I have a friend whom I have known since we were both 14 years old. My family had relocated to a completely different area of the state – only counties changed, but it was a totally different world for me. I was raised until 14 in the greater Los Angeles County area. We moved to a northeastern section of Orange County. It was total culture shock for me. The population was much less diversified, and there was grass. I mean lawns and grassy knolls and yards and plants and flowers…not just a lot of asphalt. LA County tries, but so much of the surface there is either concrete or asphalt! In the OC, much more was greenery. And there was far less smog, too. And space between houses. In our other home, we literally hung out in the kitchen windows, talking to our neighbors. We even had little step-stools so we could just walk over our fences to each other’s houses. In the OC, we lived on a hill, with an acre of land. And it was a very steep hill. And our house was at the crest of it. Down the block (literally) and around a corner lived this girl, who has become a life-long friend. But I skipped the most amazing part! When I lived in LA County, I was in the 9th grade…that is still Junior High School. I was one of the top dogs in our class and hung out with the popular, but brainiac kids. When we moved to the OC, I was a FRESHMAN in High School. It was traumatic. Here I was, dealing with green lawns and nice cars and so many people who looked just like me, not to mention no graffiti and all sorts of other cultural changes, but I also had to adjust to being a “scrub” or the bottom of the social heap. I parted my long, blonde hair down the middle, and trudged off to school. Yes, I walked! And then I saw that the other kids all wore jeans and looked a little like beach-going hippies. Kids wore flip-flops to school!!! I was in total shock! In LA, jeans were not allowed – the girls had to wear dresses and if there was a hint they were too short, you had to kneel and they would measure the length. If it was too short, out came the seam rippers! And no make-up, either! The Girls’ VP could take you into a bathroom and scrub your face off, if she noticed make-up on you! LA County, in the late 60s; I kid you not. And that was public school, too. So I am at school and I can see bell-bottoms and crop tops and VAN tennis shoes. I wanted to fit in. My mom insisted on dresses. Ugh! As the daughter of British immigrants, they did not get the fascination with jeans. My mom called them dungarees and only farm workers wore them, and only when working! No daughter of hers would wear dungarees! LOL! I was desperate. And then there came something else totally new to me – P.E. classes where you actually played a sport. LA County, where it was all asphalt, we marched. Seriously. “Column to the left, one, two, three, four.” Our other option was physical exercise, even volleyball on occasion, in the upstairs gymnasium! So I arrived at the new High School, in a dress, and then I get to put on a “gym uniform,” where I had to change in front of other girls. Then I was told I was going to play field hockey! What? First of all, I am British. What is hockey? Football is what we Brits call Soccer! LOL! And Field Hockey? Girls with sticks and a ball. I was so lost. My first week was looking to be a total disaster. In a dress. And, I had started after the Christmas break…not even in September, when everyone was new. No, I had to start at a weird time of the year! Ugh! I remember siting in the locker room, on a bench, totally freaking out. This woman yells, and uses a whistle, too: “Girls, roll call!!!” I jumped up. This kooky girl with pig tails and braces grabs my arm and says, “Aw, c’mon. Mrs. B isn’t that bad once you get used to her.” And she drags me off to learn Field Hockey, roll call, and to becoming her life-long friend. She saved me from my misery, and I don’t think that even after 42 years of friendship, that she even realizes how grateful I am to this very day.
We no longer live near one another, but we talk about every 3 weeks or so…usually for hours on end. We have shared life and death, marriage, divorce, and all sorts of other things in all these years. And now we are sharing aging, and not so delicately at times. Even “Depends” conversations! There is a core group of friends I have from High School, and we still relate to one another, even though we live scattered around the Country and live vastly disparate lives. But this particular woman is very special to me and holds a very sacred part of my heart and soul.
She called me on Saturday and we talked for about 2 hours. I hung up the phone and just cried. I felt so inept and helpless and ashamed that I cannot swoop in and fix things for her. One of the saddest moments of our conversation was when she said to me, “I have had such a crappy life.” She just doesn’t realize the joy she has brought into my life and the life of those around her. She always makes me laugh. And she is abrupt, and loud, and skinny, and funny, and absolutely a gift from God to my life. And I cannot cure or fix her life or her future and it is killing me. It is just so unjust. My friend has a disease that has made her incapable of the simplest things in life, like driving. We take for granted that we can hop in a car and just go where we need to go. She has to rely on family and friends to get her where she needs to be. And she hates being dependent on anyone. She divorced many years ago and has raised her child on her own. And her only surviving child lives on the opposite side of the Country now, and is married with a child, too. And she has no love life, so she feels alone. So very alone. And I cannot fix it. I cannot cure her disease and I cannot ameliorate it, either. And I hate this feeling of helplessness. My friend deserves so much more.
She told me that she, once again, has to be hospitalized. The doctor is going to try and ease her symptoms, if she can. But no one is holding out much hope. Because of her disability, she lost her job. She did not want to take her employer to court, although many of us thought she had a good case. She just didn’t have the fight in her. She cannot hold down a job any longer, as her condition is worse than ever. She lost her disability payments, which I totally do not understand. And she lives completely on Medicare and Social Security. This is not an 80-year-old woman. This is a vibrant 56-year-old woman. And the system is letting her down. Because of being on Medicare, her specialist could no longer treat her. So she was “referred” to another doctor. The new doctor took one look at her case and threw up his hands and said he was not “qualified” to treat her, because she was the most severe case he’d ever seen, and he did not feel competent enough to treat her. At least he was honest with her. Somehow, they were able to work the system so she could return to her previous specialist and still be covered. So the specialist is getting everything pre-approved, and then is hospitalizing her to try and stop this horrible disease.
And she cried and cried. She is frightened. She does not know how long she will be hospitalized, who will feed her dog or take out the trash for her. She will be alone in LA County (how ironic, considering the start of this post) and going through a very rough experience. She had this process attempted at a hospital years ago, but because her symptoms are so much more severe, the specialist is hoping she can surgically help her. I am praying something can be done for her. My heart aches for her.
Her symptoms are much worse than they look and she hides most of them from people, but her daily life is uncertain and she is almost at the point where it is not safe that she is left alone. And she is my friend and I live 1,000s of miles away and my heart is aching for her.
I began this post because I needed to vent. As I was typing it, I came to realize that this woman is the exception to the rule of those who are receiving aide from our system. The system is broken. So many who deserve care are denied care because too many are just taking, when there is no real need. It is just easier. They have been raised with a hand out, expecting more from the system than from themselves. It’s easier to get Welfare and keep on having babies, than to try to work and pay for child care. It is easier to sit at home and not even try to work, than it is to afford a wardrobe to interview in and some counseling to make you worthy in an interview. It is easier to use Welfare money for new Tats and spinners on your Escalade than to try and get a job!!!! Because of our entitlement philosophy in this country, those who truly need the help cannot get it. Our resources are stretched too tight, across too many Social Security numbers. And people like my friend are left to try and juggle being disabled and not getting sufficient aide.
Mr. Obama did not help my friend. Under his regime, her aide was cut. And the strings attached to it have gotten more knotted and complicated as time has gone on. My friend cannot afford another four years of the same. I am praying that she gets the care she needs and that she realizes what a gem she is to those around her. I love her and my heart aches for her, and for the thousands like her, who truly need a helping hand.
We need to vote in November to return this country to a proud country, not a welfare state. Not a country of individuals who soak the system for all its got, denying others who truly need our help. We were once the world leaders in compassion, but somehow our focus has turned outward. We are spending billions upon billions helping countries who hate us and do not even want us in their business, while our own suffer. And we borrow money from China to aid other countries!!!!! We need to re-evaluate how we help, and who we help. No one can afford another four years like these past four years.
And for my dearest friend, I pray for you. I ask God to care for you, and to send Angels to be at your side to hold you up when you cannot hold yourself up. I love you, my friend.