The Chickens Wander Home
I want to make something perfectly clear.
I am a parasite.
A succinct definition of a parasite is that of a creature that lives upon, and feeds upon, a host creature. My worn, tattered American Heritage Dictionary says a parasite is: (a) an often harmful organism that lives on or in a different organism; and (b) a person who takes advantage of the generosity of others.
Owing to the twisted path of my life, I am a child of the government. That is to say, for a majority of my adult life, the federal government has housed, fed, and clothed me. Oh, I had to give some things in return—possibly including my mortal soul—but most of the money that went into my pocket, the food that went into my stomach, and the doctors who looked down my throat and into my other bodily orifices were paid for by the government.
In simple terms, the things that benefited and sustained me and mine were paid for by your tax dollars. Every week, when Uncle Sugar and that mysterious Mr. FICA picks your pocket, as delineated on your paycheck stub, a tiny portion of that rolls downhill into my wallet.
This causes me no end of personal anguish, since I frequently rail about “nanny state” collectivism, the expansion of government, and entitlement mentality. Ten years ago, when I was first crippled and began collecting benefits on the public’s dime, I went to my preacher and told him about the conflict. I still harbor his advice close to my heart: “You paid into the system all your life, and now you need it. Learn how to accept help, smile, and for God’s sake learn how to say ‘thank you.’”
I am no stranger to working for a living. Back in the day—starting when I was about 14—I prided myself that if I needed a job, I could leave early in the morning and come home that evening preparing to start work the next day. The jobs may not have been career-level quality, but they were an honest exchange of labor for recompense. Those jobs included washing dishes in a restaurant, pumping gas, managing a convenience store, being a garbage man and a striker in a lumber yard, driving a truck, busing and waiting tables, bartending, painting houses, slaughtering chickens and other aspects of working in a processing plant, bookkeeping for a furniture factory, being an industrial-grade chef for a daily average of 1000 people, and raising cattle for my grandfather. At times I invented my own jobs: growing and selling organic sprouts for chain restaurants; operating a stable for other people’s horses, and being a partner in a company that supplied equine logistics and other considerations—like stunt work—to movie productions.
I know what the sweat of my brow smells like, and it’s pretty stinky. Still, at the end of the day, it showered off, and there was food on the table and a roof over our heads.
Somewhere along the line, I hitched my wagon to the monolith I refer to generically as “the government.” Like two drunken strangers in a bar, I’m not sure who picked up whom, but it happened. I won’t give great details, but I gave what is proverbially called “the best years of my life” to services that were a wholly owned franchise of the federal government. In return, I thought I had defied my father’s advisory lectures, and perhaps the world did owe me a living. I figured it was a “win-win” situation: I lack the imagination and courage to be an entrepreneur, so if I did the bidding of others, I would be taken care of from the cradle to the grave.
What a young fool I was!
I am blessed, no doubt about it. There are two adult children wandering around out yonder; I own a three-bedroom home on a small mountainside—The Possum Den on Scorpion Hill—and the love of my life is reconciled with me after a lot of ups and downs on both sides. There is a check that arrives at the bank every month, so the electricity stays on—most of the time—the furnace pumps heat in the winter, the water flows when the faucets are opened, the telephones ring and there is food in the refrigerator. There are several thousand books piled up in the basement. I have had the thrills of driving a Corvette and several motorcycles at over 100 miles per hour. I’ve been exalted by having several thousand people applaud and scream when I played a few large venues in my rock & roll phase. I have shaken hands with famous people, and had interesting conversations with some of them. A movie star once saved my life. I eat steak once a week, and enjoy the comfort of new pants and shoes on occasion.
I’ve also been shot, stabbed, severely burned, blown up, beaten up, and been in five car wrecks that I can remember. I’ve had a one-ton horse roll completely over me and plant my face firmly into Mother Earth. My nose has been broken four times; a couple of those were from punches thrown by people who disagreed with me about something. I have shrapnel fragments in my neck too close to my jugular vein for surgical removal, and scars in my scalp from over 30 stitches for blunt instrument trauma. I have played for mortal stakes on occasion, and at the age of 57, I am continually amazed that I have made it this far.
So…these days, I’m a little feeble. 2 July marked my tenth year in a wheelchair. I got hurt along the way, from a totally unexpected source, and my life changed. I can still stagger around on what’s left of my legs, and my “social” life wasn’t affected, so I continue to be blessed.
I don’t know what I did to deserve all this goodwill from God. I went through a time when I questioned the existence of a Higher Power, because I had seen a lot of ugliness, and convinced myself that a “real” God wouldn’t allow such things to exist. I still have the lingering notion that God has left me around this long to serve some as-yet undefined purpose and further recant my agnosticism, but despite my prayerful entreaties to set my foot on the right path to that end, I remain baffled. However, I regained my faith, made the leap, and have seen prayers answered. I like the image of a lump of coal passing through fire and intense pressure, and becoming an unpolished diamond. Let’s leave it there. God exists.
Y’all paid a lot of the freight for this lifetime. I rant a lot about the government, but the bottom line is that “the gummint” sustained me for a great many years. I suspect I have developed my own “entitlement mentality”, without having to claim victim status. I’m a heterosexual Christian WASP who was crippled relatively late in life, so where can I go to sign up for official victim status?
Full disclosure and too much background having been stated, I got shelled today.
I related a little vignette last winter about getting a prescription filled for antibiotics to treat a respiratory infection. I presented it as a cautionary tale and a precursor of what socialized medicine might mean for us all. It was just the prelude to current events.
Today the chickens came home to roost, as my grandmother used to say.
Part of my government-subsidized health care includes an annual review by the parent agency that provides my weekly home nurse visits, non-emergency medical transport, and meals-on-wheels, as well as peripheral services like wheelchair accessories and safety rails and a chair for my shower. My case worker with this agency called and showed up today for said review, which is usually simple paperwork and a few questions. This time, before she even clicked her pen, she prefaced our dialogue with a dire pronouncement.
“Funds have been cut drastically. People who don’t require nursing-home-level care are being dumped off the client list.”
Then she flinched, as though I was going to erupt into a tantrum of rock-throwing and cursing. Later in the interview, after I’d initially reassured her that I understood it wasn’t her fault and I don’t kill the messenger, I joked that if it would make her feel less disoriented, I would be glad to cuss and throw furniture in her direction. She gratefully declined the offer.
Something the case worker let slip during the conversation was that she had already been required to tell families with “special needs” [i.e. retarded] children who cannot dress or feed themselves that they will henceforth be denied home nursing services. This was by way of reply to my assertion that I already know there are people out there who need personal care much more than I do, and what’s up with that? In some instances, the case worker had been cursed, screamed at, and possibly threatened with physical violence. She obviously expected a more vociferous reaction from me—and was grateful for the respite—but I am a cold-blooded mammal; I don’t get mad, I get even. Today’s bombshell was not completely unexpected, but in my pantheon of doom-and-gloom, it was a worst-case scenario. For most of the past decade, the quality of my life has been enhanced by the services I receive. There are a few things I can’t do for myself. I have taken my preacher’s advice, and learned how to say “Thank you!” when someone does something for me. If I believed the lies attending the foisting of Obamacare on the nation last spring, I would think that every living person in the United States would now be receiving the same attention and personal care that I have been blessed with because of my parasitism. Instead, I hear that those less fortunate than me are already being cut off, and I’m next.
I took a left-handed cheap shot at the erstwhile case worker before she left. I calmly remarked that if she thought it was distressing to tell people that essential lifestyle services are now being denied because the government has spent itself into a hole, what was she going to do when the death panels start denying treatment to people with terminal conditions?
What I got was a bleak look of such despair that I instantly regretted what I’d said.
When Obamacare became law, a progressive fan of collectivism publicly remarked that “it ain’t the end of the world.” Okay. Losing the services of my home nurse and those ersatz meals isn’t the end of my little world. I have made conscious attempts to never abuse the few perks that have rolled in my direction in life. I am an excellent cook, as Miz Possum reminded me this evening when I told her what had transpired this afternoon. We know where to find the raw ingredients for meals, and I openly admit those frozen, pre-cooked dinners are a luxury. I am a notoriously slovenly housekeeper, but with one or two exceptions, there isn’t anything I am incapable of doing in that regard. Answering questions for the case worker about my ability to dress, feed and wash myself, I joked that I was further damning myself with competence. She smiled weakly and promised a favorable write-up of case notes, but my own experience with bureaucracy leaves me no illusions.
I can transcend my own “entitlement mentality” fairly easily, but I shudder to think of those truly needy people who are going to go begging because “funds have been cut.”
Quoth Madame Nancy Pelosi: “We have to pass the bill to know what’s in it.”
Now we know.