“Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
There are times in life that you find yourself in situations that you were sure you had the answers to until you were there. Suddenly you feel like you are a character in the old movie “Freaky Friday”. These twists have a way of forcing you to squeeze into shoes and roles that were not your own. Sharing these stories openly and honestly with pride and humility hopefully will always make us think of the “Two sides to every coin”
One of mine that I hold very dear has everything to do with perspective.
After my Grandmother passed, my husband and I were suddenly responsible for my Grandfather. They both hadn’t planned well and were on a tremendous fixed income. So when my Grandfather lost my Grandmother not only did he lose his love of 58 years, but he lost his care taker and half of their monthly income. Together we had decided that an assisted living facility near us would be the safest and best option.
Assisted living communities are generally very expensive. When our search started, we began looking for assistance plans. I found that my Grandfather having served in the Air Force during the Korean war qualified for a program called Aid and Attendance through Veterans Affairs. Simply stated they give financial help to Veterans in his exact predicament. Initially I felt so relived. The future was looking brighter.
The first call to the Veterans should have been a signal. We called to make an appointment with a representative in the very first days of May that year. The first available was October 30th. OK, not awesome, but we could manage. When October and the appointment came we found that the time line for any assistance was great and the hurdles were many. A steady long term street address was necessary. We used ours. A level of computer technology and acumen was necessary. No way for my Grandpa who was nearly 80 and didn’t have access to a computer. He had us though, we could do it. Next, tenacity was demanded. Phone calls had to be made and emails had to written on a weekly basis. Grandpa suffered from a terrible short term memory issue and couldn’t remember who he called or if he called. So… We could do it and we did.
With all the resources and pushing my husband and I had done, we still waited until the end of August the next year to hear one actual thing from the Veterans Affairs. In a true cold form letter, the news came that he was only going to qualify for $125 dollars a month in aid. Turns out we still couldn’t breathe. Just to put everything into context. He would have been an ailing, failing, homeless Veteran had it not been for my husband and I.
The last sentence is no way meant to toot a horn. However, this is the exact moment my perspective changed forever.
I had always questioned the homeless Veterans at the freeway exits or signs that read “Hungry Vet Needs Help!”. I believed in some way they must have been deficient. Because there were programs to help them…Right? They must not have tried…Right? Maybe they are not being truthful….Right? Maybe they have done something wrong….Right?
I am witness and participant in all of those statements that are wrong. This is not to share the failings of a system or to point out the ugliness in the Veterans Affairs. The message is to share my perspective now, from both sides of that damn coin.
In my future: I pledge to always help a Veteran that is down on their luck. Whether they hold a sign or they need a meal. In every one I will see my Grandfather and the possibility that it could have been him. Not because he was deficient, but because he was old and didn’t have his own steady address, didn’t own and couldn’t run a computer, and couldn’t remember if he called the Veterans that day.