My kingdom for a retirement plan
30 June, 2011
My kingdom for a retirement plan

It was a routine doctor’s appointment for my grandparents. I say routine, not because it was yearly exam or a check up, but because the older they get the more visits we seem to be making to the same doctors. The nursing staff knows us on sight, and if it weren’t so utterly depressing to sit in a waiting room of a clinic, I’d actually enjoy talking to them. 

 

Anyone who has ever had to take care of his or her

grandparent or parent knows how bizarre the whole situation is. It wasn’t that long ago when they used to take care of us. My grandmother complained once when I had to demand she follow doctor’s advice and drink two bottles of water (something she really doesn’t like doing) because she was dehydrated and feeling light headed, she said she was never this strict with me, so why was being so strict with her? And I in turn had thought, why are you behaving like a little child? But it’s true isn’t it- there is a small window of time when we get to be responsible for ourselves and all the other times of our lives, childhood, teen years and retirement when we get told by others what we can and cannot do. In childhood if we are lucky and healthy it is only our parents who boss us around. After seventy, it’s the doctors who rule our lives. Being sick is different when you are over the hill.

When I get sick, I self medicate, I take medication and sleep, and hope my immune system reboots itself. But I am in my thirties, in the window where no one can tell me what to do, expect my boss and the IRS (Internal revenue service). Also, I have no health insurance, therefore I live with the cold, and I deal with the flue.

My grandparents are much older, and equipped with Medicare.  When either of them so much as sneezes we get a call to take them to a doctor. This was one of those routine sneezing accidents. We were half way at the doctor’s clinic when I popped in a CD (I know everyone listens to IPods now, but my car is from the last century, when dinosaurs roamed the earth). It happened to be a CD of songs by Rosenbaum. Bad choice. My grandfather had only recently realized the scope of propaganda against Georgia that Russian newspapers and TV stations have been running. He could not believe it when one of my Belarusian friend’s parent asked if it was true what they say about Georgia being a poor sad little dictatorship on a verge of collapse. My grandfather had asked her what she was talking about, and it turned out she had been getting her information from a  Russian station (1st channel).The fact that blatant lying of such magnitude was encouraged on that station got my grandfather pretty upset.  He sat very unhappily in the back seat complaining about it, until I turned the CD off and switched on NPR (national public radio). NPR was covering stories coming out of Greece. Recent financial woes of the birthplace of Aristotle and Plato, are taking a toll on all EU countries and  even the US, because this is the time of the global economy, and no one economy is safe on its own. My grandfather asked me to translate what the reporter on NPR was saying. She was covering the statistics, the fact that retirement age in Greece is fifty-eight, and that their retirement package on average is equal to what an average American will make in a year.  (I had always imagined I’d retire in Greece. My grandchildren would come to visit my on an island, and I’d fish and paint for fun and live on a boat with my husband and two cats. Well, now that boat has sunk.)

It would have been nice to retire at fifty-eight, said my grandfather, but who would let me? He had worked until he was seventy-five, because he had to. He had thought he would retire earlier, but Russian government had other plans, like war and expulsion from his home in Gagra.  And now with all the news coming from Greece, he wondered if same problems would besiege Medicare, which is part of the retirement package and pays for most of his medical bills in the United States. He quoted Aristotle to me ‘old men feel pity out of weakness, imagining that anything that befalls anyone else might easily happen to them.’

We got to the clinic and signed in at the nurse’s station.  She greeted my grandparents by their first names and happily took their Medicare card. When I am this old, will there be a government that will take care of me? At the rate we are going financially, I probably won’t even be able to feed my two cats, let alone fix my sinking boat. As I have said before, if only these hospital visits weren’t so depressing.

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