TGIF

Finish each day, and be done with it. You have done what you could. Ralph Waldo Emerson

I read this quote In the Daily Almanac in todays Columbus Dispatch, and it really struck home with me. After a week of struggling with medical red tape and a mothers dementia, Im thinking TGIF! Im done with last year, with last week, and yesterday. Next week, Ill be taking a drastic step to change my life, for the better. Stay tuned.

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So Close to the Finish

As I approach the finish line on my race to fix my sciatica, the frustration factor continues to dog my every step. I saw the surgeon yesterday, and today I made arrangements to go get my pre-surgery testing done. My daughter is looking into airfares and flights, so she can come and help. Surgery has been scheduled, and all systems are go. Only maybe not. The office manager of the surgeon called and said, Are you aware that your primary care physician is supposed to make a referral to our office in order for your insurance to pay for your surgery? Yes, not only was I aware of that, but I was also told that the referral had been made. Apparently, not so. This is not the first time the insurance referral was lost in the shuffle. Earlier in my quest for a solution to the sciatic nerve problem, I reported to the orthopedic specialist, signed in, filled out all the paperwork, and then was told I wouldnt be able to see the doctor, because the referral had not been made. There is a distinct possibility that I will have gone through all the pre-surgery procedures, only to have to start over again with another surgeon, just because my PCPs office couldnt get their act together. In the current vernacular, I am so done with that PCP. Its not enough to be in pain. Its not enough to worry about things going wrong during surgery. Its not enough to fear that the surgery wont fix the problem. I have to fight off incompetence so I can finally reach that finish line. Wait. Is that cheering I hear? Just one more bend in the road, and I hope to be home free.

Walk the Dog, In This?

Go for a walk? Seriously? When you live in an apartment, or when you have a dog guide, you still have to walk the dog, even when there is ice and snow. Fortunately for me, Pippen has no interest in going for a walk at the age of 11, and fortunately for us both, she has a nice fenced in yard for taking care of natures calls. Still, even an 11-year-old dog needs exercise, as do I.

I friend who lives in Wisconsin, where deep snow throughout the winter is the norm, gave me an idea for getting in winter walking without having to climb over mountains of snow left from snow plows. His wife drives him to the local Home Depot, and he and his Seeing eye dog walk up and down the aisles and around the perimeter of the store. I took this idea and incorporated it into a learning experience for a couple of OhioState students.

Three years ago, I agreed to have 2 students shadow me, as part of their social work curriculum. Because I worked from my home, I had to be a bit creative with finding activities for them to observe. I mean, watching me make a cup of tea and take it up to my office is not exactly fascinating, nor is sitting at the computer. However, we managed to fill several hours, one of which was marching around the Home Depot.

It was a January day, much like today, and it was bitterly cold and icy. Pippen and I hadnt had a good walk in several days. When the girls arrived, we drove to the local store for a lesson in how dog guides work. They walked slightly behind me, observing how I gave Pippen verbal commands along with hand gestures, such as forward, right, left, and hup up. They got to see how she negotiated displays in the middle of the aisles and made sure we cleared the shopping carts and shoppers. We even did a little shopping. We talked about the benefits of having a dog guide and how mobility differs when using a white cane. It felt good to stretch our legs and walk with confidence, and it felt good to use that experience to educate 2 students about working a dog guide. And Pippen thought the working conditions were a whole lot better than trying to figure out where the sidewalks were under that blanket of white stuff and climbing over shoulder-high mounds of snow. Its not easy when youre only 21 inches tall.

Observing Mom

Its in the bedroom, on the bedside table, just behind the clock, about 3 inches back and to the right, close to the back right hand corner. These are instructions Mom is giving to the nurses aid, who has come to see what is wrong with the bedside telephone. Of course, the aid has spotted it, the moment she walks into the bedroom of Moms assisted living residence, but Mom is still barking out directions, from her position on the living room couch. Ive heard her do this, many times. When she directs people in another room to fetch something, or to put away something for her, she continues a long string of explicit directions, long after the average sighted person lays eyes on it and has done the job. Why does she do this? Doesnt she get it that they can see? Then it hits me, like the proverbial light bulb coming on. Yes, of course, she knows they can see, but the habit is so etched on her brain that it doesnt occur to her to acknowledge that they can see. Ever since I began to lose my vision at age 8, my mother has given me hair-splitting directions when I was looking for something. Even to this day, if I drop something on the floor, such as a Scrabble tile, and I kneel down on the floor and start making circles with my hands on the carpet to locate it, she peers down and tells me where to find it Move your right hand forward, now over to the left a little, no too much, now back about an inch. Notice, my mother never says right over here. Her directions have always been extremely accurate. Good thing she keeps her belongings lined up and catalogued in their appropriate places, so she can do what she thinks is necessary, to direct the aid to right where it is. It can be annoying until I realize that she is just In the habit of doing so, although I am the only one who ever needed that kind of direction in her life. These days, when Im sent on a fetching mission, I have often found the object and dealt with it, long before she has finished her orders, but it takes a great deal of effort for her to think of the right words and to get the breath to project them. Part of the annoyance on my part is that I understand that some of this behavior is due to her excessive need to be in control. Instead of saying, Its on the second shelf of the bookcase, and letting me trail my hand across the shelf to find the object, she wants me to put my han in the exact spot she thinks the object is in. Even though finding it myself is often more efficient, Im trying to just let her continue with her instructions, and by the time she is done, I have it in my hand and am handing it to her. She never gets it that she is expending way too much energy with all these orders. She never will.

As I reflect on my life growing up with this woman as my mother, I am discovering some traits that are, shall we say, less than desirable? Is recognizing them enough to prevent me from demonstrating the same behavior when or if I reach her age? I hope so. I sincerely hope so.

Invisible Woman

Dont you just love holiday parties? You greet old friends, and you meet new people, and you get to sample all kinds of yummy treats. For a visually impaired person, or for anyone who is not skilled at interjecting herself into others conversations, it can be a challenge. Speaking from the point of view of one who fits both categories, I have to share my experience of how yesterdays party was a satisfying and successful one, due to the sensitivity of my friend Eve.

It was her traditional New Years Day brunch, and many of her neighbors and bike club friends gathered for a scrumptious meal, snacks, and Mimosas. Typically, the first thing a host wants to do with a blind guest is to find her a chair. As my dear friend Deborah Kendrick says, this is a deadly mistake. Never sit down, because, in doing so, you have just been plunked down like a package. Keep standing, preferably near the food or beverages. Thats where people will have to pass you and maybe talk to you. You are then recognized as a person who might have something interesting or entertaining to say. When you are plunked down, you become invisible. If you cant catch the eye of someone who comes near you, you are ignored. Ive found that people are reluctant to start a conversation with someone who cant make eye contact, and if Im the one trying to start the conversation, its only a successful interchange if you can keep that persons attention without eye contact. The sensitive sighted person will contribute to the success of the conversation with verbal responses or an occasional touch on the arm or shoulder to make a point. On the other hand, the unthinking sighted person might see someone he or she would like to speak to across the room and not let the blind person know verbally as in Excuse me, I want to go say hello to Joe. I cant tell you how many times I have been left talking to the air, because I didnt know the person I was talking to had left my side.

Yesterday, at Eves party, I was not an invisible woman, and heres how Eve prevented that from happening. She brought me into the kitchen, where all the action was. I took a seat at the kitchen counter, mostly because of my sciatic nerve pain, which prevents me from standing for more than 30 seconds. This was the next best thing to standing near the food and beverages. I was in the middle of everything and yet I wasnt in the way. I could chat with people as they brought in dishes to share and to Eve as she bustled to and fro, doing hostess things. Now and then, shed perch on another stool beside me, to take a sip of her own mimosa, but when she had to leave, she always said, Ive got to go do this or that. Ill be back in a minute. Another plus for me was that she took me through the buffet line herself. She was the one person who knew what every dish contained. Not once did she say, Heres some green stuff. I dont know what it is. Do you want some? After the main meal had been consumed, Eve offered to take me to a more comfortable chair, but I was very happy to stay there in the kitchen, as thats where my bike buddies had clustered. It was fun to hear their stories and plans for future trips. My bike buddies, Tricia and Sharon, were also very attentive, making sure my glass wasnt empty and offering to let me know what the choices were on the dessert table.

Once, I went to a birthday party, where the only person I knew was the guest of honor. Never again. I was the very definition of the invisible woman, even though I had my guide dog with me. Educated people know that they should not talk to the dog, so they tend also not to talk to me either, thus making me feel invisible. Im so happy to say that yesterday, I was not the invisible woman.