July 2008


JP is well on the road to recovery. She’s out of the wheelchair completely now, and only using crutches when she tires. Thanks to physical therapy three times a week, she is making great strides and feeling much better. However, she’s still having some pretty severe pain in her knee, which doesn’t seem to be improving at all. (In fact, it seems to be getting worse.)

So yesterday she called her orthopedic surgeon’s office to schedule a follow-up appointment. Unfortunately, they told her they couldn’t see her until late August. She told them, firmly, that this was unacceptable and she needed to see someone sooner, but they insisted that there was NO WAY a doctor could see her any sooner. So she called another office and scheduled an appointment with a new doctor for next week, then she called the first office back to ask them to transfer her records. That resulted in this conversation:

Admin: Oh, um, well, you don’t have to do that. We might be able to get you in sooner.

JP: You told me there was no way anyone could see me until late August.

Admin: Hold on. (pause) Actually, we could see you Friday.

JP: No thanks, my appointment is Wednesday.

Admin: Hold on. (pause) Actually, it looks like we could squeeze you in Tuesday afternoon.

JP: That’s okay. I think I’m just going to go with this new doctor.

Admin: Hold on. (pause) How about 8am Monday?

So, here’s what I don’t understand. This entire exchange took place inside of fifteen minutes, so I seriously doubt those spots were the result of cancellations. If they actually had the ability to fit her in at least three times next week, why didn’t they just give her one of those spots the FIRST time she called, when she explained the pain and her concerns? Why did those spots only become available when she decided to take her business elsewhere?

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Thursday should have been my last day with Baby H. I had planned to spend the day at the park or possibly the pool — one last hurrah. Instead, I never made it to work, and I spent the day in the ER.

JP and I generally carpool to work, and we were rushing through our morning routine as usual. Just I as I was coming in from walking the dogs, JP ran down the stairs…and slipped. You may recall that this spiral staircase has been a source of concern in the past. But as many times as we had joked that “one day someone is going to break their neck on that thing”, I don’t think we ever took ourselves seriously. We should have.

Luckily, it was her ankle, not her neck. And, after multiple x-rays, it was determined that the bones were intact. (I’m still incredulous — if you had seen the unnatural angle of her foot, you would be too.) It was “just” a severe sprain. Further consultations with an orthopedic surgeon and a physical therapist have revealed the tearing of all three ligaments on the outside of her right ankle. But the best part? That would be the fact that she also managed to hyperextend her left knee, making crutches impossible and treating us to a crash course in the tribulations of the wheelchair-bound. In all seriousness, I’ve never been so frustrated or angry with establishments. Going out to eat was basically impossible, and maneuvering our local Barnes and Noble was hazardous. Narrow aisles and oblivious patrons are bad enough, but I swear to god I will murder the person who invented those cardboard endcaps rickety roadblocks.

Today, for the first time in a week, JP was able to get around on her crutches. She’s sore and exhausted, but so thankful not to be confined to a wheelchair.

Baby H’s parents were utterly unsympathetic and unconcerned. Despite the fact that neither of them was working outside the home that day, they acted as if my calling out was a crisis and gave me a major guilt trip about it — as if I pushed JP down the stairs just to avoid my last day of work. Then, when I called later that day to arrange a time to meet with them to return the extra car seat and a few other things, they informed me that I would not be allowed to use any of my three remaining sick days to cover the day, and that they would be docking my final paycheck. Apparently this is the the thanks I get for 18 months of devoted service to them, including four months in which I turned down multiple job offers as I waited week by week, not knowing when my job would suddenly disappear because they refused to communicate with me about their childcare plans.

Meanwhile, my new employers have inquired daily about JP’s well-being and progress, including physical therapy recommendations. As promised, I won’t say much about them or the children. But I can say that after my first week, I am sure that I made the right decision and chose the right family. Now it’s just a matter of settling in and rolling with the punches. Not literally, I hope — we don’t need any more injuries in this house.

Jesse Helms, the former Senator from North Carolina, passed away yesterday at the age of 86. Many in the conservative community are drawing attention to the fact that this “patriot” died on the Fourth of July. Perhaps they mistakenly believe that by focusing on the date of his death, we will overlook the contents of his life.

The only kind thing I can say about Helms, is that at least he never hid his beliefs. You knew exactly what you were getting with him, be it racist, xenophobic or homophobic. He knew there were pockets of America that hated him, and he reveled in that knowledge. “If you want to call me a bigot, fine,” he said.

Of course I want to call him a bigot. This man spent his early career opposing the Civil Rights Movement and once responded to a Duke University vigil for Martin Luther King, Jr. after his assassination by stating, “They should ask their parents if it would be all right for their son or daughter to marry a Negro.”

As time went on, and he lost his battle to keep the races separate and entirely unequal, he found a new group of scapegoats. “Homosexuals,” he stated in a 1995 radio broadcast, “are weak, morally sick wretches.”

And for much of the last decade or so of his career, Helms focused his vitriol on gays. (Or should I say, “on homosexuals”? After all, Helms refused to refer to homosexuals as gays, stating, “I despise the use of the once beautiful word ‘gay.’ They are not gay; they are repulsive.”) Though he was particularly riled up on the topic of AIDS funding (and once suggested a quarantine was necessary for all HIV positive individuals), he was also quick to anger whenever an openly gay individual was nominated for a position that required Congressional approval or at any suggestion that gay Americans deserved equal rights and protection under the law. In response to the U.S. Postal Service’s plan to commemorate the Stonewall rebellion with a special postmark, Helm’s stood on the Senate floor and said, “The homosexuals are in a battle against American values. Their ultimate aim is to have the American people accept the proposition that their perverted lifestyle is as worthy of protection as race, creed and religion. I do not buy that. I say to them, bosh and nausea, and a pox on whomever in the Postal Service made this completely misguided decision.”

I was a junior at the University of North Carolina (or “The University of Negroes and Communists” as Helms coined my beloved alma mater) when he decided not seek another term in Congress. I won’t deny the fact that we celebrated, though I’m not sure replacing him with Liddy Dole was much of an improvement.

I am not rejoicing today, because I never rejoice in the death of any individual, no matter how little I respect them or how much I hate them. But I hope that with his death, there is a symbolic death as well.

Jesse Helms is not only a three-decade veteran of Congress who spent his career championing the causes of ignorance and intolerance. He is also a hero to small but vocal group of conservative Christians — the type who like to couch obviously racist statements with phrases like, “I’m not a racist, but…” I know these people. I used to live among them. My family and friends worshiped Mr. Helms, and held him up as a shining example.

I hope that his death may be another another milestone in the fight to end an era of hate and intolerance. And I hope that the leaders who rise up to replace this dying breed of politician, regardless of party, will remember that even their political foes are human beings who deserve equal rights and protections under the law.