Sunday, September 05, 2004

Three things you shouldn’t do:

1. Drive drunk; 2. Gamble scared; 3. Blog angry

(If you wanna blog drunk, that’s totally cool.) My frustrating family stuff lately needed attention before I engaged in reckless blogability.

On Thursday, we had a sit-down meeting to discuss my mother’s eviction notice from her assisted living facility. It’s unjust and Mom is used to the place -- it’s not perfect, but it’s one of the best. We’d rather she be able to stay. Once I could take a step back from the seriousness of the situation... I actually found it rather amusing.

There was me, playing good cop. Bad cop was my sister. You do not want to get into an argument with my sister. I learned this when I was a little kid, ‘cause even then, she was a natural lawyer. She hates when you say that, but it’s true. Try telling her that you cleared the table yesterday and it’s her turn tonight. She’ll argue and argue and use twisted logic to alter your perception. Next thing you know, you’re clearing the table, you think two plus two equals five and you’ve agreed to be her personal butler. As you’re adjusting your black tie and Jeeves jacket, you’ll be wondering, how the hell did I get talked into this?

There is one way to win an argument with her. A sophisticated level of reasoning, passed down from Socrates and Sun Tzu and Sherlock Holmes. You close your eyes, stick your fingers in your ears and yell: "I’m not listening to what you say! I don’t ca-are! Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah!" The ancient philosophers invented it, but I added the little hip-sway.

An attorney in my sister’s office, Tom, was so outraged at this eviction, he volunteered to help try to put a stop to it. Tom is a brilliant litigator. He reminded me of Denzel Washington in Philadelphia. Denzel kept simplifying his opponent’s argument by saying, "Now, explain this to me like I’m a five-year-old..." Tom did a similar thing. "I’m sorry, I’m just a little slow here. But the reasons you’re citing for evicting their mother seem vague. Maybe it’s me and I’m just not getting it. But please, indulge me and maybe you could, I don’t know, give me some specific examples?"

They couldn’t. Which leads me to the man who wrote the eviction notice. The pig-headed schmuck who is clearly just worried about his license and his job. I’ve had a circular argument with this idiot ad nauseum.

Him: Your mom fell in the pool. I can’t be held liable if it happens again.
Me: It was an accident. It won’t happen again.
Him: You can’t guarantee that. I can’t guarantee that.
Me: Can you guarantee that any of your residents won’t fall in the pool?
Him: No...
Me: Well...
Him: But none of them fell in the pool. Your mother did.
Me: That’s why she’s most likely not to do it again.
Him: I don’t see it that way.
Me: Well, if anyone is going to avoid falling in, it’s the person who already did it. She was scared to death. She’s not going near the pool again. So there’s no way she’d fall in.
Him: You can’t guarantee that.

In the meeting, Pig Head was fidgeting and shifting in his seat, completely intimidated by the fact that we were--gasp!--writing things down!

My favorite part came when Tom asked Pig Head -- since he couldn’t seem to elaborate on the vague language of the eviction notice -- if perhaps there was some other reason for it. Pig Head blinked a hundred times and said, "I have no idea what you’re talking about."

"Oh, I’m sorry," Tom said. "Maybe I’m not being clear here." Tom asked if Pig Head had had concerns that my sister and I might have been planning to take actions against the facility. (We hadn’t been, prior to the eviction.)

Pig Head flipped out. "Why, because you think we’re responsible for the pool incident? Because you think your mother has been abused, mistreated?!"

We just stayed quiet. He said it.

"Are you threatening me?! You have to leave right now, you’re gonna come here and threaten me!"

Tom didn’t get up from his seat. "Sir, I’m not threatening you. You’re the one who’s standing over me, stabbing his notebook in my face."

Pig Head stopped and looked at what he was doing. He lowered the notebook and stepped back sheepishly. Though that disgusting layer of spittle between his lips was still there the rest of the meeting.

When we left, it was unanimous among Tom, my sister and me. Pig Head was just plain stooopid. Tom said if the guy was in a deposition, in five minutes he’d be going berserk, yanking out the wires of the recording devices. Several times in our meeting he had threatened to walk out.

The other person in the discussion was the woman in charge of the aides for assisted living. My mom calls her Nurse Ratchet. She doesn’t look like Louise Fletcher in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; in fact, she’s a very attractive young woman. But that’s only on the outside. Inside, she’s pretty chilly. Wouldn’t say she’s encouraging lobotomies, but the temperature does drop when you’re around this lady. I’m convinced that she’s the other part of the problem. While my mother has gotten ornery and stubborn after her stroke, you can get beneath that and learn to appreciate who she is, and what she’s gone through, and then know how to work with her to give her the best care. But that requires extra warmth, compassion and patience. A cold control freak like Ratchet is gonna have more trouble than most.

She didn’t say much in the meeting. Ratchet did acknowledge that Pig Head was out of line at the end, but she resented any implication (more like their inference) that she and her staff ever did anything wrong.

Afterwards, talking privately to my sister and me, Tom lightened the mood. He wanted to tell Ratchet that despite the animosity in the room, he really liked the tattoo on her ass. I smiled; my sister looked confused. I said to her, "You didn’t notice that black tribal thing, when she leaned over to grab her stuff and storm out?" She shook her head. Tom and I shrugged. "It’s a guy thing."

(To be continued…)


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