The Wall, The Law and Who’s In Charge (part II)


(Continued from May 26)

            So then I try to find my first workshop.  The signs beside the meeting room doors have been placed at a height of about five feet, which makes them invisible through the throng of people.  The signs should be seven feet above the floor so everybody can look up and see them all the time.  Additionally, the hallways are not wide enough to accommodate all the people trying to move between rooms when the workshops change—and there is no time between workshops.  One ends at 10:40 and the next one starts at 10:40—a physical impossibility that puts pressure on all the attendees pushing in the hallways.

            So I find my room and enter—only to discover that it has been set up without a thought for wheelchairs.  Rows of chairs have been set so that the side and center aisles are all too narrow for a wheelchair to pass.  I cannot get to the front to pick up papers, meet the speakers, or take a seat: I have to sit in the back.

            When the speakers start to present, the workers assigned to this room do not close the doors.  The noise from the hall makes it hard for the people in the back of the room to hear the people in the front of the room.  The first speaker is a physician who explains that we are all afraid of death, physicians don’t want to talk about it, and neither does anybody else.  We all want to live! 

Okay, he jolly well should make it clear that he is speaking for himself and his colleagues, because he sure isn’t speaking for me.  I have no problem talking about death and neither did my parents or grandparents.  (I didn’t know my great-grandparents but I’m guessing they were okay with it, too:  they were farmers.)  Fact of the matter is that if you have a mature spiritual development then you have no reason to fear passing on.  I have rarely seen any indicators of physicians having a mature spiritual development; they are, as far as spirituality is concerned, in nursery school or perhaps special education.  I’m here to learn how to make an orderly transition from this life to the next one, and am annoyed that this physician is laying his limitations on me.  He’s seventy-four years old and should start acting like a grown-up.

The second speaker is from the Alzheimer’s Association and talks at length about how much it costs to care for an Alzheimer’s patient.  The surest way I know to reduce the cost of medical care is to get people to address their own spiritual issues.  Once you’re good to go, then you don’t demand to hang on and spend our society to death just because you’re afraid to die.  The physician talks about his friend who went to some major clinic in the west for some rare treatment that didn’t help and is now in Florida for more rare treatment that isn’t helping.

Christ!  Give it up!  Am I the only one here who believes in a soul that transcends death and that the afterlife is going to be a nice place?  Am I the only one in the room who isn’t afraid to die?  Seems as if—leastways, nobody’s speaking up.  The reason Medicare is driving the nation into bankruptcy is because our country is increasingly materialistic and decreasingly spiritualistic.  You want to save money?  Get God.  The Alzheimer’s lady says that in four years the total cost of care will be twenty trillion dollars.  Repeat:  $20,000,000,000,000.  You fear dying?  I fear living poor.

The third speaker is a lawyer who mainly tells us that you have to get a lawyer for everything.  And no, of course she does not offer to do pro bono work, i.e., “for the good” work.  With seven minutes left in the workshop, the workers open the doors to the hallway so that, again, nobody can hear anything in the back of the room.

Again, I have trouble finding my next room assignment.  Not only are the signs invisible and the halls crowded but there is nobody wearing a name tag that says in two-inch letters, ASK ME.  There should be.  What there are are men in the hallway wearing tags with their names printed in about eight-point font.  Big help for us old folks with bifocals, trifocals, glaucoma, and cataracts.

I enter my second workshop room—only to discover that it has been set up without a thought for wheelchairs.  Rows of chairs have been set so that the side and center aisles are all too narrow for a wheelchair to pass.  I cannot get to the front to pick up papers, meet the speakers or take a seat: I have to sit in the back.

Two female lawyers from locally prestigious law firms talk knowledgeably about wills, trusts, and estates, punctuating their comments with frequent statements that you would have to get a lawyer for that . . .   They never say you would have to hire a lawyer; they play Let’s Pretend.

When it comes to questions, they repeatedly call on the people sitting in the front of the room.  Because of my wheelchair, I’m in the back of the room, and because of my illness I can’t hold my hand up for very long.  When I do get called on, the answer is to the point and helpful.

Then I go looking for a lawyer.  The pre-conference information said that you could get twenty minutes with a lawyer—for free—to discuss your personal situation. I wheeled into the designated room and found half a dozen people.  Nobody made eye contact with me.  There was no indication of what I should do, so I went back out into the hall.  Then a woman with a clipboard, leading a man, pushed in front of me, identified a lawyer in the room, and left the man with him.  Now I am moving from annoyed to seriously pissed off.  (To be continued)

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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