This totally cracked me up. I know, I know, must be schadenfreude, but these are some of the stupidest stunts ever attempted, with predictable results. It has nothing to do with Penn State football (guaranteed that none of the main characters are PSU alums), but it lifted my spirits. Check it out!
I haven’t been writing much lately, for which I apologize to those who look forward to each wonderful new bit of drivel from this old Turkey. This is not the usual hiatus between the regular season and the bowl game inspired by sheer laziness. I wish it were. My mother passed away in Ft. Lauderdale this week at the age of 90 after a long decline in health due to COPD. I’ve been doing other things besides writing this blog, as you will well understand.
I’m sad and I feel hollow, like something that has been a part of me for my entire life has been lost and will never return. Mom and I had our ups and our downs, but I knew that she would always be there for me no matter what — no matter where I was living, and no matter what I did. I could do ridiculous things, too, and often did so in my youth, but I was always forgiven. Mom was unwaveringly on my side. Now, suddenly, that’s all gone. There is something comforting about having parents, even for an old fowl like me. I lost my dad in 1999, although he and I had been estranged for years. Now this, and I am parentless for the first time in my life at the tender young age of 65.
I won’t drag you through the sadness, though. That’s mine and my brother’s to bear. I’ll just tell you a little bit about Mom, or Martha, as she was known to everybody.
Martha was born in Altoona, Pennsylvania in 1921 to a middle class family. She grew up there, graduated from Altoona High School in 1939, and attended junior college nearby. I can vaguely recall that she went to Leland Powers acting school in Brookline, Massachusetts, but I do not believe she finished a curriculum there. She returned to Altoona during World War II and became a volunteer with the Red Cross. She had a younger brother, Ben, who was studying engineering at Penn State when he enlisted in the Army Air Corps. He was killed in action on Martha’s birthday in 1945.
When Irvin Goldfarb, a high school classmate, returned from the war, Martha and he dated and eventually married in August 1945. They moved from Altoona to Pittsburgh, where they proceeded to crank out two young turkeys, first me, then 16 months later, my brother Joel. We lived in Pittsburgh until the summer of 1961, when we picked up stakes and moved to Florida. Shortly thereafter, Martha’s father, Harry, died on December 7, 1961, Pearl Harbor Day.
It was around that time, too, that Irvin, then 41, fell into some of the untoward habits of adolescent middle aged men everywhere: drinking, gambling, philandering, and whatever else he felt like doing to evade his family responsibilities, which he never really felt comfortable discharging. Some would say that Irvin never grew up. My personal assessment is that he did, but he became more self-absorbed as each year passed. By the time we reached Florida, his typical day after coming home from work would be to eat dinner, take a bath, and go out, sometimes not returning until after dawn the next morning. I was happy about that, because if he was out losing his money gambling, getting plastered or laid, or some combination of those three, he wasn’t giving me a dose of his crap. In fact, I was disappointed when he stayed home at night, which fortunately wasn’t often. I was in high school by that time, so I knew I’d be out of there before long. Irvin was never much of a father to me; instead, he was more of a hypocritically tyrannical absentee ruler. In any case, his irresponsibility, immaturity, adultery, and mental cruelty (as they used to call it back then) led to a divorce in 1966.
I had already left the house and enrolled at Penn State at that time, but Joel, living with Martha, had to bear the full force of the battles between Martha and Irvin. Irvin continued to feel his oats, hanging out with a number of floosies, a few of whom he married along the way. His typical pattern was to create a business with ill-gotten funds, run it for a while, and then tire of it, which was similar to his approach to being a husband and father. To complete the picture, I’ll tell you that he actually thought that he could earn a living playing poker in Las Vegas; he tried that for a while, but not unlike all his other ventures in life, he was destined to fail. But I digress.
Meanwhile — and I really cannot recall the details of the genesis of this thing — Martha had been seeing a man she had known in Altoona, I suppose while she was up there visiting her mother. For some reasons that will always remain unknown, she quickly jumped into a marriage with this guy, Howard Brett. A few months later, she just as quickly jumped out of the marriage with an annulment, and both went their separate ways. Martha came back to Florida, never to marry again. She did, however, have a boyfriend or two through the years.
After Irvin predictably fell into debt, in particular owing some money to the type of wise guys to whom you don’t really want to owe money (if you know what I mean), he moved to Phoenix, and later, after having screwed up yet another business there, he moved back to Ft. Lauderdale with the last of his wives. They lived there until 1999, when he died of lung cancer — a popular cause of death for people of his generation, having smoked most of his life — just ten days shy of his eightieth birthday. He requested that he be cremated and his remains sent to Arlington National Cemetery, which represented the recognition he wanted for serving during the war in Europe. His widow of the time, Dorothy, made sure that his wish was granted.
A year earlier, both Irvin’s mother and Martha’s mother had died within weeks of each other. Martha’s mother, Emma, was 102, and Irvin’s mother, Lena, was 98. You see, the women in my bloodline get the good genes. The men get the short end of the stick. Irvin’s father (another smoker) died in his 50s. Martha’s father, a diabetic, a drinker, and a smoker, died at 69. Neither of their wives smoked.
Having started smoking in her teens, Martha finally kicked the filthy habit about fifteen years ago, but by that time the damage had long since been done. She had been a heavy smoker for damn near 60 years. She was diagnosed with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), which would gradually consume her ability to breathe. For the past few years, she had to be on oxygen around the clock. Ultimately, she just could not breathe anymore. Joel and I were at her bedside as she quietly drew her final breath on December 7, 2011, the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day and the 50th anniversary of her father’s death.
Had she not had those strong genes, chances are good that she would not have lived past 70. However, her longevity was a mixed blessing. It was difficult to watch her bearing the ravages of COPD for so long. I simply cannot imagine what life would be like struggling for every breath and getting winded just walking to the bathroom. She put up with it somehow, incredibly. Martha had a remarkable will to live and a great capacity to endure hardship.
While Martha was fortunate in never needing to work for a living, she enjoyed volunteer work in many different areas. She was a competent knitter, and worked at various arts and crafts at various times. She loved to read as well.
If she could spend time anywhere she wanted to, it would probably be at the beach. For years she had a condo a couple of miles away from Dania Beach, where she often could be found.
She loved babies and small children. Later in life, her great-grandchildren, Jason and Cindy, brought her great joy.
She was a lifelong animal lover who had many pets through the years. Until she was in her 60s, she was mainly a dog person, but she turned to cats for their aloof companionship in later years, with three felines roaming around her little two-bedroom condo at one point.
Martha was great at picking up strays, and that referred to people as much as animals. She was as much of a comfort to people with handicaps and disabilities as she was to mistreated animals.
She was a generous person with her time and her money to the extent that she contributed to a large number of charities, many having to do with animals or disabled veterans, rarely saying no to anyone. The last person on whom she wanted to spend her money was herself. I would have to fight with her to buy her lunch or dinner. She always wanted to pay the bill. Even as I became a grey haired old geezer, I couldn’t leave her house without her stuffing some money in my pocket.
Even with food, she would offer her dinner companions what was on her plate before she even ate any of it herself. Moreover, if one of us took her shopping at the mall, for example, all we would have to do is pick something up and look at it for Martha to quickly offer to buy it for us.
Another one of Martha’s traits was her quirkiness. She would blurt out the strangest things at the most inappropriate times. (Kinda like this Turkey, I hear you saying.) One day back in the 1980s she accompanied me and my girlfriend of the time to a flea market that was known for selling knock-off watches. Authorities at the time were cracking down on those things, so I’m sure Martha, who read the newspaper religiously, knew that was the case. Imagine what happened when we were looking around and, having not found the guy(s) with the knock-off watches, Martha asked a vendor in a voice that could be heard by half the people walking around the flea market, “DO YOU KNOW WHERE THE FAKE ROLEXES ARE???” Merchandise started disappearing below tables, accompanied by some uncomfortable glances.
As quirky as Martha was while her mind was functioning well, as dementia set in, she was even quirkier. Then, it was humorous to engage her in conversations in which she made up stories that would seem perfectly coherent to outsiders, but that we family members knew were impossibly fantastical for various reasons. It was sad to witness this decline.
Martha is survived by Joel and me, daughter-in-law Janet and girlfriend-in-law Jenny, one grandson, Marc, his wife Jennifer, two great-grandchildren, Jason and Cindy, and her beloved tiger striped kitty, Samantha, who has been adopted by Marc and Jen.
And now, the following public service message is sponsored by The Nittany Turkey.
Please do yourself and me a favor: If you are a smoker, stop now! If you are thinking about smoking, think again! Please do whatever you can do to avoid the ravages of that stupid-ass habit that has killed so many people in such cruel ways at the behest COPD, lung cancer, stroke, etc. — and for what? A temporary buzz? As a son with both parents now gone due to the effects of smoking cigarettes, I’m begging you to give it up!
Back to Turkey business, I will have to be out of town over the next couple of weeks attending to the responsibilities associated with my mom’s passing away, so my postings here will likely be infrequent. Writing for me is therapeutic; if and when I find the time, I will write. Thank you all for understanding my lapse!
I haven’t bitched about the health care morass for a while, so I should rectumfy that straight away. This is a story of something that happened to me recently. There’ll be some editorial comments at the end.
Back in July, I scheduled some minor sinus surgery, which was to be performed by my ENT guy at a local same-day surgical facility. It is that surgical facility that is the subject of this post; since it won’t mean anything to my mostly out-of-town readers, its name is unimportant. I’ll save that for my megabitch post on Angie’s List.
The surgery was to take place on July 18. A representative of the surgical facility called me a few days after I scheduled the surgery with my ENT’s scheduling person, asking me to pick a time and date to “pre-register.” For those of you who don’t know what “pre-registration” in advance of a procedure might mean, they want to do some blood tests, read some vital signs, and most importantly, collect an estimated amount that the patient would be required to pay after whatever his or her health insurance pays their coinsurance. Knowing all too well what they were up to, I snickered at the medspeak euphemism “pre-registration.”
Having been to same-day surgical operations before, I had set my sights low regarding what I would encounter on pre-registration day, which was July 12 (far enough in advance to ensure that if my check bounced, they could call off the surgery). I was pleasantly surprised by the aesthetics of the building’s exterior and the spaciousness of the waiting room. My first order of business, of course, was to pay. God forbid they should incur the expense of weighing me and drawing some blood if I hadn’t prepaid! OK, so I sat at the pre-registration window where the nice lady on the other side told me that after consultation with my insurance company, I would have to fork over close to $800 of pre-registration money. Because I was close to my deductible limit, I thought that the amount was probably pretty accurate. If not, I anticipated a timely refund of the excess.
My surgery went well. The medical personnel were great, and the recovery room was large and well attended. I was happy with the service I received there and with the friendly competence of the employees.
Along about the second week in August, I received an Explanation of Benefits from my insurer, which covered the surgery facility charges. They were just under $200, which meant that I was owed approximately $600. I decided to wait for a refund, so I set the issue aside. Alas, being absent-minded (if not feeble minded), I unwittingly ceded control to them and relegated myself to their back burner.
On September 29, I found this thing sitting at the bottom of my “pending” file. I called to ask about my refund. The billing person I spoke with said she would have to call their billing office in Texas to get the “status”. I told her that I didn’t want a status; I wanted a refund. She said that her manager was out, and it would have to be her manager who could give me a better idea of when I might receive a refund. I told her that she could also tell her manager that holding onto my money for this length of time without a show of interest of any kind went so far against my grain as to preclude me from considering using their facility in the future. The powerless clerk empathized with me. We agreed that her manager would call me the next day, which was Friday. As there was nothing else she could do, I bid her au revoir.
I was not surprised that I didn’t hear from the manager on Friday. Medical administrative people think that their customers are insurance companies or government Medicare/Medicaid, and that patients are just incidental to the whole circle of cash flow, pains in the ass who carry the plastic key to the insurance company or government coffers. If they are forecast to owe any money, it must be collected in advance. One might have a FICO credit score of 800 and huge credit limits all over the business world, but only the medical industry has the chutzpah to put creditworthy customers on an automatic C.O.D. basis with no exceptions. So, I would give the manager all day Friday to prove by not calling me, as expected, that I was just a pain in the ass.
I called her on Monday. She told me to wait while she checked on the “status.” (Oy, enough with the status, already. I had been statused to a frazzled, hair-trigger anti-personnel device.) After a couple of minutes, she came back to tell me that the refund had been “processed” (I guess that’s one of the “status” categories) on September 29. Last Thursday. That happened to be the day I spoke to the powerless clerk in the absence of the manager. Was it a coincidence that the refund was processed that same day? I think not. The powerless clerk somehow initiated what she told me she didn’t have power to do. I had apparently made clear my degree of disgruntlement.
I told the manager I would expect the check in the mail in the next day or so, or I would consider doing a charge-back with the credit card company that handled my pre-registration fee. Before I asked her why it took so damn long (almost two months), she told me that the reason was that they were short-staffed and things were prioritized as necessary to deal with the short staff. I told her that my money was priority one, as should any customer’s. After all, if you piss off enough customers in any other business, you won’t be in business long. But the usual rules don’t apply to the medical industry.
“Hell, there’s a recession going on out there with millions of people unemployed and on the street,” I said, “and you’re telling me that you’re short staffed. I’m assuming that it’s by choice that you are.” I reiterated my position that I wouldn’t deal with any outfit with such a cavalier attitude about patient’s money. I told her to pass that on to whoever decides the priorities.
I actually did receive the check in yesterday’s mail. It was indeed postmarked at a Dallas, Texas ZIP code on September 29.
High-deductible health insurance policies and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) were a step in the right direction, thinks this Turkey. First and foremost, it gives the patient a dog in the fight. If enough people were to participate in this type of shared responsibility, I am convinced that this country would see a reduction in health care costs. People have been used to their employers’ insurance plans paying for most of their medical expenses, so they tend to overuse services. Doctors, undercompensated by government and private insurers who follow Medicare’s lead are gaming the system by prescribing superfluous testing for patients to be performed in facilities they partly own or from whom they receive kickbacks. And patients are pawns who are lucky if they get decent care, because they are significantly outside the revenue loop.
Enter the high-deductible health insurance policy. The patient now participates in a greater share of the costs and is therefore more careful with his or her own money, questioning the need for tests and procedures, and also avoiding providers who treat him or her poorly. It works just like your CPA or your attorney, assuming that you don’t have accounting or legal insurance. You see these professionals only when there is a clear need for their services. You don’t go to your lawyer every time you need to write a nasty letter to someone. You don’t go to your CPA to balance your checkbook every month. Why, then, should you visit your doctor for each case of the sniffles that will resolve itself in two weeks regardless of what the doc does? Answer: if it’s your $75 for the appointment, you might take some Sudafed and hope for the best.
(I’m referring to non-emergency services here, where you have a choice in the matter. If you’re run over by a bus, under indictment by the IRS, or arrested for drunk driving, you have little choice other than to get the necessary services.)
But instead of the sane and rational scenario I’ve just described, Obamacare (and whatever your Congress has in mind as a follow-on) takes steps to severely limit individual participation in the system. After all, if people are wards of the state, they’ll be beholden to their saviors, which in this case are the Democrats. Never mind that anything government touches winds up tainted by huge administration cost and eventual fraud and abuses, our leader’s solution is to have a panel of cost-oriented bureaucrats deciding what is necessary and what is not. This aggregate, one size fits all approach has been tried in other countries with socialized medicine, and it has created unwelcome compromises by removing the individual patient from the decision process. Eventually, because government funding priorities are largely dictated by other non-discretionary budget items such as the interest on the growing national debt (part of which is related to Obamacare), health care will be put in the squeeze, with more and more medically desirable tests and procedures being disallowed. If we were paying for these things with our own money, our own personal budget would dictate what we could spend.
Which way would you rather have it? One size fits all, where you’re denied a procedure that would improve your life because too many people are going to the doctor to suit the bureaucrats (which they’ll call “waste, fraud, and abuse”) or making that decision yourself, perhaps having to take out a loan or work another job to get what you want? Too many people are buying into the smooth-talking sales pitch of our schlocky president, who never talks about the downside of socialized medicine: namely, that you’re even more of an anonymous lemming than you were before.
But I digress.
I got my refund. I should be happy, right?