Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Three Years Seems Like Forever ...and Yesterday

My Mom died three years ago tonight. I miss her so much.

On the one hand, it seems like forever since she's been gone. It's getting harder and harder to remember just how good it felt to hug her, or how lovely she smelled when she was getting ready to go out. I can still see her smile, but I'm losing the feeling of joy that I used to get when I saw her flash it. Don't get me wrong -- the memories will never leave me, but their vibrancy is starting to fade slightly. Thank goodness I can still hear her voice now and again just be calling her old cell phone (my Dad now uses it) -- we left her original recordings of her outgoing messages in place just so we could keep that little bit of her near enough to ring up when we needed to hear her voice. Sometimes I find myself calling my Dad and secretly hoping to get his voice mail just so I can hear my Mom one more time. It's been a lifetime since I talked with her.

The hurt from losing her, however, is just as raw as it was the day she died. I often find myself crying because it just hurts too damn much that she's not here with us anymore. They say that time heals all wounds, but I don't think the "they" who coined that phrase had ever dealt with losing their mother. That's a wound that will be open in me for a long, long time.

My parents' song was a WWII classic called, "We'll Meet Again." I can only hope that's the case, and that I will be able to be near her again -- somewhere, sometime. She brought too much to me to be ready to let myself believe that she's gone away from me for good.

I love you, Mom. Thank you for everything, especially the unconditional love. You mean the world to me.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Signs, Signs, Everywhere a Sign

One of the many details related to moving that is weighing heavily on my mind is how in the heck we’re to be able to transport it from the island back to the states since our auto insurance coverage is valid in the USVI only. Most policies down here are like that -- at least for people who are relatively new to the islands -- insurance companies will only extend coverage for you within the territories themselves.

The second you take yourself or your car off island, your insurance policy is nullified and you are hung out to dry unless you secure other coverage (such as those incredibly expensive rental car policies that are offered). That option works fine when it’s just the drive that needs insuring, but doesn’t help at all when it comes to protecting your vehicle.

So I’ve been taxing my brain on how to get coverage for our little Saturn so that it’s protected for every bit of it’s 2500 mile journey back to Michigan. Getting a policy from a mainland insurance provider turned out to be a no-go -- they won’t write coverage until you can provide proof that you already live in the continental US. With some miracles of timing -- namely closing on our new house before we ship the car off island, that might have worked out, but there’s just too many ways that could go wrong and leave us without insurance while our car is taking its long boat ride across the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean.

I was running into so many obstacles that I had started to wonder f this was a sign from the fates that making this move wasn’t a good idea. You see, every time I make a major life decision, I start receiving little signs from the universe as to whether the decision I made is the right one. I’d been waiting to see what the fates had to say about our decision t move from the USVI back to the great white north, and was starting to get seriously worried that this might be the first sign, and that it fell squarely into the DON’T DO IT/BAD IDEA column.

Just as I was about to declare hopelessness to the HipHubby, an envelope containing renewal info for our auto insurance coverage arrived from our insurance agent. Our agent was pleased to inform us that for the first time since we arrived on St. Croix four years ago, we actually had a choice of policies this year -- we could either continue with out same USVI coverage only or, for a mere $16 more per year, take out a policy that covered us in the territory, on Puerto Rico, and in the US and Canada.

And that, my friends, is just the sign I’ve been waiting for. We’re definitely doing the right thing.

Next on the signs list -- meeting with out realtor to go over what price we can expect to get for the house and how long he estimates it will take for it to sell. This meeting should be happening in the next four or five days. If those numbers end up being what I hope they will be, we are full speed ahead for the move from Paradise back to the Great White North.

If you have a minute, ask the fates to think kindly of us over these next few days. I could use a few more nods from the Universe letting me know that we’re doing the right thing at the right time.

Monday, June 09, 2008

I’m Healed!

Today was my last appointment -- and best -- appointment to check on how well broken leg has healed. And it was nothing but good news -- a wonderful, and often rare, occurrence for someone who lives in this unreliable body!

The whole experience started out better than ever before -- we actually got called into the exam room only 30 minutes after my scheduled appointment time. For this doctor, that is nothing short of light speed relative to our past experiences -- we’ve never made it out of the waiting room in under an hour, even when we were one of the first appointments of the day. It’s nice to know that the doctor takes his time with every patient, but you’d think they’d be able to schedule to better accommodate that.

Of course, as soon as I was called in I was shuffled into their teeny, tiny x-ray room for films. Usually getting x-rays is torture for me and the tech due to the limitations on how my leg can move and the fact that the films need to be shot from my chair. But the tech at this office is a creative genius. So getting x-rays taken at this office can even be fun. Today was definitely a good time because they were training a new x-ray tech, and I *love* being a teaching tool -- if someone can survive working with me, they can cope with darn near anything. I’m pleased to say that not only did the new guy cope, he nailed both films on his first try. And he was fun. I can’t ask for much more.

The x-rays look fantastic. The bones have continued to knit since my cast came off six weeks ago. You can barely see the original fracture lines, and the new bone looks nice and solid, instead of the fluffy little wisps that appeared on the first x-ray, taken only four weeks after I broke it.

The best part of the appointment, though, was getting the news from my doctor that I had healed extraordinarily well for any patient, and beyond his wildest expectations for a wheelchair user with osteoporosis. The bones have aligned perfectly on one of the two planes, and the alignment is only five percent out of whack on the others -- something he never thought possible without putting my leg in a full cast (which is what should have been done if he treated me by the book and thereby left me incapacitated), let alone without the surgery he was certain I needed. He even admitted that I was doing everything right for my bones with diet and whatnot, and that I shouldn’t change a thing. That, my friends, felt good, and I cannot tell you how glad I am that I refused the surgery.

So as of today, I can officially declare my broken tibia and fibula part of my past. Hallelujah -- I am healed!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Paying the Price

One of the aspects of having multiple medical issues that I just can’t seem to come to terms with is that I now have to pay a price for doing normal everyday activities.

After being cooped up for the last two weeks battling an infection, I’d reached my tolerance of staring at the same walls all the time and needed to get out and see something -- anything -- different.

The HipHubby and I had been talking about going down to check out the Boardwalk in downtown Christiansted, so we headed there first. It’s not a bad place to take a stroll and look at the boats, but it’s definitely geared to tourist trade -- unless you’re interested in getting a meal or doing shopping for souvenirs or jewelry, there isn’t much else to do. We did spend quite a bit of time watching the critters that live in a shallow reef adjacent to the boardwalk -- there were some gorgeous, brightly colored crabs and oodles of tropical fish, including a pair of stunning bright blue fish that looked like a saltwater version of carp that were at least three feet long. Although the HH pushed me a great deal of the time (the power-assist aspect of my chair is dead, making it a 70 pound manual chair), I did self-propel quite a bit across the bumpy boards

After our stroll on the Boardwalk, I decided we should hit the “good” KMart and pick up a few things we need to put the house on the market. So across the island we went, where I proceeded to wheel myself around the store while we shopped. Fortunately, there wasn’t much on our list, so we were in and out in under an hour and then on our way home.

This little outing, which only lasted a few hours, has now cost me two days of extra sleep and more pain than I’ve had in the last two months.

It’s frustrating that just being normal comes with such a high price tag attached. It’s embarrassing and annoying to have to figure in large recovery periods for simply taking part if your own life. Not only can one activity -- especially if it’s any outing that involves transfers from my wheelchair in and out of the car -- cost you the better part of a week once you’ve accounted for the extra time you spend sleeping and nursing your body through the increased pain level, it can cost you relationships. Even your loved ones can get tired of having you go comatose for two days just so they could go out to dinner with you, and it takes a very rare and special friend to understand why you fall off the radar screen just because you decided to go to the grocery store.

I don’t mind paying with my body But paying the price with relationships -- that’s just too much to charge for leading a pseudo-normal life.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

OMG, It’s Getting Real

It’s one thing to make the decision to move, but it’s a whole new thing once a Realtor gets involved. Today our move from Paradise became a whole new thing.

I started the search for a Realtor earlier this week by sending out a few emails to various firms across the island. This was part one of the test because, if you can believe it, email hasn’t really caught on down here yet. We found that out the hard way when we were in the process of moving here four years ago -- and to my great dismay, it seems nothing much has changed since we arrived. What’s annoying is that every Realtor web site includes information about how to contact them by email -- I mean why bother to include that info if you’re never going to respond to email inquiries?

Today, to my great relief, we received a call from an agent at a well-known local firm. Score one point for the man who reads email -- this gives him a leg up on his competition from the get go. We had a long conversation about the property, and he’s agreed to do a competitive market analysis for us, and then come out to look over the property, tell us what remains to be done before we list the house, and talk strategy (e.g. getting max price vs. making a quick sale). He’ll start his research by looking through island records on the property and his old appraisal files. (Did I mention he was an appraiser for 20 plus years? Score another point.) We’ll meet with him in two weeks, after he gets back from a trip off-island.

Even though we’ve talked about moving every day, and have devoted all of our spare time to getting the house (and us) ready to list, it just didn’t seem real until that phone call this afternoon.

We’re really going to move.


Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Lost: Motivation - Reward if Found and Returned

My motivation has been lost and I am desperate to get it back. After all, there couldn’t be a worse time to have it bail on me than at the beginning of a 2500 mile move from St. Croix to Michigan.

My motivation was last sighted about a month ago, just prior to my most recent battle with a raging infection and a fever that just won’t let go. It appeared happy and healthy at that time -- at least it didn’t give me any indication that it was about to vanish into thin air. I’m absolutely baffled as to where it went and why it decided to leave me now.

It’s my hope that when it sees how much it’s needed -- my to do list, as you can imagine, is a mile and half long and growing -- it will show up one morning, a little worse for the wear after being gone for so long, but happy and healthy and glad to be back.

If you’ve seen any loose motivation running about, please nab it and send it back to me. Of course, I’d be happy to accept a loaner until my own shows up. A generous reward is offered -- if I can get around to pulling it together.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Leaving Paradise

The HipHubby and I reached a painful decision -- it’s time to leave Paradise.

The tension between the life I want to have here and the one I can have on an island of this size had been building for a while. Recently, however, that tension became one, giant, never ending battle to acquire the resources I need to lead a quality life in the face of ignorance, prejudice and outright stupidity. And I snapped.

The straw that broke the gimp’s back? Being told I could not purchase a membership to the only health club with lift equipped pool because their legal department didn’t have provisions for dealing with “people like me”, and that even if I could join, I would be forbidden to use that lift because it’s use was restricted by law to rehab patients only. But that just the setup for the breaking point. The actual shattering of my spirit came when I was unable to get the ONE attorney who knows anything about disability rights law to phone me back when I called her for a referral to an attorney to fight this obvious violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and local civil rights laws.

That’s when I lost it. The rage I felt opened my eyes to the reality that living a good life in a wheelchair is a daily battle, but trying to do so here -- where there are inadequate medical resources, poor accessibility, and lack of choices in general -- makes that daily battle ten times as hard as it would be elsewhere.

So even though neither the HipHubby nor I want to take on the enormous task of relocating our little family back to the mainland, it has to be done. So far, we’re doing a pretty good job of not being totally overwhelmed by the sheer volume of work involved:

  • getting this house on the market and sold;
  • finding, buying, and furnishing a new house, and renovating it to be wheelchair friendly along the way;
  • dividing our belongings into three action piles of sell/donate, pitch, and pack (followed, of course, by selling/donating, throwing out, and/or packing everything in those piles); and
  • moving two people and ten cats at least 1500 miles without anyone losing their minds or going broke in the process.

No problem, right? ~LOL~

The decision about where we go has been the subject of much discussion.

Our criteria for the ideal location are a bit different than most couples. While we’d love to keep a warmer climate at the top of the list, there are other factors that trump it outright -- all of them related to my health and well being. I need access to a doctor to manage my Baclofen pump nearby. I also need a general practitioner, a neurosurgeon and an open MRI machine, a urologist, a pain management specialist, and a pulmonologist to help me manage my various health conditions. I need access to a Medicare supplemental insurance plan because the Medicare co-pays are driving us toward bankruptcy.

Since I no longer drive, I’d like access to a Para transit service so I could actually leave the house on my own, without having to drag the HipHubby out with me. And I would love to have access to a health club with a wheelchair lift for their pool and staff that understand being disabled and wanting to be healthy isn’t a crime.

After our experiences with moving to DC and down here -- both places we had never been before -- neither one of us has a lot of enthusiasm for going to a place that we have no practical experience with and trying to figure it out from scratch. That, of course, pretty much eliminates a warm climate from the running since neither one of us have lived any further south than Washington DC. And since neither of us have any desire to return to DC (housing prices alone take it from the running, but there’s also my 9/11 PTSD and the city’s poor air quality to make it a definite NO), our choices are looking more and more narrow -- and more and more northern.
So after a lot of discussion about surviving winters and weighing snow against access to doctors I know, trust, and with whom I have existing relationships, we made our decision: when we leave the US Virgin Islands, we’ll be moving back to my home state of Michigan -- specifically Lansing, Michigan, the state capital. It offers everything we’re looking for medically, and housing prices are so low we may be able to buy a home outright (depending on how much we can get for our USVI house). In addition, the last time I live there I was working in the disability community, so I already know the area and what is has to offer to crips. And the big kicker: my family is nearby, something that has become very important to me since my mother passed away.

The moving process is already underway -- we’re doing what we need to do to get this house ready to sell (e.g. making minor repairs, cleaning and packing up personal belongings, and starting to stage the house). Next week we’ll start bringing in Realtors to do competitive market analyses to see what we can reasonable expect to sell this house for and how long that will take (the scariest part of it all for me). After that, we’ll decide on one to represent us and get the house officially listed.

I’m overwhelmed because there is so much work ahead, but incredibly relieved to know that I will finally be going to a place where I will have competent doctors nearby, places to shop other than Kmart, choices of service providers, and all of the restaurants we don’t have down here!

Lansing, Michigan, here we come!