Dora Is Back From Vacation

Mary with tea

Tea time

You know how you are exhausted when you come back from vacation? You think you should be refreshed from the break from your normal routine, but all that play tires you out.

My friends Tricia and David took care of Dora while I was at my annual hiking trip, The Hen Hike, in northeastern Pennsylvania. They returned her to me a few minutes after I got home from the airport. I have never seen her so joyful. She was jumping and licking and even biting my nose and my chin. I think maybe she missed me. Even though she had a grand time at their house, playing ball several times a day and going on really long walks, she seemed to be worn out. Usually, when I unpack from a trip, my dog follows me around as I put things away, but Dora lay sprawled out on the bedroom floor and just watched me from there. I felt like lying down with her, I was so tired myself, but I’m rather compulsive about getting unpacked, doing laundry, and even taking a hot bath after a travel day.

The hike this year was not nearly as challenging as it usually is. The trails were flat and free of rocks and roots. I sort of missed those kinds of trails. The most climbing I did this year was trudging up the 30 steps to my room on the third floor several times a day. We stayed at an inn that was 105 years old, complete with fireplaces and a front porch with wooden rocking chairs.

The Hens

The Hens

The fellowship was fabulous as usual. All 10 of us were seated together at 1 long table for breakfast and dinner, so there was always laughter and story-telling at each meal. We heard stories of recent trips and memories of extraordinary events, like being in a hurricane. One woman told about what it was like to be a child in Norway during WW 2. Another told a hilarious story of how she tried a marijuana laced brownie, and the paramedics had to come. 2 of our visually impaired gals described their adventures in parasailing. We are from all over the country and range in age from 50 something to 70 something. But we share our love of the outdoors, laughter, and adventurous spirit.

One of the things that I love about women is our ability to find something in common, almost immediately. 2 of our gals were new to the Hen Hike, but there was no problem in embracing them into the group. 3 of us have guide dogs, and we missed them fiercely, but normally, it wouldn’t be practical to have them try to guide us on skinny trails with drop-offs and boulders to climb over. Oh they would love it, but I could just see myself being dragged down the mountainside to chase a rabbit. So I’m guessing that the other dog guide handlers had a joyful reunion as well. We’re exhausted, so we must have had a wonderful time.

The Mysteries of Medicare

When you get something for free, you tend to think, this is too good to be true. And then you find it is, that is, too good to be true.

For a while this year, I had the envy of my blind friends. Once a week, a young woman from a home health agency came to my home and helped me with a few tasks around the house, running the sweeper, checking my clothes for spots, reading directions on cake mixes, things like that. The bonus was that she also took me on errands, including running to the bank, the drug store, the doctor, and even to clothing stores. We had a great time. She enjoyed helping me, and I was enjoying having the free service provided by Medicare. Sound like a dream come true? Not quite. Nothing is free.

In order to get this service, I had to endure an annoying visit from a nurse, not once a month, not occasionally, but every single week. I protested that I am not sick. I am not injured. I am not recovering from surgery. I’m just blind. But the rule was that I had to have a checkup by the nurse every week, or I didn’t get the service. In addition, and even more aggravating was that I had to sign a paper stating that the “Aid” had worked 6 hours each week, whether she did or not. To make peace with myself, I tried to keep her busy for 6 hours. I didn’t need that much help, but rules are rules. The powers that be at Medicare say that if you don’t need at least 6 hours, then you don’t need help at all. What a crock. This meant that the aid was being paid for 6 hours when she only worked for 2 or 3. This is wrong. I finally decided that the obnoxious visits from the nurse and the deceitful paperwork were not worth the free help. I was told that I could offer to pay this young woman myself if I wanted to. OK, I thought. I can do that. I had a talk with her the next Monday and told her that I would pay her the same she was getting from the agency, but I would pay her only for the hours she worked, not 6. She was fine with that, but then, the agency barged into our little agreement and replaced me with another client for this aid. In order to keep her standing with the agency, she had to go with it, and her schedule didn’t allow fitting me in as well. So, here I am, back at square 1, recruiting friends to help and orchestrating ways to get things done. Stay tuned. I’ll figure this out.

Tape Pals

I called the post office this afternoon with a complaint. It’s not the first time, or the second, or the third or the fourth that I’ve told them that my mail carrier is ignoring the tape mailer that I put in my mailbox for her to pick up. I asked, “Have you stopped the service of picking up mail that people leave in their mailboxes?” The answer was no. Then why does she keep ignoring my outgoing mail? “Is it out where she can see it,” they ask. “Of course it is. It’s sticking out like a tongue” I replied. “She is tucking the mail behind the tape mailer, so I know she has to be able to see it.” The tape mailer is a plastic envelope, which holds 2 cassette tapes. There is a clear plastic window on one side with an address card that you flip over and reinsert when you want to send it back. Many organizations for the blind have used this method of sending out communications for years, that is, until say the 1990’s, or the turn of this century. For me, when email finally got into my vocabulary. I no longer receive tapes from the Library for the Blind, because now I download them into my lap top or my iPhone. But there is this one friend of mine, John, whom I met at the Seeing Eye back in 1982, who still enjoys a tape-pal correspondence with me. Maybe he tapes to other friends, but I doubt he’ll find anybody else with the patience to keep this up. In fact, I’ve often wished that he’d join the 21st century and just email with me, but there’s something about sitting down with a tape recorder and chatting to the microphone that is appealing to him, and I guess therapeutic for me. Sometimes, when I haven’t seen a human being in a couple of days, I welcome the chance to talk to a friend, even though I know he’s not going to get this monologue for a few days. It’s almost like writing an old fashioned letter.

John and I have never seen each other since that July in 1982, when we were both at the Seeing Eye to meet our first dog guides. Ours is not a romantic relationship, but we know a lot of things about each other that we don’t share with just anybody. Of course, the main topic is how are dogs are doing, but we also talk about our kids, our friends, and news of our daily lives. This relationship started at the Seeing Eye, when we were the only 2 left at the table having coffee, when all the others had jumped up and run off to their rooms or to groom their dogs or whatever. John and I seemed to be the only grownups at our table, the others being college students, and we found we had some things in common. It seemed like a good idea to start taping letters back and forth after we returned to our respective homes to see how we were doing as handlers of our wonderful dogs. He lives in Wisconsin. . When I get one of these tape mailers, I know that I’m going to be in for a nice long chatty letter. One of our shared interests is music, particularly the old standards and musicals. Sometimes, John allows the former radio engineer in him to come out, and he plays some of his music for me, especially if I’ve mentioned a particular song in a previous letter.

All this is very old fashioned and very very low tech, but the only snag seems to be my mail carrier. Maybe she doesn’t know what a cassette mailer is? It’s possible that that’s what the problem is. Maybe she sees it and wonders what the heck I’m putting in my mailbox. If it isn’t an ad or a catalog or a bill, then why is it there? But doesn’t she see the address label? And didn’t she just deliver it to me last week?