I feel like I have nesting urges. Since I started swelling up like a boiled sausage my doctor has told me to keep my feet elevated. So I’ve got as many pillows at the foot of my bed as I do at the head of it. Like my first name, my amazing folding futon has become a palindrome, it’s the same forwards or backwards. I also have my desk chair set up with an ottoman –made from a couple of pillows on top of a milk crate– to also elevate my feet. I’m inadvertently dividing my snoozing time fairly equally, spending as much time sleeping in my chair as I do the bed nest. This whole event is giving me pause about my son’s upcoming wedding; the reception is being done as a costume party and I was all set to go as a disabled veteran. Yeah, I know, a living bad pun. But the way I’m swollen all over is giving me different ideas. My gut sticks out so pregnantly that I’m considering going as Buddha.
Probably not. I spent too much on getting my veteran costume together. I had to look all over to find all of the pieces, but I have assembled a faithful duplicate of the typical uniform I wore in Vietnam, subdued patches and all. It only serves to show me just how antiquated that whole existence was. A mere 46 years ago it was. It takes looking back from here to realize just how young we all were, just as how young our soldiers always are. It makes me better understand the expression that “a country’s wars are fought by its children.” But it also enforces a certain accelerated growing up as well. I was only 18 years old when I went to fight; I stayed a year and change there, and came back feeling about 40. Since then it’s been so long a time and so much has happened between then and now, in some ways it’s like it was a different lifetime. Then again, I guess it was.
It’s kind of funny though, here I am dealing with kidney issues but more focused on the urology appointment I have coming up. There’s a “procedure” in my near future as they work to unplug the blockage of an over-sized prostate and to deal with a stricture created by a badly wielded catheter during a urodynamics test two years ago. No doubt I will suffer a number of masculine indignities, including the dreaded digital exam that men over 50 have learned to fear so much. There’s something tremendously threatening about having the medical community mucking about with a guy’s manhood down there.Especially with talk of kinves. Life goes on in spite of cancer, and so vulnerability piles on vulnerability as we get older. Those aspects of aging are compounded by the cancer as well, with life shaking us around like a BB in a boxcar. Sometimes though, it’s not all bad.
The VA did something surprising and unexpected. I got a book in the mail from them. It’s about the size of a magazine, but what’s in it is information about my personal benefits and how to use them. They are printing these things with each issue specific to the veteran. So as I read it, the book is talking about me in particular rather than for vets generally. It explains the benefits I have been awarded or granted and how to take advantage of them. It’s a part of the rather amazing improvements the VA has been undergoing for the last year. The complexity of the VA benefits system is legendarily complex, with veterans really needing help to navigate the system. But this book is a personal user’s guide to the system, and makes thing really clear. Along with the manual is the paperwork to appeal the decisions about me, in case I disagree with their findings. I won’t be needing those papers though, the awards and grants match what I believe is appropriate to my case. The point is that it’s obvious they’re interested in helping us vets take full advantage of the services we earned through our service. Before this, we vets had to rely totally on the Federal Benefits Handbook for Veterans and Dependents, and getting help from a Service Officer at a VA facility or the VFW and American Legion posts. It’s complimented by the VA going digital, with applications, status checking and appeals procedures online at the eBenefits website. Pretty cool. Just the other day I discovered that I can download at will my full medical record set, if I need them for some reason.
It’s all breeding more confidence in the system. Speaking of anxieties about the future, the VA has gone a long way to reduce, at least, the administrative processes we need to navigate. Now, if only I could access medical care online, that would be great. Perhaps one day a veteran will be facing a web page that says “Click here to cure your cancer.” Or, better yet, “Click here for your avatar to experience a prostate exam.”