Sunday, January 08, 2012

Lucky stars

I never watched TV on New Year's Eve. I didn't see any of the hoopla that surrounds the lowering of an illuminated crystal ball in Times Square.

Truth be told, I barely made it to the kids' holiday-extended bedtime of 9 p.m.

But I wasn't surprised by the sentiment among my friends that some things should come to an end.

Like Dick Clark's life in front of the camera.

I wasn't offended.

Dick Clark, an entertainment icon whose entire career had exalted Hollywood's ideal of being forever young, hasn't sounded anything like we, the unwashed masses, have come to expect from on-air personalities since he suffered a stroke in 2004.

Ordinarily, aphasia would have ended his career right then and there.

What people thought of the business decision to allow an 82-year-old entertainer with garbled speech to continue to be a presence on a show he created and hosted for more than three decades, is opinion that can only come down to dollars and cents.

But I was sad.

I've made it no secret that my mother had a stroke this summer.

… and that by fall she'd been institutionalized, as she required skilled nursing care.

She's not like Dick Clark.

Her conversations follow a thread few can follow at all and no one can follow for long.

Her presence, with its stream of seemingly idle chatter, has been disruptive to the church goers and the concert audiences and even the performers who come to the facility to cheer the residents.

I must admit, it hurts to think church is an inappropriate place for my formerly devout Catholic mother.

But I understand it's my soul, not hers, that's in jeopardy.

I'd like to think I was more tolerant before I faced my mother's deteriorating condition, but truth is I too felt better when I didn't see the things that can happen to a body before the end of life.

This is just how we are.




It just seems to come across more often than not as being unkind.

The real problem I see, however, doesn't have much to do with the people who show up in the world to challenge our fears. It has more to do with the millions of folks who wind up in facilities that have suffered under dwindling state revenues, cuts in federal funding, underfunded programs and diminished ability to actually find and retain skilled nurses who care.

To be sure, this time of life is not cheap.

Medicaid pays for the majority of it as people needing acute care have incomes that barely cover moderate expenses let alone medically intensive long-term care. And as we all know, reform is problematic, Medicaid is underfunded and budgets are tight all over.

For most intents and purposes, there is no fiduciary return on such investment.

Not when we have kids to educate and an economy to rescue.

But there are lessons in empathy and humanity that are invaluable.

When I see Dick Clark these days … I see a man who, in addition to being very talented, was also incredibly lucky.

I think we all need him to remind us of those who may have been the former, but haven't been the latter.

No comments: