I Am Not That Person

When I moved to NY, I had to quit my job. Even though my employer, the largest health plan in Hawaii, wanted to keep me on, they had a firm policy that they would not employ out of state individuals. What that meant is that I was thrust into the world of independent contracting. A new and scary place that forced me to withhold my own taxes and eventually select my own health care. 

Since I worked in the field, I knew that my Hawaii based employer coverage was very, very rich. I had a low (maybe no) deductible and my benefits were set by the state under the historic 1974 Prepaid Health Care Act. I did some research and knew that my Hawaii based COBRA plan would be comparably expensive in premiums but offer a generous set of benefits. Since my employer is part of the Blue Cross Blue Shield network, even though I was in NY, I could still readily access participating providers. The cost of the premiums for my son and I was my second highest single expense, after our rent, but it was worth it in peace of mind for me.

Unfortunately COBRA is only available for 18 months and as that exhaustion date approached I began to shop for plans on the NY state health exchange. I basically had to shop for individual coverage after being on employer based plans my entire life. NY does not participate on the federally facilitated marketplace (FFM) to sell individual coverage but their state exchange generally operates under the same requirements. I had a strong impulse to sign up for another Blue plan but the closest hospitals to me were not in the network. That seemed foolish. I found another carrier that offered plans that had both my and my son’s primary care physicians in network. I made the choice. It felt like jumping off a cliff. The cost was about the same as the premium cost for our COBRA plan but I quickly came to learn that all coverage is not equal.

Under my Hawaii health care plan, I pretty much had first dollar coverage. What does that mean? It means that whenever I went to the doctor, I was only responsible for my copayment or coinsurance. When I think that I used to consider that to be a lot of money, it is pretty amusing. I quickly realized that there were not many services that were provided to my son and I until we had met our deductible. If we went to see our primary physician, we only paid our co-pay (some services are provided before the deductible is met). But when I had a threatening mole removed at the dermatologist, I was charged the amount that my plan would have paid if I had met the deductible. It was around $250.00. I received the bill and was so confused. This had never happened before. It was my welcoming to the wonderful world of insurance and, how, unfortunately, it works for the majority of people in this country. 

In addition to the out of pocket shock I have experienced here on the mainland, I have also dealt with the fact that I live in a rural area and finding providers (aside from our PCPs) has not been a simple prospect. I could go on for a very long time about the numerous calls I made to my plan to try to find an ENT somewhere in my area. It was a giant fail and I ended up having to drive an hour up island to see someone. And of course, I had to pay the cost of the visit because I had not yet met my deductible.

Today, I tried to make a dentist appointment for both myself and my son. There are numerous dentists in my town but none of them take our insurance. I tried to get him to see a pediatric dentist but was told that in dentistry, once you hit thirteen, you are no longer a pediatric candidate (he is sixteen). The provider list looks long and promising on the website, until you realize that most of the dentists listed are affiliated with one of the two Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) in the area. I finally broke down and called one and the woman told me that the earliest appointment she had was in October. I thanked her and hung up.

I pay a lot in premium dollars for coverage that does not seem to offer much coverage. Because I work in the industry, I know that I am now eligible for a subsidy (thanks President Biden!!) to decrease the amount of premiums that I pay. Because I work in the industry, I know that currently there is a special enrollment period and that I could change my plan tomorrow. I could change it to drop my paltry dental coverage and pick up a stand alone dental plan that includes dentists where I live with appointments in this season.

The thing is, is that it should not be this way. It should not be this hard. This difficult. This confusing. If the FQHC was the only place that I could obtain dental services, I would be screwed. I would be waiting until the fall just to see a dentist. Despite all of the issues that I have had accessing care, I know that I am lucky. I have the time and the resources to try to work around what is truly a broken system of care. Most people don’t. It’s time to level the playing field. It’s time to stop leaving people behind. We can do this. And I hope we do.

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Bailey

Today was pretty momentous. I got my first COVID vaccine. It is my Aunt’s birthday. Those are really great things. I kept saying that I wanted the vaccine for my birthday (which is next month) and it was like the universe got it but not exactly right.

It was a long drive to receive the vaccination. I was a bundle of anxiety about the entire thing. My sister had been turned away twice in our attempts to vaccinate her so that is always lingering in the back of my mind. Thinking that I would get there and be turned away. But that is not what happened. I went right in. I answered a few questions and I was ushered into the back and given the shot. Simple. Fast. Highly recommend. I traveled home and finished work.

My son, who just got his learners’ permit, feels the need to drive every day. I am not as enthusiastic. He is definitely risk averse so that works in my favor but when you get in the car with a brand new driver, you realize the millions of things that you do every day when you are driving that are mindless. And you realize it because the new driver has to contemplate which way to turn the wheel of the car to back up and go the right way. But I let my son take an extended drive tonight. We drove up to the main road where the farmstand that he works at is. He is not ready to drive on the main road yet. We turned around and went back down to the road that runs along the beach.

We pulled into the beach parking lot. There was a family with two small children with their dog taking advantage of a mostly empty parking lot. One kid was on a skateboard and one was on a scooter. We stayed far away as my son practiced backing into a parking spot. At one point he got in mostly straight, when the family dog came running up, off leash. The mom was running over calling the dog’s name over and over. “Bailey. Bailey.” Bailey was not interested in coming back to being leashed. She took off sprinting through the parking lot. She took a turn and headed out onto the road outside of the beach. The mom took off after her. The children, a small boy and smaller girl, hugged each other and the girl cried.

I had gotten out of the car and ran back to grab a mask. As I got to the kids, I could see the dog out on the road. One car approached. The mom screamed and the little girl shrieked. All I could think was that this dog was about to get run over and the kids were going to see it. I started to talk to them. I asked them the dog’s name. They told me. I rubbed the little girl’s back. Another car on the road, coming close to hitting the dog.

Then the little girl called out the dog’s name, Bailey. The dog stopped running, outside of the fence, next to the main road and looked right towards the girl. I told the kids, let’s call Bailey. So we did. And sure enough, she flew past the woman, back into the parking lot, running at full speed, right at me. I grabbed her collar and held on for dear life. Bailey was so amped up. So exhilarated to have been out completely free. No fear of the cars or anything. She finally stopped twisting as her mom met us and was able to get the leash back on her. She thanked me so much but all I could think was that I would not have been able to handle being with those kids if their dog had been hit. 

I got back in the car with my son. My heart was pounding. I needed a minute. I thought that the shot would be awful. That driving with my son was nerve wracking. But it was like the universe, the one that gave me a shot for my Aunt’s birthday also wanted to let me know that, whatever I was feeling, about the shot, about my son driving, was so small. That there are way more nerve wracking things that could happen. And to not forget that. 

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Wrung Out

It was supposed to have been a good week. I had secured vaccinations for both my mom and my uncle on the same day and at the same time. It was a long drive up island (74 miles one way from my mom’s house). My aunt followed me and I had my mom in my car. It went off without a hitch (although next time I will print the confirmation emails so I don’t have to run around showing my phone numerous times to numerous people at numerous check ins). When we were in the 15 minute holding area, my aunt and I looked at each other and just hugged. Fantastic.

Unfortunately, things did not work out so well for my sister. She is eligible under New York guidelines since she is developmentally disabled. I first tried to get her an appointment at CVS but realized after that in my scheduling frenzy, I had said that my sister was a NY resident over 65 and not just a NY resident which is what I thought it said. I took her anyway with the hope that because she was still eligible they would give it to her. They would not. There was a woman pleading and crying with the pharmacist in front of us with the same problem. He apologized and apologized. He gave her a card with the manager’s name on it. Told her to call. When it was our turn, I did not really get into it because I knew what the outcome would be. The pharmacist apologized. Ultimately, this was my fault since I likely should not have had the appointment anyway. I was still crushed.

My aunt gave me a line on appointments that were being offered and she thought that the criteria was expanded. I logged on and affirmed that my sister was eligible. There were no appointments. And no appointments. And no appointments. And then magically, some time later two popped up for the next day. I chose the one that was after my sister’s work shift. I called my mom and she asked if I was going to take my sister. And that was the one straw. The last one. I had scheduled it for a time that worked for my sister but not me. My son was due to be picked up at the same time.I felt like I was stretched so thin that I was going to snap. And I did. For like ten minutes. Then I got in touch with my friend and asked if she could pick up my son that day. 

The next afternoon, I got in my car and went up to meet my mom. I had the confirmation email. My mom pulled into the parking lot with my sister and the person directing traffic told us that the criteria for the appointments had changed. That they were only administering vaccines for 65 plus people. And that despite the fact that my sister is eligible, she would not be getting the vaccination. I was able to pick up my son from school. Heartbroken twice in a week. I don’t think that I can stand having that happen any more times. 

My aunt assures me that my sister will get it, I know that. It’s just been a hard week. I have not even mentioned the bad shape of my friend’s dog. Or the terrible noise that my car started making on the way home today. 

Tomorrow is a new day. It is Saturday. I have plans with my aunt and my mom to drink some wine. We are hopeful that it will not be too cold outside because I am psychologically averse to unmasked people inside who are not in my bubble. I remain hopeful because this week, that is all that I have left, a little bit of hope.

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New Faces

My friends and I, every weekend, we talk about how we might see each other. How we might do something. And every weekend seems to pass and that does not happen. We all have a very low virus tolerance. Indoor dining? No way. Indoor wine tasting? Not going to happen. Gathering inside someone’s house just to sit on the couch? Sounds lovely but it’s a no. We think about doing something outside. Anything. But it is pretty chilly (it was “feels like” nine degrees the other day). So we talk a good game and then it is Monday. And I have only seen my mother from a distance for like ten minutes and my son. He is the only person I always see. 

I had been running every day but I put my knee out right before Election Day and it is still not right. I feel like maybe I have a stress fracture on the top of that foot. My knee hurts and generally does not feel great. Running was the thing that was helping to keep me sane. And now it is off the table. I decided to go for a longish walk yesterday. I wore long underwear. A beanie. And two pairs of socks. Gloves and a scarf. Out of the wind, it was not dreadful. I like to be outside. Anyway, on the latter end of my walk a car passed and called my name. It was a woman who I met through church out practice driving with her youngest daughter (same age as my son). It was so nice to see a different person. We chatted a bit. It was lovely. I miss that so much. It felt normal. I have buried normal so far down. I can’t have it flitting about the surface because it makes me too sad.

Despite the pandemic, our library is still trying to offer services to the community. They have put cooking online and crafts can be picked up and done at home. One of the offerings this month was a writing class. I saw it in the email. It is online. The instructor is with the local community college that I graduated from with an Associate’s Degree a million years ago.  I stopped by the library to renew my card. They could only take the payment for class by check or cash. I stopped by the next day with my check. Made out to the library. I gave my email to the lady at the circulation desk. 

The class starts on Thursday. I am petrified. I keep checking my junk mail to make sure I have not missed an email that says that I need to do something, write something, before the class. I am afraid that I will need to provide some sample of writing. Some piece of me. I feel like there are so few pieces. And I have not been writing. Not writing at all. Maybe I can dredge something up that is older. But I was really hoping to use this as a means to force my hand. To make me write. To get something down. I am afraid that I will not be able to do that. I am afraid of being judged. Afraid of letting people in like that. Through my writing. In a way that seems very personal when compared to posting to my blog. Which seems much more anonymous. So much easier. But it felt like a good idea to do this. To tiptoe out of the bubble. My comfort zone. But I’ve paid. And I will be there. Because at some point I need to get out.

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What If

I have been stalking the NY vaccination sites for days. I wake up in the morning and try to see if I can schedule my mom, my aunt and my uncle. I plan my days around the top of every hour just in case that is the time when it opens up. I obtained pertinent information from my aunt, just in case I needed it to make the appointment.

The other day. I was doing laundry at my friend’s house. It is what I do every Wednesday. And I planned my driving to his house so I would not miss eight in the morning just in case. At some point during this morning, I checked the site and I think that it had the vaccination in the drop down menu, allowing me to set up an appointment. I can’t lie. I nearly fainted. I sort of hyperventilated. And almost passed out.I almost felt like I couldn’t do it. But I did. Or I thought I did. And I did it for my mom. And I did it for my aunt. And for my uncle. The menu prompted me to provide information on how I heard about the Northwell site. It asked for insurance numbers. It wanted me to take a picture of the ID cards. I did not have much of this information for most of my relations. The site assured me that I did not have to provide it.

I made them all. And I just burst into tears. I called my mom and told her to put it on her calendar. I called my aunt and left a message on her machine. Half crying. 

Once I had finished (all appointments on February 1st) I went back to the site to see what was available. And on the drop down menu, the vaccine was no longer there. And then, the doubt started creeping in. What if I just chose to make an appointment but it was not for a vaccination? The text that they sent me does not say what the appointments are for. They do not mention vaccines. I tried to call. The woman on the phone was super helpful. But she told me that she could only tell me about the appointments scheduled for today. She could not look and tell me about the February 1st appointments. She told me that I could find out on that day. I did ask if there had been vaccine appointments available today and she said yes. Hopeful? I’m not sure.

My friend kept telling me that I have made vaccination appointments. But I just don’t believe it. And that is me. That is me always questioning myself. The self doubt. Since then, I have been trying to schedule backup appointments, just in case. Today, for my mom, I got all the way through to the “register” part at one of the further sites before the page just crashed.

Then tonight, I received a text from a new number saying that they could not accommodate the vaccine appointment. I am hopeful that this was for the up island one that I made for my mom today. The back up one. Then I got an email cancelling my uncle’s one. For sure. The email was addressed to him. But it was the only email that it got. So I am hopeful that my aunt’s and mom’s appointments stand. But I am not sure. What if that text message was for one of those? I just don’t know. And just now, I may have made two appointments for March in Stony Brook but I don’t know about those either. The site said that the sending of my email confirmation failed and now there are no more appointments available. 

I admit that I called my aunt today crying to tell her that my uncle’s appointment had definitely been canceled. She was so great but I just want it to be scheduled. I want to know that they will get it. I think that it is harder because my son was contact traced out of school today. Yesterday he sat across from a girl at lunch who is positive. They were outside but he is quarantined at home until the 26th. And that means that I could be exposed if he does get it. We have no space to truly separate. My aunt kept telling me that I should not stress. But it was the sheer happiness factor in scheduling those appointments. That may have been taken away. And, right now, it sort of feels like, that is all I have. And that it has all slipped away.

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The Big Prize

Today is the day that NY opened up vaccinations to the next group. The 1b group. The group that includes those over 75 years of age. The group that includes my mom, my aunt and my uncle. NY has a site where you fill out a short form to verify that you are actually in the 1b group and then it will reveal where you can schedule the vaccine. 

I got on this morning and it took me a bit to figure out what I was supposed to do. The scheduling was not available until eight. When I did finally get the list of sites, the closest one was 64 miles away from my mom’s house. There were three others which were even further. I tried to call the one that was closest. For some reason it was listed as a realty company. Do they have a giant parking lot? So many questions. The line was busy. I took a breath and gave up. I figure that at some point over the next few days, closer sites will become available.

One of the health systems has information on their site for places in Riverhead (the largest, closest town to us). It almost looks like you can make the appointment. But you can’t. It is only listing today’s date. It says there are four available appointments. I actually had the site up and it looked as if I could have scheduled a shot for 6:45 this evening (it was like six). I briefly thought about just doing it. But there is no way that would have worked out. If it was just me. If I could have just jumped in my car and gone to get it, I would have but I am not 1b and would have had to convince my mom to hightail it out of her house. It did not seem feasible. So I let it go. And there have been no more posted.

I have been monitoring the sites all evening but so far nothing. Another local health system did send my mom (via me) an email saying that she was in the 1b group and that they would be “offering the vaccine to eligible patients over the next few weeks”. That made me feel better. But I am still going to try to schedule it myself.

I am also trying to schedule for my aunt and uncle. They are also in the 1b group. I told my aunt that if a vaccine drops in her lap, she should say yes. I may set up an account for the health system for her as well since that seems to be the way they are communicating. I feel like we need to have all avenues open.

I know some people who have received it. I know some people who may be considered “essential” who feel like maybe they are not. They feel a little guilty about it. Maybe they should. Or maybe they shouldn’t. I don’t know. I only hope that there is a way for folks to schedule without having to do it online. I am certain there is a large population out here that is not set up to do it. And while the process is vaguely reminiscent of trying to score tickets to a hot show, it is so much more. So much scarier. Some days it all just feels bad. Today may have been one of those days.

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Walking All Over

It was a walking kind of day.

I walked with my mom. We trespassed down the road of the currently empty property next door. There were two deer laying down in the woods. The female got spooked and stood to run. The male, sporting antlers, did not move at all. He eyed us leerily until we moved on. My mom told me that I should talk to her. This is still a thing that is more difficult than it should be for me. I told him that my son, since turning 16 years old, is going to start learning how to do different things at work. Like fry french fries. And cook burger. That was about all I could muster.

I walked with Joe. We went into the town closest to him and my mom. I do not think that I went there in 2020 at all. We did not go inside any stores but just strolled around outside. Went by the fancy tea place but they are closed till spring. One of the restaurants seems to be building a large outdoor deck, no doubt in preparation for outdoor eating resuming in the spring. The marina has two buoys at the entrance to the harbor saying that it is closed. The only boats around were the ferries running to Shelter Island. The only people not wearing masks were seated outdoors eating. My nose was running freely under mine. 

I walked with Joe and Mary. We went to the Audubon Society trail. There was someone with a really large pickup parked in the bow hunting spot. I have no doubt someone was bow hunting. We passed families. And a group of hipsters ended up following us on the way out. Perhaps not the best choice as we traipsed through mud (Mary’s shoes did not like that) and ended up having to walk on the main road to get back to the parking lot. On the main road, the people driving all seemed to be leaning their vehicles in towards us. Maybe it was our mask wearing that diverted their attention.

I walked with my son. I made him walk with me in the preserve that borders the far edge of the farm. He did not want to come but he did. I have that- I don’t feel safe as a female walking alone in the woods thing- even though it is ridiculously safe. There was a group of young boys at the end of the wooden walkway that extends into the marsh, about halfway through the walk. We just kept walking. My son cut back through the property and took a wide berth around the barn because there were people out there. Then he complained that I just did what I wanted and that he did not want to walk with me any more. I told him that I took the route that I wanted to take. 

It was nice to do different things. To be different places. With different combinations of people. I am not one for resolutions but I am trying to invoke Bigmouth’s Gratitoad. Trying to be grateful for what I have right now. Today. To not worry about all of the what ifs. It is not an easy thing. I’ve succeeded for the entire year so far. We’ll see how it goes. 

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Month

It’s been a month. A month since the election. A month since I’ve been able to run. A month of increasing virus rates. So long and so short. It could be a year instead. But only a month.

We Thanksgivinged in an unorthodox way. It was a little less stressful from a cooking perspective. We swooped into a friend’s house, exchanged food while wearing masks and went back to our homes to eat. With our unmasked mouths. Commando Thanksgiving. 

My mom has been in pain. Pain that had her screaming out. I took her to the ER. I question that. Should she be in there? With the COVID? I knew that they would not really do anything for her. But they did prescribe an opioid painkiller. Maybe that is what I was after. Luckily she does not really like them. I worry that she will take too many. She will forget if she took one and take another. And then maybe drink some wine. I took them away. 

She got an injection on Tuesday in her spine. She had one just the week before that did not work. This one seems to be better. She is no longer screaming in pain. She is not spending long days laying on the heating pad. But she can’t walk her dogs. She can’t groom her dogs. She is not happy. And for some reason, with all of the doctors she has, none want to help me manage her pain.

The shot guy told me that his shots should take care of the pain. When I tried to make an appointment to actually sit down and talk to him, his office told me that they were not having appointments due to COVID and that they were not allowed. I know that this is not true. I know that this is not true because we saw a spine surgeon on Friday. In the office. 

So since no one will manage the pain. And she can’t manage the pain. I have become the pain manager. I am the one she calls to ask if she can take two Aleve (probably not a good idea). Or I tell her to try to mix it up with some extra strength tylenol. Do you know what I am not? I am not a doctor. I do not feel good about this. Tomorrow we should get the pill tracker thingy that I bought on Amazon. I will lay out some random assortment of pain killers that may or may not work. That may or may not destroy her kidneys. Or her liver. The lady from the shot guy who told me we could not have an appointment told me she could take two Aleve a day. But I knew that. It says it right on the label. But it also says not to take it for more than ten days. Then what? What if she keeps taking it? Telling me what is on the label is not helpful. Although I am not a doctor, I can read. 

We are going to see her doctor on Friday. I will ask all the questions. We may go to a different pain doctor for a second opinion. The spinal surgeon could only offer her a total spinal reconstruction which would put rods and screw in her back with an extremely long recovery time. I’m certain that would kill her.

The weather has turned cold and the days are short. The muscle I pulled behind my knee seems to slowly be getting better. I took a janky run/walk around the neighborhood today that was not entirely terrible. Mostly. But not entirely.

Maybe we all just need more time. To get better. To heal. To get it together. The light at the end of the tunnel is like a pin prick but it is there. I can feel it more than see it. I hold on to that. 

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Musings of Poll Worker

I really did not want to do it. Be a poll worker. Aside from the truly sucky hours (show up at 5:00 a.m. and leave sometime after 9:00 p.m.), virus. I have low virus tolerance. But I kept hearing about the need. Then my two best friends out here signed up and I had no excuse. I went to the training and when I had to take the oath, I kind of choked up a bit (yay masks). I told one of the women I worked with yesterday that it felt like I was tasked with holding up democracy. She said that she understood and that it did feel that way. 

I would say that we generally had few glitches, aside from the pandemic related ones. First, we had a guy show up without a mask and would not wear one. The protocol for this is to clear all the other voters out of the polling place and then let the maskless in to vote. Somehow, a local police officer convinced the guy to put a mask on. It may have helped that all of the folks on the line behind him were getting aggravated. So that was an unpleasant situation. 

We had one woman and a family of three show up to vote and at least came clean that they were positive for the virus. It was a little nerve wracking. It was simple enough to deal with the one woman (she got a wide berth and everyone stayed away from her) but the family of three was a bit rougher. To their credit they were masked and they had face shields. But, we had no training on what to do in this situation, at least I did not. The family of three were kept together. They all used the same voting booth. It was deep cleaned as soon as they left. But it was used after that. It all seemed a little cavalier to me. I think that a better solution would have been to maybe have them vote via affidavit outside of the building. That way they would not have come in and they could have still exercised their right to vote.

We had a lot of young white men dressed like they were going to go hunting. They mostly wore gaiters and not masks. For some reason, those always strike me as almost threatening. I don’t know why. We had a mom and a daughter and a dad with a son who came to take pictures of their kids voting for the first time. At the very end of the night, a family with three small kids came in. The two oldest, not more than maybe five and four, came over to a man who was scooting himself across the gym floor in his wheelchair and got behind to push him. It was a moment of laughter and levity. It was a moment where people who may have been vastly different ideologically shared something. A small piece. If only that could happen more often.

Some of the work at the polling site requires individuals of different parties to work together. At our site, we were thick with “D”s with a scattering of “I”s and very few “R”s. The one R that stands out in my mind is the older gentleman in a large suede cowboy hat with a feather on the front. He wore flannel and cowboy boots and his mask seemed to be homemade with a plastic frame on the outside that barely covered his mouth and nose and stuck out in a very snout-like way. It was lined with something that could have been part of an old sock. He really came across as a typical grumpy old man but when I was assigned to check people in with him, I decided that I would go with it. We had a rush at the outset and I ran the check in on what is basically an ipad like thing. When we slowed down I had him take the lead. He was a little slow and seemed a bit technologically challenged like my mom. We had a lull and he made some small talk. He asked if I was married. I told him I was unmarried. He asked where I worked. I told him for a health insurer. I asked if he was retired. He said that was and that he was a pilot. Then he turned his attention to the poll pad we used for check in. He went on to tell me that the technology in the instrument was alien from a UFO crash in South Africa. I think that I actually told him that I did not think that was true. He told me that he had a video of the crash. He told me that people who saw the crash, who somehow survived, had picked up technology, put it in their pockets and walked away. Then I took a dinner break.

Part of me is endlessly amused at this. But the other part of me is just frightened. This denial of science and willingness to accept fiction as fact. When I got home from poll working, after 10:00 p.m, I opened a beer and got in the shower. I did not watch the returns. I really can’t. My anxiety is off the scale. And even if we end up with a new president, the more heartbreaking thing is that most of the people in this country are happy to embrace the racism and the anger and the thoughtlessness and the divisiveness. I replay the “parade” that came through my town. Those people scared me. It seemed as though they felt like they had the right to do whatever they wanted. Like stopping traffic on major roadways. It feels like the country is circling the drain. 

But working the polls felt important. It felt democratic. Because who thinks that all the votes should not count? Not me. 

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Everything

When I was very small, my mother took me with her to vote. I remember very distinctly what the voting machines looked like back in the day – giant metal closets here in NY. There was a panel of little switches on the inside with a giant lever in the front that would close the curtain to ensure privacy. I would get into that booth with my mom. I don’t remember her ever letting me flick those little levers, as much as I wanted to. I do remember her letting me move the lever on at least one occasion. It was so exciting for me. I didn’t really understand what was going on but it felt important and I was happy to be a part of it.

When I got old enough to vote myself, I am pretty certain that my mom and I ran (literally ran) up to my old high school together to cast my first ever vote. I was so excited. My mom would never tell who she voted for. She said that it was private and that she did not have to share. I still do not know if she voted for JFK or not. She has relaxed this rule since then.

When I worked at the Hawaii State Capitol, the State Representative that I worked for almost lost his seat to a challenger by just nine votes. I always hold this close to my heart when people say things like their vote doesn’t matter. Or it doesn’t count. I know that is not true. 

During the last presidential election, I was in NY for my dad’s funeral (I voted before I went). Four years ago. I felt certain that we would have our first female president. I remember thinking that watching returns here in NY is at a much more disagreeable time of the day than when watching them in Hawaii. I was lying in the bed in my friend’s guest room and I finally just went to sleep. Pennsylvania had been lost. I woke up the next day with a sense of dread about the next four years.

I held out hope that there would be some voices of reason in the Administration but that all went completely off the rails rather quickly. I worry for the future of this planet. I don’t know what kind of place my son will have to live in. If places we have lived will become uninhabitable. If the pandemic has taught us one thing, it should be that there is no place to go. Money can’t buy you escape from globalwide situations. 

My friends committed to be poll workers on Election Day. I was the last one to actually commit. Virus anxiety was to blame. I went to the training with a dozen or so people in a room where we were socially distanced but our trainer took her mask off. I came close to walking out. But the training made the job feel important. It made me feel like I was helping to hold up the scaffolding of democracy in this country. I had to be sworn in. It felt real.

Since I am a poll worker, I had to vote early. I went to our early voting site on Monday morning. I stood in line for about an hour before I made it to the building to cast my vote. I interacted with two folks doing the job that I will be doing on Tuesday. I took my ballot to one of the little privacy booths, nothing like the old school metal lockers of my youth. And I voted. I voted my heart and my soul. I voted for my son. For the future. I was so worked up about it at the time that I barely recall doing it. When I got back to my car I cried (something that I do quite frequently these days). I am borderline panicked to be indoors for many, many hours on Tuesday with every stranger in my town but it feels more than important. It feels like everything.  

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