So my CAP counselor and I come up with a game plan. We will ask VESID to have my writing evaluated to see if it is marketable. The evaluators should be either publishers or published writers. The university—wherein they march to the beat of “publish or perish”—should have lots of folks who would be suitable evaluators, for instance, the professor who is the chair of the School of Education and has published a lot of books about learning disabilities.
Once we have demonstrated a probability that my words can be turned into taxable income, then VESID should get behind this thing and provide services. Or at any rate, that’s what the CAP counselor and I think. Color us silly.
At two o’clock today, the CAP counselor in the next city sets up the conference call with me in the village in my hospital bed and the VESID counselor and her boss in the State Office Building downtown. Most of the forty-five minute conversation takes place between the VESID boss and me, and I can describe it very simply: every time I draw a straight line between two points, she twists it around two cows, a fire hydrant and the law of averages.
The CAP counselor talks about “assessing the ability and marketability of the consumer.” The VESID boss tells me, “I know how you’re feeling,” which, considering I’ve been under- or unemployed my entire life and she has worked in one place so long that she’s risen to management, is on a par with a nuclear sub telling an oyster, “I know how you feel.”
We talk about the Small Business Development Center—I’m not sure why—then the VESID counselor tries, as usual, to loop the conversation around to getting a job at the university. I already have a job there. I want to become a client of the university press.
I point out to the VESID boss that Van Gogh had disabilities. What would VESID have done if he’d come to them to get help selling his paintings? The VESID boss very firmly states that they would not have worked with Van Gogh. That’s when I started to shiver.
Nine years ago, I was on life-support in the ICU and there was no expectation that I would survive. I had been a member of a writers’ group for a long time. When the head of the group heard of the danger I was in, he went home, read his file of my written works, and decided that he had to do something to get my stuff published. He could not let this goodness disappear from existence. Compare this to the VESID boss who would have let Van Gogh vanish. Compare this and shiver.
What kind of world will we be living in if we can’t see the brilliance of sunflowers bursting with light? If we have a government policy that Van Gogh isn’t worth fighting for, then is there any point in going on? That’s when the VESID boss started talking about “dream goals” and how they weren’t responsible for helping people reach their dream goals. And that’s when the CAP counselor started getting mad—condescension and patronization do that to her.
Dream goals? What if the unknown dream goal of two million Americans is to read my essays? What about them? This isn’t all about what works for me. It is also about what I have to offer, those “impressive essays . . . that are relative to contemporary social issues.” I have lived long, suffered much, and learned a hell of a lot. Are you to be denied the right to read and learn from my experience?
Must you struggle through the same disasters that I did when the answers are known and available? Gosh, the stuff I could teach you about accessing services, effectively using government over- site, and successfully fighting the system! Do you want this information?
“Dream goal?” Writing is what I’m good at. It’s the contribution I can make to society. It’s something I can do at home in bed. This isn’t a dream; this is practical reality.
The VESID boss then began talking about my “need for treatment” and finding appropriate doctors. Learning disabilities are addressed in the School of Education, not the School of Medicine. What does the VESID boss hope to gain by pathologizing my problem? The VESID boss then says that they do have a contract with the Learning Disabilities Association—but they won’t pay for services for me.
There will be no LDA services; no assessment of marketability, no nothing. VESID flatly refuses to work with me—unless, of course, I agree to become a receptionist. There’s nothing wrong with being a receptionist—come to think of it, I used to be one, so why do they want to teach me what I already know? Being a receptionist is easy and fun, and does anyone—outside of VESID—think it is the best use of my skills?
I ask the VESID boss to send me the information on how to file for a fair hearing, then we end the conversation. I call and leave messages for the professor at the university and the adult services lady at the LDA. The CAP counselor has proposed that I write a column on disabilities for the local newspaper, so I make several phone calls to newspaper people, again demonstrating my “fierce motivation and tenacity.”
Then I go to bed and dream about Van Gogh, in all his madness, leaving behind blank canvases, courtesy of VESID.