The lawyer hates me traveling.
The lawyer wants me to stay at home and just wait to die.
His point of view, paraphrasing on behalf of my former employer’s point of view, is that if I’m well enough to leave my bed, I need to get my butt off the sofa and go to work.
He doesn’t care that I have a birth defect. (He say’s it’s not relevant to my employer).
So, my choice to drive to Fresno on Wednesday, a 5+ hour round trip, in the Wintery rain, was not the best choice to make, but it was Necessary. I’m a big fan of doing what I think is Necessary to make my life work, regardless of the consequences, real or imagined.
The lawyer doesn’t care that I don’t have a back issue and am not a car accident survivor. He doesn’t care that handicapped people CAN do things even while claiming the benefits into which we’ve paid. He very specifically doesn’t care that I have worked 42 years (he says that I’ve only worked for my employer for 4 years at the time of my becoming disabled, and my prior work history is irrelevant to their wish to getting out of the benefits I’m entitled to based on paying into a disability insurance policy through every employer during 90% of all the years that I worked).
The lawyer reminds me that one’s employer doesn’t care about me. Rather, they care about what I can do for them. In particular, what have I done for them lately. Well, since I’ve been on disability since October 1, 2015, it’s clear that I haven’t done anything for them lately, and am not likely to do anything for them ever again.
In reading Marilyn Armstrong’s blog, “Losing your job without losing your mind“, I can relate. Seriously. Her story parallels the journey of my mother, who was divorced, owned a home, worked hard all her life, and was shafted. Mom’s world was rocked, yet again, just as I was starting out my “real” life. My “work” life. In a Capitalistic society, whether or not you can work and “contribute” are what truly defines one. Truly, we are all expendable.
In the USA, you are just another cog in the machine. “Personnel Assets” or “Human Capital” the powers-that-be currently label us. Like any older equipment or broken machine, when you can’t perform the work for which you were hired, you are expendable. Absolutely a waste of space. Something to be dealt with, compassion being optional if not downright irrelevant to the process.
I have been dealing with my “expendability” for the last 3 years, and coming to terms with the crisis that was and is my finances. My illusion of independence.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a good life. But… No one can ever make enough cash to cover everything that needs to be covered when one is a walking, breathing, “pre-existing” condition for which little medical care will be provided – despite paying into the benefits and required insurances through my Fortune 500 employers – and for which you dare not ask your employers for help in fighting the insurance company denials for fear of finding yourself unemployed and without options due to exposure of your need for medical support via the benefits you’re paying into.
Having read Marilyn’s blog reminded me so much of what my Mom went through in her final years.
Like everything in life, Mom was my teacher for how to make things work, and for how to survive despite being shafted. Mom understood being shafted, having made the wrong choice in a mate, having had many miscarriages, and having given birth to children who didn’t survive or who had issues and needed help surviving. Mom’s label, if she had one, would be “resilience”. Resilience, and expertise in making new choices.
Mom was effectively terminated from her life in 1980 or 81 at approximately 44 years of age, when her employer demoted her from being a loan officer at the bank to being a teller and secretary in the loan department because some younger, male, new hires had college degrees and she did not.
Rather than telling her she needed a degree (I recall she WAS going to night school to earn a degree during most of the late 70’s early 80’s, as she was very aware that she was aging and approaching a gating aspect which could halt her upward employability), she was simply demoted.
At this point, Mom had so many slams against her success (go watch the film, “Delores Claiborne”, and you’ll get an idea of how bad her relationship was with my father, without the physical abuse). Mom’s final “first” choice was to kill him, and I’m thankful every day that she stopped herself short of succeeding. Verbal abuse and the erosion of one’s soul is just as bad as physical abuse, and in some cases, even worse. But, that’s a topic for another day.
At this point, already fighting depression, Mom’s next job, its loss and denial of benefits slam was an obstacle that she could not get over and conquer despite every concession she made to get a job, any job. Every effort failed, and two (2) years passed while I was in California, oblivious to how serious it all was.
During this time, which is fuzzy in my memory because that’s how I avoid dealing with my own issues, Mom’s therapist was a great help, and got her to go find a better job, but…
Mom’s next employers were a small time law firm in our home town. During this same time (maybe 1983 to 1987), two of her very best friends moved to other states. My Baby Sis then found the love of her teenage life and ran away to California. I was moving up against her time limit for being out of the house by 25 years of age, so I then moved to CA, too, shortly after Baby Sis returned home. All of Mom’s friends and resources were leaving her behind.
My Baby Sis ended up pregnant at 17, a high school drop out, and demonstrating one of Mom’s pet fears for both of her daughters – picking the wrong man with whom to build a life.
Going from one crisis to another, and within about 10 years – maybe 1990 or 1991, her dickhead employer simply stopped paying her, effectively terminating her, which sent Mom into yet another tailspin as she applied for the benefits she’d paid into all her life, unemployment benefits, and was DENIED. All while was she was the sole source of income for a not-quite-grown daughter and her daughter’s young baby.
How Mom’s latest drama happened: Mom’s surviving boss was a cheap SOB, truly evil. After the good boss moved away to California, the evil SOB would begin to be unable to manage the affairs of the office, spending beyond his means, and trashing his own life.
He’d refuse to pay her until she learned to ask for her paycheck in front of clients. As time went on with his petty tyrannies, he’d pretend to write the check, and then substitute the check for a blank piece of paper when the client wasn’t watching, and hand it to her in an envelope, giving the impression that he was an upstanding guy. However, the envelope was empty, and the paycheck was late or non-existent again and again.
My Mom was an honorable woman who thought there was a right and wrong way to do things, and even though she was being shafted, she’d be damned if she was going to sink to his level. It got to the point where he simply didn’t pay her for two weeks, so she served her notice (that next two (2) week period she worked when she knew full well she wasn’t going to get paid) and thus quit due to non-payment.
That quitting cost her unemployment because the Massachusetts Unemployment Board said that she needed to give the dickhead a total of thirty (30) days WRITTEN notice, and contact them, before quitting her job.
Who knows this kind of thing in advance?!!!
Gotcha’s like this are certainly not written down in any kind of unemployment documents I’ve ever seen. Yet another evil man was dominating her existence. Sucking the life and soul out of her ability to be the person she was determined to be.
This guy may have started out as an okay person, but by the end he was truly evil, and to this day I don’t know why she had to be dealt yet another blow in life. Whatever lesson it was that she was supposed to learn, if one has faith that we are here for some higher purpose, is hidden in the mists of mystery and unnecessary drama from the mythical powers-that-be. But, I digress. (What a surprise!)
Thereafter, Mom worked for another law firm for ten (10) years. These two guys had a heart, having lost one of her employers to cancer while my Mom worked for them. They worked with her as her body failed due to COPD. They allowed her to work whatever hours she wished toward the end, as she was too young to retire and too unwell to work. And she’d been denied disability AND early retirement options. Again.
Anyway, I tell you all that to tell you this – I am a second generation COPD survivor.
While my birth defect was a concave chest and related asthma and pneumonia breathing issues, the many cases of pneumonia and colds I suffered caused permanent scarring of my lungs and ongoing damage that deteriorated due to COPD and ended my ability to work a predictable and reliable schedule.
While my Mom was unable to get disability when COPD eventually impacted her ability to work, her example showed me that I needed to live beneath my means, save my money, and plan ahead to survive when life gave me yet another bump in the road. Boring. Boring and often pointless, as sh*t happens whether or not we’ve done everything right.
I can’t say I have any great answers to help anyone else survive, but with Mom’s example I was able to work much longer than expected, and to save cash while having fun. Having also gone from disaster to disaster which drained my savings, finding a way to live despite the reality being that my benefits were not worth the paper policy was printed on, was just another ridiculous drama which I, too, had to overcome.
How – how in the world ??? – can someone be denied pre-paid benefits into which they had paid their entire working lives?
I have no answers, but with the current “sucker’s game” Master holding the highest office in the land while the politicians earn retirement for life equal to their whole income once they leave their offices, regardless of how long they have served in that office, I don’t expect this rigged game to change any time soon. Through first being denied unemployment, and next being denied disability, my Mom learned to roll with the punches and survive despite the odds being stacked against her.
Oh, oh, oh – and once they divorced, Daddy Dearest worked few jobs above the table – so he rarely paid into social security, taxes, etc. It was sadly entertaining to find that Daddy Dearest is getting paid social security benefits now that he’s retirement age based on the years he was married to my Mom and Step Mom and not due to his sketchy work history or reality as a deadbeat. Just think about that, the next time you have to fight the bureaucrats for your benefits.
Yes, people DO cheat the system. But, it’s not the system doing the cheating as someone actually DID pay into the benefits on behalf of the cheaters, and the cheaters are just as covered as any spouse who was fortunate enough to stay home with the kids and not work a paid job during the time of their greatest opportunity to work and pay into benefits.
Anyway… I will admit that I do make poor choices involving money that would make Mom crazy. Having her example of doing everything correctly and still being shafted, I learned from the folks who survived the Great Depression (her parents) that life would go on whether or not I was happy or sad, and that I would survive whether or not I took 5 cents to have a good time or saved every penny. The money would disappear regardless, so I needed to find time for fun on the way through life as I would survive.
We had a running joke in the family from all the papers and notes that we found when we cleaned out my Grandparent’s home after my Grandmother (Red) died. There were notes in one account book from the 1930’s about Grandpa’s efforts to balance the books vs. Red’s efforts to fit in the penny pinching mold he desired:
I’m a mix of all of my forebearers and the lessons that they had to teach. What I have learned is that no one ever does everything right. That bureaucrats live to steal our peace of mind and benefits that we’ve paid into. That trust in a system will be betrayed. That trust in individuals will be betrayed. That people are unreliable. Weakness of will can beset us all. That I will do some things to be practical, but that I will also do many things that deny that practicality because we only go around this world once, if we’re lucky, and we need to find a way to nourish our souls, or what’s the point?
Life will kill you if you let it, so I prefer to live in denial about whatever eventual fate awaits us and simply find a way to have a good time despite the depressing reality that I may be enduring on any given day.
So, on Wednesday, I took my hassle and aggravation into my own hands and drove all the way to Fresno to open a bank account (at the same bank the lawyer uses) to ensure that he will have the ability to directly deposit my benefits check at the end of the month. I also stopped by the law firm to deliver a voided check to equip him with the tools he needs to pay me in a timely manner.
Time will tell if he does what he’s supposed to with my money. But, I am not going to sit around accepting late benefit checks because he’s set up a hurdle that he thinks I cannot jump due to my disability. It’s not just banks that take advantage of the so-called “float” between the time the check is deposited and when you can claim your money.