Tuesday, April 26, 2005

We voted for them...

...now it's time they work for us.

For the past nine months I have been wrangling with the government over a settlement I am owed. In the meantime, my life was turned upside down. Last night, after months and months of calls and getting no info, conflicting info, or just plain nowhere, I got an intelligent person who told me more in ten minutes than I have learned in over nine months. She also gave me a tip, which I used this morning.

I called the local representative on the case this morning and was told he was in a meeting but would call me back later. I've heard that one before -- lots of times. I told the woman on the phone who I was and what I wanted and that if he didn't get back to me today I would be calling my Senators and congressmen and the media to see how they felt about the way my case has been handled.

He called me this afternoon full of apologies. I told him I knew he was busy and I didn't want apologies I wanted and answer. He was out of breath, but he stammered out that given the circumstances that he could expedite my case and get my settlement to me. After hearing similar assurances before I wasn't ready to throw in the towel so I asked exactly what he meant by expedite things.

"I'll send you the forms."

I groaned. "How long will this take."

"I'll get the forms in the mail today. No, wait, the mail has already run. I'll send them first thing tomorrow."

"And then what?" I asked.

"Fill them out, send them back and we can have a check to you by the beginning of next week."

Now we're talking. "Are you sure?"

"Yes, ma'am. I'll handle it personally."

I found out they could have expedited all this months ago, but no one told me until I used the magic words: Senator, congressman, media.

I usually don't make a fuss about things, but I do state my needs and cases clearly. Still, government red tape obviously needs more than talk to get things done. This particular office doesn't want to be in the news again for incompetence and mishandling another case. I found that out last night, too, from the helpful lady who gave me the hints I needed to get things done.

I have been worried about all this because even though I found an apartment and put down a small deposit, without that money I can't move. Now I can move and move earlier than I thought.

After a thoroughly rotten day yesterday and receiving an email from my current landlords with a bill for propane charges I have already paid for twice (they don't know I know about that one), and a demand to give them a timetable on vacating the premises, I needed some good news. This was it.

I have loved living here, but with the low rent and idyllic settings came a much higher price: no privacy. The landlords came up here when I was gone without notifying me or asking my permission on many occasions. On the occasions they did call and I told them it was inconvenient, they came anyway. That wasn't in the lease.

I have many close acquaintances here in the valley and I will miss them all. I'll miss all the animals who have become so much a part of my landscape and my life, like the harem of does that come up to the deck when I talk to them and the magnificent stag and his protege that stop every time they see me, coming closer when I call to them.

However, I won't miss the movies that were not brought up here because they were too controversial or the high prices for the tickets. I definitely won't miss the landlords or their lack of regard for the lease agreement we signed. I won't miss not being able to spend more time with my friends who were afraid or unable to come up to visit me and whom I could not afford to visit because of the financial situation I have labored under for nearly a year.

I am anxious to move. So are my parents. They just closed on their house, but have not been able to close on the house they're buying because of miscommunications with the bank. And now my father is fretting himself into another heart attack because he's sure he's homeless. It doesn't help that the new owners have torn down his palisade fence, bulldozed all his bushes, shrubs, trees and flowers, and uprooted the ancient black walnut trees that stand in front of and behind the house they have lived in for 25 years. My father has to sit and wait while strangers turn the last sanctuary in what was once a thriving farming community into a used car lot, bulldozing all the love and care he lavished on the beautiful grounds so they can pave it over.

My father has never been homeless. I have. He is 77 and not equipped to handle such a drastic change in his life or the uncertainty of his future. He's not as adaptable as he once was and he has never had to face having no home to go to. Mom is taking it a little bit better because she believes everything will work out. She has seen me get into and out of tougher situations and always land on my feet. She has hope. Dad has none. And you'd think she would be the one to fold under the pressure since she is fading and her every movement is coupled with searing joint and back pain. She may need another transfusion and it's so soon after the last one. Her veins are about ready to collapse and when that happens they can do nothing more for her.

Funny, my sisters and brother and I always said we'd have to bulldoze the house when Mom and Dad died. None of us knew how right we were.

This has been a difficult time for me, although there have been some wonderful bright spots, among them a blast from the past who has brightened many moments. If not for him, maybe this time I would have succumbed to fear and depression. But Mom is right. No matter what happens to me, no matter how things seem, I always land on my feet. At least this time the mere mention of government did some good. Now I just have to find a way to help my parents weather their storm, and I will find a way. Maybe the mention of government will help them, too. Stranger things have happened.

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