Wednesday, June 30, 2010

So much easier to fix

A week or two ago, a large envelope arrived in the mail. It was white, the corners square as corners are by definition. And a blue and green Cleveland Clinic logo in the upper left corner. The envelope sat for a couple of days on the entry table, not because we were afraid of it, but because we figured it was just paperwork from our recent visit.

A lot of mail gets piled up on the table in the entryway. I'm just not sure what to do with all of it. Nearly every day, business-size envelopes arrive from our insurer bearing explanation of benefits forms. Often they arrive in clusters, two or three at a time. Because this pattern has been part of my life for about 12 years, I let them sit as well. Every three months (oh, ok, sometimes every four months), I open them all up, along with the physicians' and hospital bills, and I sit myself square at a table and put them together like puzzle pieces, matching dates of service and dollar amounts, and sorting out those with no clear explanation. I make my calls all at once to argue or complain. Sometimes, well, often, mistakes manage to sort themselves out on their own.

If I were to open each EOB individually and stare at the various screw-ups as they come in, my blood pressure would send me flying through my own roof.

And, honestly, I don't care. When Robert first became ill, I'd work industriously to sort out all the problems with a feeling of accomplishment at the end. Maybe I thought that eventually they would stop or slow, but they don't. The rectangular envelopes pour in. If I stack them and put rubber bands around them, the piles have the density of bricks--as though I could build something--another house, a fence, I don't know--with them.

Repairs, home repairs, have been in the offing the last couple of weeks. Miss Jeneva, the workers told me, the garage frame is swaying as we take it apart--we want to tie a cable around the post and pull it down with our truck--but the truck might make marks on your lawn--is that OK?

Sure, I said, not knowing what else to say. And the garage, the roof punctured by the feet of snow that fell on it, or by the neighborhood cats who fight in it, the garage fell sideways without much of a crash at all. It fell with its corners preserved, as though it were folded paper or poster board, the garage able to pop back into shape in three dimensions with the right flick of the wrists.

The front stairs have been demolished as well, to be replaced by slate steps with brick risers. This is part of a larger repair to the corner of the front porch, where the gutters always overflow and the ends of the porch boards took water, swelled, and began to rot. This happened over the course of eight years, the massive winter snowfalls melting in and the boards finally buckling and popping.

So much easier to fix a house than a person. Obviously. A bandsaw sliced out the rot, and then made toothmarks along the body of the porch floor, ready to receive new lumber. Paint spread over it all, as though the rot had never been.

Cleaning out the garage released spiders everywhere and one dead mouse. The workers stacked the board so neatly, so parallel in the dumpster that we didn't need a second one--like turning the garage into a set of bricks, demoliion as reconstruction. In its place, we built a deck.

Now everything is new again. Funny how that is.

We opened the envelope from the Cleveland Clinic eventually. In it was a stack of papers, densely printed. Some of it was paperwork from our recent visit. Some of it contained tsst results. Not all of them, just the initial set, the first back.

I didn't know what to do with them. We shuffled and re-shuffled the papers, and tapped their corners together. Most of them were normal or negative, which is our typical pattern. A couple of them hinted at abnormal results. But I can't build anything with them--I'm still waiting for the mtDNA tests to come back. And, despite the recent excitement about the possibility of answers, these tests always come back normal or negative for us. Which to hope for: answers I may not want or tne end of another paper trail, the white squares and rectangles like stepping stones behind us that suddenly stop ahead.

So we are in a holding pattern--the garage down, but not yet carted away. The front porch boards gone, but not yet toothed in with fresh lumber.

Corners are an illusion of stability, clean and clear and sharp and one-dimensional. When I have a bigger stack, I'll know if I'm tearing down or building up.


Elizabeth said...

And one day, let's have a huge bonfire and roast marshmallows?

erika said...

I need to take lessons from you in EOB-handling. (Also in insurance-reviewer-handling, based on your comment over at Elizabeth's). I enjoy your writing so much, no matter what your subject is.

Dale said...