Friday, September 12, 2008

I can't believe I'm on Medicare . . . and other ramblings . . .

By Lonnie Cruse

I've had a boulder on my shoulder for weeks and weeks. My snail mailbox recently filled to overflowing with best wishes for my upcoming sixty-fifth birthday in October, and by the way, while the sender had my attention, would I be interested in signing up for their wonderful supplemental insurance? Free information. No obligation. Sigh.

Having married a slightly older man, I knew I needed Plan F when I reached Medicare age, but WHICH company's plan F? And the Social Security people were inundating me with forms to fill out as well. Okay, okay, so it was only TWO forms, but they wanted me to fill them out RIGHT NOW, thank you very much. My favorite saying is from Douglas Adams and it goes like this: I love deadlines. I specially love the swhooshing sounds they make as they fly by.

Back to the boulder on my shoulder. My sixty-fifth birthday was bearing down upon me and I had no supplemental insurance. I couldn't even concentrate on "the happy event" for worrying about having insurance in place BEFORE that day arrived. So we tried to contact hubby's insurance agent and his phone wasn't working. At all. I sifted through the the multitude of offers I'd been flooded with and chose the three lowest. I called the number of the very lowest. The lady offered me a good price for supplemental insurance just for myself and an even better offer for hubby and I together, should he choose to switch companies. She'd call me back in a few days to get our decision. She never called me back. Obviously they didn't need my business.

Then I called the company who currently charges me a fortune to insure me now as an individual (since I lost my group health insurance when hubby retired.) They quoted a price that made my chest hurt, but hey, I can't afford to have a heart attack any time before next month so I thanked the lady and hung up. Sigh. I contacted hubby's supplemental insurance company directly, bypassing the agent with the nonworking telephone, and eureka, in five minutes, I'm supplementally insured. Bring on Medicare, I'm reeeaaaaady. Or am I?

Earlier this week, on my way to my monthly garden club meeting, (where I'd been asked to speak, so I'm toting my laptop with pictures for show and tell) it suddenly hit me right between the eyes. I'M ALMOST SIXTY-FIVE! I'M ON MEDICARE IN LESS THAN THREE WEEKS! SHRIEK! And I'd been totally too busy trying to wade through my multitudinous choices to digest this important information. (Don't EVEN get me started on whether or not to take the drug coverage. I can't deal with that. Yes, I know they will penalize me if I don't decide right now. I'd rather be penalized than make the decision right now.)

The real question I pondered as I navigated down Ferry Street, trying to remember which side street to turn onto in order to reach the garden club meeting was HOW did I get to be this old? What happened to those lazy summer days in Las Vegas back in the forties when I made tea cups and saucers out of fallen leaves and shared afternoon tea with my dog, Poochie?

What happened to going to the theater every weekend with my friend Francie to see those wonderful Fifties larger-than-life color movies? Coming home after watching WHITE CHRISTMAS and begging my mom for a glass of buttermilk like Vera Ellen drank in the show? What happened to Christmas with real trees? (Okay they were a fire danger but they were beautiful.) What happened to dating in skirts wider than the fella's car, sweater sets, rock and roll, The Stroll, Coke Floats?

What happened to the sixties, to our simple wedding at a small but famous Las Vegas wedding chapel, moving to California, moving to Kentucky, giving birth to three boys? And WHERE did the next three decades go with me as room mother, cub scout leader, sitting up half the night to help finish a science project, camping trips, little league baseball games, and waiting up, walking the floor until my last teenager slid in the front door mere seconds before the clock announced his curfew had at long last arrived?

I suppose they all eventually blended into a lifetime of experience. Growing up I saw Las Vegas, Nevada at a time when few people REALLY saw it. The Strip and Fremont Street that tourists saw or that was portrayed in movies and the behind the scenes families who lived and worked there and kept the city lights going, something few visitors ever saw. As an adult I've experienced life in a small town in Kentucky, raising kids, enjoying a simpler life than Vegas could provide. Experiences that I've been able to use in writing two different mystery series and various short stories. And experiences hopefully I've been able to share with others when they needed it.

Several years ago, after the boys were gone and the nest was looking mighty empty (and I hadn't even considered I might be able to write or publish a novel) I went back to school, first to learn how to use a computer, then to complete my college hours in order to earn a teacher's aide certificate. While there I met a woman with a fascinating and extremely difficult childhood. I begged her to write her experiences down and publish them. I believed her story would sell and others would benefit from her knowledge. We've since lost touch, so I don't know if she ever did.

One of the things I stress when I teach a writing class is that each of us has a unique story to tell, either in writing fiction or non-fiction. There are only so many plots in the world and Shakespeare, the plot hog, already covered them. Our job as writers is to cover them again, in our own way, bringing to the story our own life experience. And the reader will see it as a totally new story.

So, how did I get to be this old? By getting out of bed every morning, still breathing, still moving, just like the rest of you. And I am soooo aware that I don't have nearly as much time left now as I did in the fifties or the seventies. Or last week. My plan is to totally enjoy whatever time I have NOW. And to share my experience in my writing or with those who need encouragement. I confess, I've been very lucky since the good times outweigh the bad.

But good experiences or bad, folks, tell your story. Write it down, if for no one else, at least for your children and grandchildren. Share it. And don't let age hold you back. I didn't start my first novel until I was in my mid-fifties, and I held the first hardcover copy in my eager, trembling hands just one month shy of my sixtieth birthday. Most of the authors I know are, to put it politely, past their first bloom. In my humble opinion, most of the really good novels are written by those writers who are at least a weensy bit dry behind the ears. Who've lived a bit of life and survived it. Who have a story to tell.

And please do the research and prepare yourself ahead of time, before Medicare comes calling. At least that way you will know exactly when you can afford to have a heart attack. I'm planning mine for October. Oh, wait, we're going on vacation then, to celebrate my birthday. Maybe November. No, that would interfere with Thanksgiving and a couple of family birthdays. December? No, that won't work either. I'll have to get back to you on this. Until then, Happy Plan F, everyone.


Unknown said...

Great post. You've unknowingly been my inspiration and mentor ever since you spoke at a Southern Festival of Books and Nashville's Sisters in Crime chapter. I was just telling someone that the other day, and now I've been able to tell you! And tho' I'm a wee bit behind you, I echo your advice whole-heartedly. -- [you can find me at and at]

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

An only slightly premature happy birthday, Lonnie. And I'm coming up on Medicare six months behind you. Have you considered AARP?

Lonnie Cruse said...

Hi RJM and thanks for your comments. I really appreciate it!

Liz, yes, we belong to AARP. I love their magazine.

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

They offer Medicare Part B and Part D coverage, Lonnie, and it's supposed to be pretty good. It's no fun to be dealing with these things, but consider the alternative! I just read another childhood friend's obit.

Sandra Parshall said...

The only thing worse than getting old is dying too young, so let's count ourselves lucky and keep going. We *are* lucky to live in a time when 60 is no longer considered the brink of death. There's still a lot of life ahead of you, Lonnie!

Bill McCleery said...

Happy early birthday! And many, many more! Our middle daughter Abby has an October b-day, too -- the 18th. AND, by the way, "Married in Metropolis" arrived in the mail today! Thanks much!!