a long story and I’ll tell it another time. But there are a lot of thieves here in Sunny Cal and they all seem to find us.
Despite all of that, I swim every day in my pool. I look up at the light blue sky and the tall royal palm trees and the very few clouds and I think how blessed I am. This is our main lack in America right now: gratitude.
I watched a documentary about the Black Panther Party on Netflix two nights ago. I could not believe how scary they were. They were carrying loaded guns on the floor of the California State Legislature in Sacramento. They were as crazy as hell. Just looney tunes. And I was at Yale Law School, raising money for them through the Yale Law School Film Society. It was fun work. Taking tickets. Meeting cute girls. We were told the money went for a free breakfast program for poor kids in “The Hill,” a black neighborhood in New Haven.
One day near Christmas 1969, a sister from the Party wished my wife and me holiday greetings at the Yale Co-op with, “Don’t do it up too much and intensify the class struggle.” We saluted with clenched fists in our J. Press shirts and jackets and Peal loafers and my wife in her pearls and her London Fog.
It turned out the money we gave them went for weapons for them to kill each other and carry out the drug trade, or so we later learned. We were soooo stupid!!!!
And what were the Panthers in Oakland bitching about? They were riding around in air-conditioned cars listening to Jimi Hendrix, smoking the ganja, looking tough in their berets and shades and ’fros. Anything rather than work. What did they have to complain about?
But there we were, all complaining and moaning and acting morally superior as if we were the victims and not the aristos, which is what we were — and are. And why were we so rich, above all? Because we were young and healthy and we thought we would be that way forever.
And now my wife, who taunted the New Haven police while we demonstrated for Bobby Seale and Lonnie McLucas, needs a little tiny Filipina nurse to get up the stairs — white skin privilege. (My grandfather fought in the Philippines in the Aguinaldo Insurrections.) We long ago apologized to the police. We love the police now. But dammit, we were foolish when we were young. Dammit. I’m going to level with you, though: it’s a lot more fun to demonstrate for the Black Panthers than to study Real Property.
It was then, anyway. Good night. I have to go bring my wife some lemonade. The path is lit by the lights of the pool. They’re an aqua green. Save your pennies, young people. You’ll need them sooner than you think.
Photo: Piggy Bank On Pennies, shot for www.SeniorLiving.Org (Ken Teegardin/Creative Commons)