Donuts, Ghosts and Stuff

Did we go on a glamorous vacation? Haven’t been blogging because we’ve been on a cruise ship or at a mountain top resort?


There’s a bunch of stuff to report. None of it is out of the ordinary. It is stuff that all people – not just caregivers – encounter. But care giving amplifies it. That little extra need, emergency or other bit of stress takes all of life’s other demands and makes them into a stinky pile.

So, donuts. Well, not donuts – The Donut Hole. Those who entrust some of their health needs to Medicare cringe at the term. It’s called a “coverage gap” which translates as a bureaucratic game that makes total sense to some office wonk someplace.

You go in to pick up your monthly prescription refill and, voila, the smiling pharmacist tells you “You’re in the donut hole.” It’s like landing on a bad square in a board game – you go backwards, or lose a turn, or, in real life, you lose a bunch of money.

We went to pick up two (yes, two) bottles of meds and dropped about $400.

That’s the donuts part. But stay with me, I have to tell you about the Ghost. And this will all tie together and explain why we haven’t been blogging.

We bought this house from a widow grieving the cancer death of her husband, Brian. Brian, like so many South Dakotans, believed in doing all of his own home repair and maintenance work. Seriously, there are true tales of guys mowing their lawns twice on their days off, because they want the yard to be just right. And they consider that fun.

The late Brian considered himself an electrician, plumber and more. Oh, so much more. Melissa and I started joking about the “Ghost of Brian” when various house and yard glitches began to manifest, generally tied to work Brian had done.

In the last two months, Brian reached deeply into his bag of tricks:

He’d put his own custom shelving into the master bedroom closet. Of course he simply screwed it into drywall rather than anchor it. Crash, boom, kerplunk went the whole closet. We picked it all up, cleaned it out and called in some pros. $500 later, it’s a pretty nice closet.

A massive water bill and constant swamp spot in the back yard revealed that Brian’s DIY sprinkler system had a leak. We had some savvy friends try to fix it, but the leak continued. We finally brought in a sprinkler pro on a neighbor’s recommendation, and he was a grandfather with decades of experience. He had to make trip after trip to finally diagnose and fix the problem, which included things like valve #1 sending water to sprinkler station 6, valve #2 to station 3, etc.

We found the sprinkler pro standing in our driveway, smoking a cigarette with a far away gaze like he’d just been in combat. He got it fixed… but that was another $300 to go with Brian’s magic closet and the donut hole.

Now the one fixture that works in Brian’s custom light array in the bathroom is flickering on and off. It was cutting out the other day and Melissa said, “Brian, knock it off.” It seems to be working for the moment, but I’m sure it’s an electrician visit waiting to happen.

Then there’s stuff – Joey’s an adult and programs that were subsidized while he was a minor are on our dime now. His afternoon “after school” program is now twice what we used to pay. His transportation costs are no longer reimbursed.

What has all of this to do with a lack of blogging? Well, I’ve taken a second job. There’s very little time to put words together.

Multiple jobs are a South Dakota thing, too. Everybody here has two or more jobs, like these folks,

That leaves Melissa with almost all of the Joey duty, and the care giving hits just keep on coming:

He’s figured out that he’s bigger than her and can use that to resist cooperating with her;

He chit chats with himself and flings repetitive questions and phrases at her until it’s like he’s drilled holes in her head. This is brutal on the weekends, when he’s home all day and the din never stops.

Plus we just got the deflating news that the wait list for Joey’s residential placement is looooooooooong and moving slowly because they can’t find enough staff to open more group homes. Care giving stinks so much that you can’t even pay people to do it.

Financially, our best move is for me to drop dead. I’m super well insured, and I’m vested in a pension through my primary job that will provide monthly checks to Melissa even when I’m kaput. (I have several wives in other states who don’t know about this so please keep it to yourselves).

But I’m stubborn and keep hanging in there. Stupid hyper-responsible caregiver personality.

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