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Posts Tagged ‘Dad’

I suppose I should finish this rambling blog that I started a couple of days ago.

I would like to also say, before I sit down to listen to the President’s State of the Union Address, that I hope I am not one of those people who everyone seems to think pinned all my hopes for the country on one man, one new President.  That was never the case with me as I have been following politics for years and became a bit disillusioned with the whole lot of them (politicians) years ago.  Looking back at the blog I wrote when President Obama was inaugurated, I said:

I don’t hold notions that the entire country, or world, can come together into a “beautiful symphony of brotherhood” as Dr. King put it.  But I do believe that the the goodwill of the rest of the world is not something to spit on and we have a better chance of regaining that.  I do believe that the security of this nation is a priority and I don’t think we will be losing ground on that.  I do believe that many people in this country can work constructively towards a better future and I think many people are willing to put their best foot forward. 

That was it and I still believe that.  Although I used the dreaded word “Hope” to title that blog, it was not meant to say that all my hopes rested on one man. 

And now on to the much less controversial topic of health care.  Ha!

I figured it was time to get a little more personal….

When I was about to graduate from college, a friend of mine asked me a question for an article he was writing for the campus newspaper.  It was the end of the school year, seniors were about to matriculate off of campus and into the wide world.  I can’t remember for sure the specific topic of the article – I think it had to do with the things we were anxious about in regards to our graduation.  The job market?  Being on our own?  Maybe it was an article on the things we were looking forward to after graduation.  Independence?  Being on our own?

I think I said something along the lines of: “I’m worried about health insurance.”

Along with being kicked out of the nest of the university, I was also about to be kicked out of the student health insurance I enjoyed during my undergraduate years.  For the last 4.25 years, I had been able to see a doctor whenever I wanted, get prescriptions I needed, and not worry about what would happen to me if I was gravely injured.  Well, you know – not worry about going bankrupt and all that.  I would be worried, of course.  It may seem like a strange thing to feel anxious about when leaving college.  With all the world in front of me and no full-time job lined up, I was most worried about health insurance.   

You see, I didn’t have that growing up.  I’m willing to bet a lot of kids my age didn’t either.  But really, I’m not sure. If their parents worked for a good-sized company, maybe they all did have health insurance. My parents didn’t and so, we didn’t. 

I didn’t understand health insurance when I was a kid.  I remember going to the dentist on a regular basis.  I had to, what with the teeth extractions and the cavities and the braces and all.  But going to the doctor?  Not so much.  I remember a shot when I was very little.  Some sort of pain in my neck in 6th grade when I turned my head too fast.  And……that was it.  I don’t remember seeing a doctor between the age of – oh about 11 to age 19.  Not that I really needed one.  I was a fairly healthy kid. 

Except, really I wasn’t.  I got sick often.  When I finally saw a doctor during my first year of college and he asked me all sorts of questions and listened to my lungs, he said “You have bronchitis” and gave me some antibiotics.  “Really?”  I thought to myself.  Because I was experiencing the same symptoms and problems I’d had many times in the past.  I just never thought to go to the doctor.  Now again, I consider myself to be lucky because, even though it probably caused a world of stress for my parents, I got help when I needed it.  They paid for my braces.  They paid for my eye exams and glasses.  I just don’t remember if insurance was ever part of our vocabulary back then. 

But I do remember a lot of anxiety over the idea of needing to see a doctor.  This had mostly to do with the fact that my dad had a couple of scary stints in the hospital when I was younger.  The irony I came to learn later was that – I think Dad could have avoided the times in the ICU if he had sought medical help earlier with his doctor.  When I was in college and he was in between insurance carriers, he didn’t go to see the doctor until the pain and damage was enough to cause him to pass out when he finally drove to the hospital.  And then, he wasn’t covered by insurance and spent years paying off the hospital stay.  Didn’t matter that he had just been covered.  Or that, in a few more weeks he would be covered.  He didn’t have an interim policy and therefore, he was screwed.

Over the years since college, I’ve watched and listened to friends who won’t go to see a doctor when they are not covered by insurance.  I’ve seen friends fret over getting independent insurance when they fear that some benign old ailment will suddenly become the “preexisting condition” that results in denial of coverage. 

People like to throw out terms like “death panels” when talking about the proposals for health care reform that have been winding their ways through Congress last year.  As if the idea of someone dying because he or she is denied health care coverage under the new proposals is a completely novel idea.  Really??  Where have you been?  Oh sure, you say that anyone in this country can walk into an emergency room and get help.  Sure.  But they still have to pay for it if they are not covered.  For some people, the choice of trying to manage their own pain versus paying thousands and thousands of dollars for emergency care is not a choice at all.  Or, some people who seek treatments are flat out denied coverage by their existing insurance carriers and, believe me, there are not many things harder to do than make an appointment with a doctor, let alone a specialist, without health insurance.  I tried to do it. 

Years ago, I was dissatisfied with my existing doctor and wanted to meet a new potential primary care physician.  I wanted to meet this doctor first before switching to her so I made an appointment.  I went into the office to check in and gave them my insurance card. 

But wait, I was told, Dr. A is not your PCP. 

I know, I said.  I want to meet her first before I assign her as my PCP.

But then your’re not covered by your insurance.

Well, that’s irritating but ok.  Can you give me an estimate of how much it will cost to talk to her?

No.

No?  Excuse me?  Can you just give me a ballpark figure of how much it would cost to walk through that door right there, sit down with the doctor for 10 minutes and walk out?

No.

Why not?

We cannot possibly cover all the possible things that may happen.  We can’t give you an estimate. Why don’t you just call your insurance, change her to your PCP, make a new appointment and if you don’t like her, you can change your PCP again. 

Now tell me, is that a WTF? moment or not?  I’m standing about 20 feet away from the doctor I want to meet.  But I have to pay money to open that door and meet her.  And her staff cannot give me a price estimate.  Cannot give me a price estimate.

WHO DOESN”T DO THAT????  WTF?  You need your oil changed in your car?  You call a garage and get a price estimate.  You want to switch your cell phone carrier?  You can call companies and get price estimates.  You want to buy a new TV?  You can shop around and look at price tags.  Hell, if you want me to write you a Population, Employment and Housing section of an environmental impact report for a new development, the least I can do is give you my billing rate. 

But ask how much it costs to see a doctor in this country?????  Nooooooooo.  We can’t do that.  Who knows -you might slam the door shut on your finger, bump your head on the counter and suddenly – the doctor needs to perform brain surgery.  Yeah.  That’s right stupid little patient.  Do what your insurance company tells you and it will all be better.

So, that was my attempt to get help without proper insurance coverage.  I ended up walking out, switching my PCP and going back to meet her.  Crazy how we can meet with anyone else in the world we want to hire beforehand but we can’t seem to cross that magic door to see a doctor without the proper paperwork. 

After I graduated from college, I was lucky enough to picked up for a full-time position with the research group I had been working for as a student.  Ever since then, I’ve either been working full time or covered by a COBRA policy.  Or – now that I am working on my own, covered by my husband’s work insurance.  There are still problems, especially if we want to move back to the mainland.  But still – I’m one of the lucky ones. 

I don’t believe in, nor want, an only-government-run health care plan in this country.  I’ve said it before – it’s not feasible in the United States.  I don’t think it would be efficient either.  I’m not in favor of the government spending more money than they take in.  But I do believe that reform is needed so that people who can pay for coverage and want coverage can get it.  I think that, if we require drivers to have current auto insurance, we should require citizens to have current health insurance.  I don’t say this because I am some sort of bleeding-heart who wants universal love and peace.  I say this because covering costs for the uninsured ultimately raises costs for the rest of us.  And I say this because I’ve seen the detrimental effects on my friends and family members of not having health insurance. 

I suppose there is more I could write but I’m not really trying to convince anyone of anything with my babbling here.  I’m just trying to give a little personal perspective.  People expect stereotypes in politics.  “Well, you are XYZ, so you must believe ABC.”  Sometimes I follow a stereotype.  Sometimes I don’t.  Sometimes I believe in things because I research both sides and talk to people and learn as much as I can.  Sometimes I believe in things because of personal experience.  Sometimes, it’s a little bit of both.

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Pearl Harbor Day

December 7 – Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day for folks here in the US – may have more meaning for me than for other people.  For one thing, I now live in Hawai’i and nowhere are the events of December 7 1941 more remembered than at Pearl Harbor itself.  The attack on that day targeted not only the harbor with the US Navy ships, but also Hickham, Wheeler, and Bellows Army air fields, Ewa Marine Corps Air Station, and Kaneohe Naval Air Station.  It is now 2009 and there are still people living on Oahu who remember the attacks from 1941.  There are also still a very few veterans of World War II in the area.  Fewer and fewer every year, but some are still around.

Another reason I always remember this day on my calendar is because it is/was also my parents’ wedding anniversary.  Happy Anniversary!

And finally, speaking of those World War II vets, my father was one.  He would have been 83 years old this year.  He was a Navy man and, although he rarely talked about it, he was fiercely proud of his service during the war.  He was one of those young guys going along with his life when the US entered the war.  He and his brothers signed up and shipped off to various parts of the earth.  Dad in particular went to many places as he ended up on a supply ship and circumnavigated the world at least twice.  He left the service after WWII, and he really never accepted the term “Greatest Generation.”  Dad always felt that every generation rises up to the challenges that it faces.

My Big Sis and I visited Pearl Harbor a couple of years ago when she was here visiting.  We went out to the USS Arizona memorial.  Later, Sweetie and I also visited the USS Missouri.  It was a moving and educational experience.   I thought I would be overcome with emotion when I got out to the USS Arizona memorial, thinking about my father and the Navy men and service-people and American civilians who died on December 7, 1941.   I’m not generally a loud flag-waving rah-rah type.    But I felt more awe than sadness while gazing out at the water in the Harbor.  I could write something cliche about those who are doomed to repeat the past if they don’t remember it.  But I think many people do remember past wars.  We remember why they came about.  We remember how they were fought and the cost of fighting them.  And then tomorrow dawns with a whole new set of world events and circumstances and there is never a guarantee that we won’t fight again.  I haven’t figured out how to prevent that from happening yet but I’ll let you know if I do someday. 

 

Some a previous blog of mine – facts from Pearl Harbor:

  • The USS Arizona tour is free.  You arrive, get a card for admission to the excellent 20+ minute movie, and board a boat that takes you out to the USS Arizona memorial in the harbor. 
  • The loss of life on the USS Arizona on Sunday, December 7, 1941 was 1,177 lives.  Overall, more than 2,000 lives were lost at Pearl Harbor that morning. 
  • After being struck by airborne torpedoes, which ended up hitting the ammunition magazine section of the battleship, the USS Arizona battleship sunk in less than nine minutes.
  • 66 years after the explosion that destroyed Arizona, oil leaks from the hull still rise to the surface of the water. The USS Arizona continues to leak about a quart of oil per day into the harbor.  Survivors from the crew say that the oil will continue to leak until the last survivor dies.
  • The attack on Pearl Harbor sunk, beached (the USS Nevada captain ran his ship aground so it would not block the harbor entrance as it sank), or damaged 21 ships in the harbor.
  • Of the 21 ships, including eight battleships, that were damaged during the attack, all but three were returned salvaged, returned to service and later saw action.  The restored ships included the USS California, USS Maryland, and the USS Pennsylvania.  The USS Utah, Arizona, and Oklahoma were total losses. 
  •  The damaged USS Tennessee was restored within two weeks.
  • The USS West Virginia was raised, repaired and returned to duty in 1944.  She later won five battle stars and was present in Tokyo Bay in 1945 to witness the Japanese surrender.
  • According to the “Casualties of World War II” chart on board the USS Missouri, there were 19 million military deaths and 50 million civilian deaths during WW II.  The civilian deaths included 15,000,000 in China and 20,000,00 in the Soviet Union and 5,600,000 in Poland.  Staggering losses of civilian life.

To learn more check out these sites:

http://www.nps.gov/archive/usar/home.htm

http://www.ussarizona.org/

http://www.ussmissouri.com/

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Taps

I went to a funeral yesterday with Mom, Big Sis, and my aunt. Sorry to say that one of my father’s oldest friends died a little while ago. “Uncle” Bill was my dad’s friend when Dad first dated Mom. Story goes – he was the friend enlisted to keep my aunt company so my dad could make the moves on Mom. He celebrated their wedding and stood by my dad’s side. I remember visiting him and his family when I was a kid – shivering in the pool with Big Sis and Uncle Bill’s two sons waiting for pictures to be taken, playing my first computer games on their Atari computer, learning how to play Chinese jump rope before it became popular on my own playground back home.

Last time Mom and I had dinner with him late last year, mom mentioned how much weight Uncle Bill had lost. That was when we realized he was waging his own cancer battle, just a few months after Dad’s death. Though – come to think of it, it probably started when Dad was still alive. But a battle against pancreatic cancer is tough to fight, and it was not to be won. But standing at the funeral, listening to his son and his friends speak, it sounded like Uncle Bill kept his spirits lifted and his outlook real during the last few months.

Uncle Bill was a veteran, and they played Taps at the funeral service. Every time I hear it, I think of my own uncle’s funeral – my dad’s brother who died a few years ago. It was a strikingly poignant moment in his funeral – to hear that lonely trumpet call. To hear the somber notes. To know that, truly, my uncle’s long day was done. And it just seemed so respectful, to me. To hear it. Don’t know why. But man, did that strike a weeping chord in me.

Wikipedia says that there are no official lyrics to Taps. But here is the most common form of the lyrics that have been used over the years. Farewell, Uncle Bill.

Fading light dims the sight
And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright
From afar drawing nigh,
Falls the night.Day is done, gone the sun
From the lake, from the hills, from the sky
All is well, safely rest;
God is nigh.

Then goodnight, peaceful night;
Till the light of the dawn shineth bright.
God is near, do not fear,
Friend, goodnight.

 

 

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….the things some people say and believe.

You know, I’m not really going to try and chime in on the particulars of the Jena 6 case. Truth is, I didn’t know about the previous incidents before last week, so I don’t know all the facts of the cases. I don’t.

But I thought someone made a very telling statement to the news crews on the day of the protest march in Jena. On the news that night they interviewed people who had traveled in buses to attend the march. Then, they interviewed several people in town who were awaiting the arrival of marchers. One woman stated this:

“We live in the 21st century. They’re not going to let people get rail-roaded!”

ummmm……

What planet of brotherly love do YOU live on? Pull the wool away from your eyes, dear. She didn’t object to the marchers, but she seems to think there is no reason why any group of people would need to stand up and make a case for racial justice.

And that, my friends, is exactly why we still need these types of marches. Not to make a case for or against particular people. Not to be angry. But to say to folks in this country – there are a lot of places here where people of different races are not on a level playing field. And doesn’t everyone deserve that?

I honestly don’t think all the marches in the world will change the heart of racist people. These people are going to believe whatever they want to believe. Maybe because they are afraid. Maybe because they seek power. Maybe because they’ve been brainwashed. Who knows.

But I think people need to look around and realize that inequities still exist. Everywhere. I’m not singling out the southern portions of our Nation. Or the big cities. Or the impoverished. Many places will have problems. I spent about 10 years in a college town in California. Lots of ethnicities in town. And lots and lots of highly educated people. Lots. But they couldn’t escape the brutality of race-related problems. Insulting graffiti on homes. Fights in the schools. Alleged racial profiling by the City’s police department. I spent a lot of time talking to a friend of mine who knows the amount of times her two sons (she’s white, her kids are black) were pulled over by police in town – for invisible infractions. For the sheer sport of it, it seemed. Years of this behavior, so that it got to the point that her law-abiding sons were afraid of the police. And finally moved out of town. She’s been trying to complain to the police department for years. The community itself held a march in 2006 protesting alleged racial profiling by the police department. It may not be as bad as other parts of the country, but these problems still exist, from one end of the nation to the other.

Now, I’m not as sensitive to racism as my father used to be. Bless his heart, if someone seated us in a restaurant too close to either the front door – or to the kitchen – Dad would get this grumbly look in his eye like “We’ve been singled out!” And you couldn’t win. If we went to a Chinese restaurant – we were singled out because my mom is Caucasian. If we went to any other restaurant – we were singled out because Dad is Asian. He never actually said it, but there are several restaurants dad would not let us return to after a perfectly good meal. But keep in mind – Dad grew up in the 1940s through 60s. He had seen his fair share of hardcore hatred and discrimination. That tends to wear on a human being.

So, I’m not that sensitive. And I think things have much improved since my father was a young man. But I don’t believe we live in a lovely place where no one gets railroaded anymore. It’s not an equal playing field by far. And people shouldn’t live in oblivion.

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For Dad

My mom picked out a fountain today for her backyard. She had been shopping around with Big Sis for one for a long while. She saw some she liked. She could not decide. They went back out this morning but did not buy one. They came home, and Mom asked me if I would go with her to one other place where she had seen a fountain she liked. So Mom, Youngest Nephew, and I drove Big Sis’ truck out to look at fountains. Mom made a decision! They loaded the 300+ pound thing into the back of the truck. Big Bro and I got most of it set up in the yard. We had to wait for Big Sis to come back to house to lug the last piece in place.

And Voila! Mom has a fountain. The Nephews had fun playing around with it. Mom found an old basket of sea shells that my sister and I had collected/bought many many years ago. The Nephews had fun placing them all over the fountain, changing the flow and sound a little bit.

Mom bought this fountain for Dad. It’s not just from her. Several of her family members, instead of buying flowers for the funeral last year, gave her money to get a memorial-type fountain for Dad for the yard. We all thought it was something Dad would like. And it’s more permanent that flowers. And here it sits. Almost exactly one year after Dad died. I like that it’s kind of modern looking, but still has a natural look to it. The patterns look almost like bamboo. Mom likes that it makes a decently loud sloooshing noise as the water flows down. Dad may think it’s a little big, but I think he would like it.

There’s lots I can say about last year. For now, I’ll show you the fountain. And think about Dad.

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