Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Day at the DMV

I wonder what they thought about when they voted yes.  I wonder if when the good governor of Texas signed the bill he had us in mind.  I wonder how many people won’t and can’t do what we just did.

We left the house at 1:15 p.m., it was 99 degrees, but that’s okay, the van has air conditioning.  Marty, Nikkie and I drove the 15 miles in about 20 minutes and parked in the shade in the last handicapped slot available.  

Nikkie and Marty went into the building and I quickly caught up as they stood in line.  Nikkie said, “This is not near as bad as I thought.”  It was 1:35.

We got to the first desk and I told the woman we needed to get Marty a photo ID, we needed to get Marty a photo ID so she could vote.  She looked at me, started looking at our documents and said, “Yeah, her driver’s license is expired”, so is her passport.

I charmed, Marty smiled, Nikkie supported and the woman at the DMV looked at us, gave us a special needs number, 955, and said have a seat, you only have one special needs ahead of you.  I said thanks.

We moved over to the chairs and looked for a way to move Marty and her chair into a spot where we would be out of the aisle.  There wasn’t one so we blocked the aisle and waited for them to call our number, 955.

I had spent about an hour that morning gathering supporting documents.  We had her expired driver’s license, an expired passport, a certified birth certificate (much like the President’s), a voter registration card (here’s irony, we used Marty’s voter registration card to get an ID to prove she had the “right” to vote), a Medicare card and a Medicare statement. 

I had also printed off the Texas ID application form and already completed it.  The special needs case in front of us had not done that.  The man’s wife stood at the wall and filled out all of the forms there.
We sat amidst all of the people with our forms and they had all had their own supporting documents.  There were bright and shiny young people waiting to take the requisite tests for their first driver’s license, there were people there trying to replace a lost license, several were there to get their commercial license and some there for the same reason we were there, to get an ID, maybe to vote.

We waited about 15 minutes and they called our number.  One of the few perks of being in a wheelchair and charming the front desk is we got to cut the line just a bit.  We moved ahead of some of the teeming masses.

We moved to document station where I laid out all of our documents and the young lady sitting there went over each of them, asked a couple of questions, asked for help a couple of times and moved us through the process.  She asked Marty to sign a couple of documents and swear that everything on her documents were true.  Marty signed and swore with a smirk because she knew she didn’t really know what I had written on the application.

In Texas, maybe everywhere, I don’t know, they now require fingerprints and thumb prints.  It’s a simple action, put your thumb and fingers on the device on the counter, the counter that is about head height if you are in a wheelchair, the device that required me to lift Marty’s right hand and thumb to the device and hold it there, without raising the arm so high or in such a way it hurt her fractured shoulder.  Nothing is simple in a wheelchair.  I explained she couldn’t use or move her left hand that high so the young lady with an assist from her supervisor just indicated on her computer that Marty didn’t have a left hand.

It took them a couple of shots to get just the right, “I’m a convict look”, photograph for the photo ID.  It took a while to download all of the prints, the data and the photograph and then print it all out and copy all of our supporting documents.  The young lady presented the temporary ID with the frightening photo to Marty for yet one more signature and then asked for $16.  Piece of cake.

Before we left I thanked the young lady for her patience and help and asked her if she had seen a lot of people come in for photo IDs because of the new Texas law.  She said she had seen, her words, a lot.  I asked her if they had been able to add any help to assist with the added work load.  She looked at me out of the corner of her eye and just kind of giggled.  

The three of us moved out to the van, Marty holding her new ID and all of our documents.  We rolled her on the lift and back into the van and backed out of the parking lot.  We pulled back into our driveway at 2:45, it was 102 degrees and the whole thing had been shorter and easier than I thought it would be.

When we pulled in I wondered again if this is what they wanted out of this new requirement for people to exercise their right to vote.  I wondered if they really understood that they were making life exponentially more difficult for many people who already had a hard enough time just living their life.  I wondered if they worried about how many older people and disabled people had someone to drive them to the DMV, or if they could find all of the documentation or afford the gas, the time or the $16.  

I don’t think so; I don’t think they wondered about that at all.  I suspect the people who really pushed this law assumed most wouldn’t go to the trouble.  I suspect the people who were really hot to trot to pass this piece of legislation just assumed Marty wouldn’t want to vote.  I guess they need to learn from Marty what I already know; she wants to participate in our life.  I wish they wouldn’t make it harder.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Spilled Anger

The Gator Aid bottle hit the left wheel of her wheel chair, spun around, hit the floor and rolled, depositing tiny drops of Gator Aid from the almost empty bottle on our wood floor.  I was irritated.

About an hour later she dropped the almost empty Diet Coke bottle she had been holding.  It bounced off her left foot, the straw ejecting like a rocket, spilling drops of Diet Coke across our rug.  I was more than irritated, I was angry and I barked, loudly and too long.

It was stupid, it was a stupid thing, a small, innocuous act and it made me mad and I reacted by chewing, chastising and generally ranting for too long.  Marty sat quietly and absorbed my tantrum and said nothing but, “I’m sorry.”  

About two hours later we sat in her bed, just hanging, watching television.  Three afternoons a week Marty and I are sans caregiver and we sit in her bed, watch “Ellen” and “Dr. Oz” and drink homemade strawberry smoothies.  Her cup has a lid and a straw.  I left the room and came back to see her with her cup on its side, the snug lid barely holding the smoothie at bay.  Mad…..again…..stupid stuff.

It’s completely pointless; it’s completely heartless to get angry at someone who is so broken, someone who for the most part wants nothing more than to please, someone who is incapable of barking back.  It’s embarrassing; it’s stupid to get angry over this kind of small stuff.  And after all is said and done, then, I get to feel guilty, as I should. 

Later that evening as I was preparing dinner Marty was sitting in her wheelchair watching my every slice and dice.  I get angry over stupid things, but I know how to apologize, I understand remorse.

I went over and hugged her, my face next to her cheek, “I’m sorry I acted like…”

“A jerk”, she interrupted.

“Yeah, it was stupid.”

She agreed.

“Do you know why I get angry like that?” I asked.

“Because I’m so dumb?”,   she answered with a question.

Okay, just stab me in the heart with a sharp spoon, except that I clearly don’t have a heart or I would never, ever do anything to make this woman say, “Because I’m so dumb”.

“You’re not dumb”, I said.  “You’re broken, you’re brain is broken, but you’re not dumb at all, I was dumb.  I got mad over something stupid.”

I have always spent too much karmic energy on the inconsequential and it still happens, regardless of how much I try to change.  It goes against my new mantra of wanting to simply cut people slack and let things go.  It really seems simple, just let some things pass, let the small stuff be exactly that, small stuff.  The problem is, the small stuff comes from big stuff.  

Through the years Marty has often been a catalyst for my anger, but not the responsible party, I have to own my stuff.  In the old days she would help me work through what made me mad, today, I’m pretty well left to my own sorry self analytical devices.

It mostly revolves around control, I find being in situations where I can’t control the flow and the outcome of things are ripe for frustration and anger.  Frustration with the nebulous aspects of life brings a swelling anger.  

I don’t mind cleaning up the spilled Gator Aid, it’s not that much trouble and the drinks in question were almost empty.   I mind what the dropped drinks represents, I mind that they are symbolic of Marty’s illness, I mind being reminded of our life situation in these subtle ways, I mind the illness, it pisses me off.

I have always fought anger when I’m afraid.  I remember the darkest times when I was afraid for Marty’s life and I felt totally and completely helpless.  I couldn’t make it better and no one else could make it better.  I’m a middle child; I’ve spent an entire life trying to make things better.

I remember standing beside Marty’s bed one particularly bad afternoon.  She was in the ICU and I was feeling my adrenalin on overdrive, feeling my blood rise to my head, feeling every nerve tingle.  I wanted to scream, the anger, the raw emotion was to explode into a mass of bone and blood.  

It wasn’t what anyone else was or wasn’t doing, it was me, it was my fear of the known and the unknown and I lay in wait for someone, anyone to screw something up so I could release the pent up anger in their direction.  When I’m afraid for Marty I badly want to take someone out, not in a good way.

Getting mad at spilled anything is stupid, I know it.  I also know it’s not the Gator Aid, it’s not the convoluted questions at the doctor’s office, it’s not the wait in line at Walgreen’s or the stupid web sites for the drugs.  It’s me, it’s my fight, it’s my fight against my nature and my fight against the strokes and what it does to our life.  

I know anger, well placed anger is part of life and not something to always try and avoid.  I want to get mad at the right things, the real things, the things worthy of that much energy and emotion, but I really hate it when it spills out at the wrong time, over the wrong reasons.  It gets my stuff on the wrong person.