This one thing you can do
This morning I was met with irritation- the kind of irritation where you’ve been having a long, stressful week and just when you thought you’d gotten the slightest of breaks, it gets snatched out of your hands. I’m trying very hard right now to just swallow it and move on because, in the grand scheme of things, it is such a tiny, bullshit thing. I won’t even tell you what it is because it would shame both of us to do so.
Welcome to the very picture of The Grand Scheme of Things.
My pal Meg is awesome for many reasons- she’s funny and beautiful and she swears like a sailor trapped in a submarine, to my endless delight (think of Katharine Hepburn just letting lose with a trail of salty oaths as often as she possibly can. Hilarious). But nothing quite prepared me for her relationship with Kate, her roommate in Baltimore.
This post starts with Meg because that’s how I was introduced to Kate’s situation, through Meg. But it’s really all about Kate. Kate is a teacher in Maryland, has an awesome dog who can open doors, drives a sweet van and is quite possibly the feistiest person I’ve ever seen confined to a wheelchair. Oh, yeah- she has MS. Did I forget to mention that?
You know what- it might be easier if I just let Kate talk about Kate. Here is her post from her blog Health, Interrupted. At the end of it, I’m going to ask for your help so fair warning:
I wish to start this blog in the same way my middle school students liked to start their essays: in this blog I am going to tell you why there is a donation button on my blog. And that, my friends, is why I no longer teach middle school.
Please note also, that before I begin I will try as hard as I can to avoid either ranting or indulging in self-pity, but both efforts may very well prove futile.
My current situation:
• I had pretty major surgery on June 17th. And though the entire point of the surgery was to make my life with M.S. more manageable, at this point the opposite has proven true. Make no mistake, things weren’t going swimmingly prior to the surgery, but – when necessary – I could do things like get in bed, transfer into and out of the shower, and put my socks on independently. Now, those things are only possible with the help of my roommate, Meg.
• Problem: Meg is moving to NYC. She wants to move as soon as possible, but has resigned herself to remaining in Baltimore through December at the latest.
• In addition to being one of my favorite people in life, Meg is also my built-in caretaker. I trust her implicitly. Even when I find myself in impossible predicaments, she is able to rescue me. She never, ever lets me fall, and she problem-solves like no one I’ve ever met. She loves to cook, bake and clean, and she can always, always make me laugh. Meg’s only “flaw” is that she refuses to take a compliment, and seems to think I’m joking when I refer to her as superhuman. I, of course, am dead serious.
• When Meg leaves, and when she visits her boyfriend in New York on the weekends, I am left with a few options: 1. Enlist the help of friends, 2. Move home imminently and give up on my so-called independence, or 3. Hire a caretaker. Each of these options is rife with cons; option # 1 is unrealistic, option # 2 is antithetical to my general Will to Live, and option # 3 is ridiculously expensive. One might wonder why health insurance does not help with the cost of a caretaker, and to this I have no definitive answer. My cynical self, however, posits that if one is forced to go on disability, one is no longer the concern of his or her private insurance company, and things like personal care attendants are thus covered by the state. This saves the insurance company money, and that – obviously – is the name of the game.
• The caretaking options that I have proactively researched cost $20/hour. Sounds reasonable until you do the math. If I hired someone for a minimum of 5 hours on the weekends, it would cost a minimum of $100, an excess of $400 each month. As a teacher, this is not an added expense that my salary can incur.
I am consequently relegated to ask for help. I love my job. Teaching offers me a daily reprieve from thinking/stressing/obsessing about M.S., and though I am fully aware that what I do is not who I am, my job – at least at this point – feels like the best part of who I am. It’s the part that makes me want to get out of bed in the morning, and the part that makes me feel like I still contribute something to this life of mine – even if Meg has to help me get my pants on in the morning. I cannot let this be taken away from me, but it’s going to take a caretaker-extraordinaire to prevent; and that is something, at this current juncture, that I just cannot afford.
Ok, hi- Now, let’s talk about this. I’m not addressing the soft touches, the big hearts, the moms, right now (because you probably have already scoured the post for the donate button (easiest to just visit her page and hit the button from there, been having issues with it all day. Seriously, I love you).
Nope. I want to talk to the people who are like me- the people who prize their independence, their self-reliance, as one of their most prized possessions. I’m looking right at you now. You know who you are- you are the person who does not like to put people out. The person who is generous to a fault and realizes what’s involved when you have to ask someone for a favor, so you make it count. The person who is maybe a little less willing to ask for help than others because dammit, you want to see if you can do it yourself first. The boot straps people.
Kate is a boot straps person. I’ve met her. I’ve seen it. With MS, she has insisted on keeping her job, her dog, her LIFE. I want you to imagine yourself, you tough piece of work, in the position where you have to ask other people for this type of help. Did you just wince? Does your chest hurt a little? I don’t mean to put you on the spot. I just wanted you to know what it takes to do something like this- to reach out like this.
Please help us make it worth it.
If you have a little cash to spare, I hope you’ll consider donating it. If you have a blog or a Facebook page, I hope you’ll share this link. It’s such a small thing.
Please help. Please.