Sunday, August 26, 2012

DNR - Double Negative Response

This last week I was very involved in health care issues and solutions. Not personal issues, but issues of how we can best provide good and sufficient health care to the people who are in need, regardless, as they say, of ability to pay. I’ve been involved with health care for much of the last 50 years or so, sometimes as an educator, at others as a provider, and still others as a planner. My work has put me in close contact with the health care delivery system as it exists, and a participant in the work of advancing the goals of high quality care for all. I identify that as care that is good and sufficient. I reject, as a matter of both personal preference and practicality, care that exceeds the needs of the patient and the possibility of good, responsible medicine. It isn’t easy.

It isn’t easy today, especially, when our health – yours and mine – is no longer a reflection of civilized society raised to a very sophisticated level. No, health has now become a picture of unmitigated horror, as we try to cope with rocket-propelled costs, overwhelming opposition, but beyond all that, with politicians who see your health care and mine as something they own that they can play with for their own purposes and benefit.

Politicians today need to stop and ask themselves: "Which side am I on?" Every move, every plan put forward, seems calculated only to achieve an office or hold onto one already owned. One group is only interested in displacing the other, or preventing the other from dong so. Everything they do is at great cost to us, but not to our benefit.

I’ve gotten in the habit, when ending a conversation, of adding: "Take care." I think I need to modify that: "Take care of yourself. Nobody else will."

Of course, that’s always been the answer.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Watching paint peel

Watching paint peel

We often use the metaphor of watching paint dry to indicate dull, uninspired or just plain slow behavior or action. Well, there is the other end of the spectrum: watching paint peel. It happens when the paint has been on for a long time.

This is the year, it seems, that gutters, tractors, trucks and wheelbarrows all have reached some predestined limit on utility and service. I admit that most of the equipment we use to maintain our place is old; fifteen to twenty years would be perhaps a mid-life crisis for some of what we use. The oldest, a 63-year-old tractor, while still valiantly carrying on without a stumble, needs work. So does the fifteen-year-old tractor I use for mowing. And the 30-year-old pick-up, while it still can climb any mountain, haul any load, looks a bit down in the suspension, as it were, with a decided tilt at one corner when loaded. As for the buildings, well there is some evidence that time has played here too. Gutters have shifted, seals are worn, downspouts need constant cleaning as the forest surrounding the house has grown up and up and more inclined to drop twigs and seeds and pine cones and an occasional branch.

Some days, when I walk in the woods or fields surrounding the house, I make lists of things I need to do, things that should be replaced or repaired or just cleaned up. I know what needs to be done, I know how to do it, I just don’t always get around to it until it is a near emergency. In spite of our organized attempts at keeping fresh and up-to-date, regardless of how often we make plans to do something about it, life continues to progress at it’s own rate.

Growing older is sort of like that: little by little, the once-smooth surface of life begins to crinkle and crack. The tightness of skin becomes a problem, drawing too tight for the underlying muscle, slowly peeling, like a bad sunburn, except that at some point you begin avoiding the sun and it still doesn’t help.

Life peels just like paint.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Days Grow Shorter

The days grow shorter but the grass doesn’t. It doesn’t seem to balance, somehow. I know that eventually the grass will stop growing, will just stand there (or lie there if I don’t cut it), slowly turning brown, hiding itself until Spring calls on it again. Still, it seems that there should be some concomitant diminishing in size as well as swiftness. After all, we grow shorter as we age, so why not the grass?

We grow shorter, but our challenges and problems don’t. One would like to think that as we age, as we mature and then become "seniors," we’d earn more than to simply be discounted. Does it bother you (if you’re past 50) that society now categorizes you as something to be discounted? Somewhat like day-old bread, perhaps? Okay, the bread is still good the day after you buy it, even when you get it hot from the bakery oven (if you can still find bread that comes from a bakery rather than a tractor-trailer), but it won’t last forever, so maybe that isn’t quite the right simile for this line of thought, but I think you can see where I’m headed: if our days are shorter, so should be our concerns, distractions, problems. But it doesn’t happen that way.

Like the metaphorical grass, our concerns and problems continue to grow, weeds shoot up no matter how well we clear and cultivate, the grass grows tall, the weeds find purchase, and life (as we know it) goes on.

Years ago experimenters discovered how to limit the size of some crops by careful selection and breeding. Even animals can be bred to increase or decrease size. One hopes that somewhere there is a research protocol seeking ways to reduce the size of our problems.

I’ll take that discount, thank you very much.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Breathing in, breathing out

Last night we participated in a celebration of the life of one of our friends who passed away earlier this Spring. Alice left behind not just her husband, who has been my colleague and our friend for more than 40 years, but children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and her own immediate family and friends and more. We gathered to share stories, meet members of the family we had heard about for years, and over dinner and a few drinks, remember our friend. It was a fitting close to a remarkable life and the person who lived it. It was a fine way to begin moving on.

Moving on is after all, for the living. We cannot live if we cannot pass from one place to the next, nor can we take others with us if we aren’t going anywhere. Life is, in my mind at least, about moving forward. Moving to a new plane, moving to a new level, becoming a new version of an old self, always growing. One doesn’t grow if one stays in the same place for a lifetime. Our friend understood that, I know.

But you don’t have to be a world-traveler to understand the world, to be truly a part of it. Rather, you must be open to the world around you, wherever you are. You must be ready to see new faces, listen to new voices, smell and taste the morsels of life.

Living is so much more than just breathing in and breathing out.