photo: Dave Reginek/NHLI I sat in the stands last night at Joe Louis Arena not thinking that I would be writing for thepinkpuck.com today. You see, I wasn’t there as a writer for this great hockey …
This is indeed a perception that is evolving and needs to change, but we are still a long way from accomplishing this goal. Even within the Law Enforcement community there is a very distinct misconception about the roles, functions, training, and capabilities of Corrections Officers from Police Officers. I am hopeful that continued education will start to break down many of these barriers.
Let me start with the simple, to-the-point reason why I fired my doctor before I elaborate further: He and his office staff forgot that they are a business and that I am a customer. Period. Pretty to the point.
I am writing this article, because unfortunately this is a not all-to-uncommon experience that many have experienced, but few have addressed. As customers, we need to address it. We need to take bold steps or these unacceptable practices will not stop. I have not been able to figure out for the life of me why medical offices believe that the basic courtesies expected from other business providers just simply don’t apply to them.
This decision did not come easily. I have seen the same doctor for over 10 years. I like him. He is personable and knowledgeable. I like the nurses, the physicians assistants and the medical assistants that work in his office. All of this, however, was not enough to keep me on as a patient. I had reached a point where instead of feeling that my provider was a partner in my health, they had become a detriment to my health.
Allow me to provide the background before I illustrate the specific incident that led to my very direct statement to my provider that, “I will be looking for a new doctor.”
Lack of respect for my time. In 10 years, I have not had one single appointment that has happened on-time. In fact, I have had only a bare few that have happened in what I would call a “reasonable” amount of time. Keep in mind that if I arrive more than 20 minutes late for an appointment (which I never have), the office policy is to cancel my appointment and charge me for it. The office, however, has no such provision to reimburse me when I have sat in the lobby for as long as an hour and fifteen minutes after my scheduled time. Then when I am actually placed in an exam room, I have waited up to another 45 minutes to even have the doctor come in the room. Approximately five years ago, I went into the office for a routine annual physical. My appointment was for 11:45am. I returned home from the appointment at almost 4:00pm. I did not stop on the way home; I live less than 10 minutes from the doctor’s office.
Just to be an additional little thorn in my side, when I receive the 24-hour pre-appointment reminder call, they actually have the nerve to ask me to arrive 15 minutes before my appointment time in case I need to update any paperwork.
Disinterested reception staff. When a business hires any employee who has to have ongoing and frequent contact with the public, they need to make sure that those people are truly customer service-oriented. While some of the staff who work the reception desk have been friendly, one, who also happens to be the office manager and the person with whom all patients must check out is simply as cold as a dead fish. No smiles, no easy conversation, no interest in what the patients asks or needs. She simply wants to collect your copay, schedule your next appointment, and move you along. I’m not asking for balloons and confetti when I get to the desk, just courtesy.
Lack of internal communication. It is quite amazing to me, particularly now in the age of electronic medical records, how poorly doctor offices can communicate within their own walls. Recently, I was due for a refill on a prescription. I had a physical scheduled, but due to a work conflict had to reschedule. As a result, I explained that I would run out of my medication and needed a refill, at least enough to carry me over to my new appointment time. The office would provide me no answer at that time. I was told “we will leave a message for the doctor and see what he wants to do.” I never heard back. I don’t know if the doctor received the message and simply was too bothered to do anything, or if the staff never relayed. Oh, what the heck, just my blood pressure medication, no big deal…right?
Unreasonable scheduling. This is what really signaled the end for my doc. As I previously stated, I had an appointment for my annual physical scheduled. At 50 years old, with a family history of heart issues, I think this is pretty important. The appointment was for in mid-September. Do to the length of time in advance that I had to make the appointment, I had no idea that a work-scheduling issue would mean I would have to reschedule, but it did, and I contacted the office well in advance and sought to reschedule. The next available appointment I was told was early November. I took it, placed it in my calendar and even made sure I had things cleared so that I would not miss it again. On the day before the appointment I got a call from the office. The doctor was going to be out and had to reschedule. I asked the earliest date, thinking that they would get me in in just a few more days. December 22 was the earliest he could see me I was told; and that did it. I advised the young lady on the phone that I was a ten-year patient and that we had already had to reschedule once. I told her that I was out of my prescription as no one had gotten back with me after the last reschedule, as they were supposed to. I wanted an earlier date. She was apologetic, but stated there were no other days. That was when I advised her that I would not be rescheduling, that I would be looking for a new doctor.
I have also followed up with a letter directly to the doctor as I am not sure that he will receive any information on this from his staff.
I had reached a point where I was no longer contacting or interacting with my doctor’s office. When this happens, it becomes, as I said early in this piece, a detriment to my health. I avoid dealing with health related issues because dealing with the doctor’s office feels to be an even worse alternative. And that is wrong!
I have fired doctor’s before. Several years ago I let my optometrist go for very much the same reasons. My “new” optometrist is proof that there are better doctors out there who are far more respectful of their clients needs.
As consumers we need to stand up and let providers know that this level of service is simply not acceptable. We would have no compunction releasing an attorney, a CPA, or a financial planner from servicing us for the same reasons, why is it we seem to be afraid to stand up to medical providers? Perhaps if they began to lose business, they would become keenly aware that changes need to occur.
Like most professions these days, at least if you live in a larger metropolitan area, doctor’s are a dime-a-dozen. They need us as patients to be successful and remain in practice. They need to work with our needs, not the other way around.
I hope you take the time to think seriously about your relationship with your doctor. Is it what you want? If so, congratulations and by all means stay put, because you have something that many, many of us long for. If, on the other hand, this article rings true with your experience, and I know from many I have talked to that this is NOT an uncommon scenario, seriously consider either 1) talking to or 2) firing your doctor. It’s your health and the only life you get. You have the right to expect the very, very best that can be provided.
I am sitting aboard an American Airlines flight. At 34,000 feet, suspended over a dark America, I don’t know where I am, only that in 2 hours I will land in Detroit. I will be home. It has been a long 9 days.
Nine days ago I was sitting in my office planning out my work schedule. When I heard my cell phone ringing and saw that my son was calling, I assumed that he was calling to tell me that he was all moved into his new apartment in Los Angeles and things were good. He had only just returned to California from a visit to see our family in Michigan. His call, unfortunately, was not a happy one.
“Hey pops,” I heard Nick’s voice say, “what’s going on?”
“Oh, not much, at work, you?”
“Have you talked to anyone?”
“No, what’s up?”
“I think you better call grandma and grandpa.”
“Why?,” I asked, anxiety just starting to creep up my neck.
“Just call them, okay?”
I did. I got no answer. I shot a text to my brother Eric saying I got a confusing call from Nick and did he know anything. I then called Nick back.
“Grandma and grandpa didn’t answer buddy and your call is freaking me out. Tell me what’s going on!”
A long pause. The he says, “Uncle Steve died.”
“I don’t know. I just found out. I didn’t want to be the one to tell you.”
Just then my brother Eric text back. “You got a minute? Call.”
I did. Eric didn’t know much more. I heard “massive heart attack.” I heard “about an hour ago.” I don’t remember much more.
I am from a large family. Including me, there are 9 kids, and my parents, though in their 80’s, are still healthy and mobile. Though the youngest of us is 47, we had never lost a sibling. Steve was the first. He was only 56. I’m 50. 56 is very close to 50.
As I said, we are a large family. With the exception of me in Michigan, none of my siblings live further from California than Arizona. I felt like I was stranded on an island. I was 2,000 miles away. I might as well have been on the other side off the world for how I felt at that moment.
I left work and headed home. I had to make plans. I had to book a flight, get a car, hotel, etc. Then, when I got home, I realized that I knew absolutely nothing. I couldn’t make plans. Maybe I should just fly out first thing in the morning. They usually bury people within three days don’t they? I was in limbo. Limbo is a bad place.
I waited. I kept checking airfare. It kept getting more and more expensive. I needed to make a decision. On Thursday night my sister Shelley called. She said the best she could offer was that something might happen as early as Monday or as late as Friday. Friday morning I couldn’t wait any longer. I booked a flight that got me into southern California on Sunday and put me out late on the next Friday. I let family know I was on my way.
By the time I arrived at my parents home in California’s inland empire on Sunday the plans were finalized. Viewing and memorial on Thursday, burial on Friday. More limbo.
The unexpected death of a family member is a terrible thing. While my brother and I were not close, he was my brother and I have hundreds of memories of our growing up. Some funny. Some sad. Some angry. Some weird. What was more difficult was not my own grief at the loss of my brother, but the grief I felt for his wife and three children. The grief I felt for my parents, having to bury a child. The funeral is such a necessary step in being able to move on, to acknowledge that we all have to go forward. The limbo of having to wait over a week to complete this hard, sad, but necessary ritual was a limbo that was a hell.
One area of my family life that I am always proud of is our ability to come together in difficult times. Sometimes years pass in which I don’t see any of my brothers and sisters, but when adversity strikes we all flock back home, like moths to a lamp.
It is very necessary to note that the title of this blog – Burying My Brother – has dual meaning. The first is the obvious, funerals must happen. I have covered that part already. The second is more of a figurative and emotional perspective. The need to bury the baggage of the past.
As I said, my brother and I were not close. In the past 35 years I had only seen Steve a handful of times. It wasn’t just distance that kept us apart. We were very different people. I, for the most part am fairly low key. Steve was a very “in-your-face” sort of guy. He was a braggart. He told grand tales that held not a shred of truth, but I think he told them so many times he believed them to be fact. He was loud, often a bully, and opinionated. I simply had lost a desire to spend time with him or being talked at by him. Also, over the years, Steve’s antics and behavior has caused a great deal of pain and heartache to my parents, two people who dedicated their lives to their family and truly deserved better treatment than they often received.
As a result of all this, I missed a part of Steve’s life that was growing and developing out of view from me. Through his sons, my brother had become very involved in coaching and supporting soccer. First through my nephews, and as they grew up, through various soccer clubs, and ultimately as the coach of a high school team. He spent time with each and every player. He got to know them. He helped motivate them to go to college. He helped them with college applications and gave them letters of recommendation. These kids he coached and influenced? They saw a Steve I never had, and they loved him.
On Thursday, November 12, after the visitation and viewing at the funeral home, a memorial service had been organized at the high school where Steve coached. Hundreds of people were present. The soccer kids he had coached over the years were there. Some of his former players, now in college, actually flew home just to be there. They wore their jerseys and on each sleeve was affixed a patch – In Memory of Coach Steve. The service was supposed to go from 6:30 until 7:30 or 8:00, but the line of past and current players who wanted to speak was so long that I didn’t get back to my hotel until after 11:00.
The service was nothing short of amazing. All these players and parents who spoke introduced me to a side of my brother that I had no idea existed. There are no words. Amazing is an inadedquate and weak description. The service and the speeches and the outpounring of love allowed me to accomplish the other “burial.” To bury my long held perceptions of the man I knew, and replace them with pride and love for how he had touched the lives of so many. Those kids, for whom my brother meant so much, helped me that day more than they will ever know. Steve left a legacy in his community and it was a good legacy. He is missed. He was appreciated. He was loved. I know that my entire family was equally touched.
At the burial, as I filed past my brothers casket, I leaned down and whispered a final message to my brother. I will close with that message.
“Rest well, brother. I hope that you find peace.”
Poetry is not my thing, yet I felt compelled tonight to write, so here is new twist to my “Senseless Ramblings.”
I gaze upon the starry night
My eyes they fill with wonder
The sky is like a placid sea
The stars a pirates plunder
In the nighttime that so many fear
I only hear the silence
I think of moonlit lakeside walks
Of creating time for romance
Sometimes the sun of bright lit days
Exposes ugly features
But the shadows and the dark of night
Hide more gentle creatures
Owls, mice, raccoons, and fox
Stroll these darkened fields
The only note of their presence here
Is the sound their footsteps yield
I take a breath of the clean night air
A smile on my face
I return to my human life
Take stock by the fireplace
To know the world moves on unheeded
Fills my heart with heart with pleasure
I take one long last look upward
And eye my pirates treasure
When I decided to sit down and write, I had no topic in mind. What I decided to do was to venture out to www.pixabay.com, a site that has license free pictures that can be utilized on blogs and websites (hint, hint). I wanted to peruse the pictures until one “spoke” to me. One that evoked a feeling or an emotion that made my mind click and whir and say to itself, “there is something there, dig for it.” I looked over dozens, maybe even a hundred photos. This is the one that grabbed me.
Two weeks ago, my blog post discussed my love for the Fall, or Autumn. One of the things that I love about Autumn is Halloween.
Halloween is a child’s holiday, but it is for the child that still lives in all of us; for this holiday defies age. The children in their costumes evoke our own memories of being those children, of the experience of walking house-to-house on a dark, cool night, ringing doorbells and crying out, “Trick or Treat!” Of being rewarded, and the pleasure of dumping the haul on the family room floor after returning home. The memories I have to share here are my memories – memories from my childhood, and memories of Halloween with my children. The are my nostalgia. I miss these times with my kids in particular, but the memories of the joy will last me forever.
My earliest memories from my hometown of Orange, California are of being dressed as a tiger. I did the tiger thing for a couple of years and after Halloween the costume became my pajamas. A few years later it was a cowboy: hat, chaps, and silver six shooters (loaded with a full roll of caps). My dad would take my younger brother and me out around our block. We would stop at every house, knock or ring and yell the magical, candy-producing chant. It always seemed so late when we got home. In reality, it was probably 7:30pm.
As I got older the thrill became twofold. First was the actual making of the costume. No more store bought costumes. In the back of my parents closet was an old dresser full of “dress-up” clothes. These were the makings of great Halloween goblins. My favorite was to go as a hobo. Old ripped jeans and a too large flannel shirt were topped off with a crumpled plastic pork-pie hat and a huge rubber cigar. 45 seconds with a charcoal briquette and my 10- or 11-year-old self had a respectable 5 o’clock shadow. Also, we had reached an age, in what was the more accepting 1970’s, that my dad no longer tagged along. We were ghouls on the loose.
Once properly adorned, and with the dark almost completely settled in (for my northern climes friends, it gets dark in SoCal much earlier than in Michigan) we set off with a goal: to reach the fire station on Shaffer St. This was the second part of the
thrill. Why? Because they always gave out full-sized sugar daddy bars! It was several blocks of walking (or seemed like it anyway) but you got to hit up every house getting there, and as many as you wanted on the way back until either A) you were too tired; B) your candy bag was full or weighed too much; or, C) any combination of the above.
As a child you view Halloween from the child’s perspective – the costumes, the candy, the mischief. Then I became a parent.
I have three children and each has given me the joy of seeing Halloween through their eyes. Costumes as unique to each child as they are unique to other kids. Vampire, pirate, executioner, dalmation, princess, clown, an elf, and on and on.
When they were little, like my father before me, I escorted them around the neighborhood, taking them to doors, reminding them to say “Thank you.” When they reached the point where dad providing escort was “no longer cool” (and dad deemed them old enough) they were off in large groups of friends. I am sure their memories will be much like mine, and very different too. Perhaps the basis for their own story one day.
October and Halloween hold other cherished memories for me , also. Memories that I have no doubt are shared by my wife and kids through the lenses of their perception; but all good.
Our family loves the movie Hocus Pocus. I haven’t seen it now in a few years, but when the kids were younger, we loved to watch it together every year, particularly the girls.
]For my son it was A Nightmare Before Christmas. The Jack Skellington mug in my office at work attests to my love of that movie also. I have always been especially taken with the musical score.
Another great Halloween movie memory is The Halloween Tree. Written and narrated by Ray Bradbury this animated film from the Cartoon Network tells unique stories of Halloween from the perspectives of different times and cultures throughout the world. It is done in such an enjoyable and charming way that it’s not until the movie ends that you realize that you just might have gotten a little education, too. Like Hocus Pocus, I would say that The Halloween Tree is one of those films that families refer to as “cozy” and can watch over and over again.
Now remember this picture? Yes, it spurred me to write about Halloween, but it still says more to me, and I think that is why I chose it. Often when I see a photo, I “feel” things from the picture. Black and white pictures in particular pull this sensation from me,
While still Autumn related, looking at this picture makes me think of walks I used to take as a teenager, late at night, around the home we lived in out in the country. I could take the dogs with me and let them off their leashes and listen to them as they ran through the undergrowth. It evokes for me the end of the growing season and the Harvest Moon. I smell leaves burning and feel crisp air on my face. I see children bobbing for apples, and I hear the breeze rustling the red and gold dying leaves. I imagine the frost that will soon start to greet me in the morning.
Pictures all tell a story, and sometimes our story is not the same as that of the photographer. But the beauty of art is that it is for any interpretation we want to give it.
All the best.
“Did you ever think when the hearse went by,
perhaps you’ll be the next to die;
they’ll wrap you up in a cold white sheet,
and bury you down six feet deep.”
–The Hearse Song
When I was a child, my aunt taught me The Hearse Song, or at least a version of it. To me it was never presented as a song; it was a poem and it was just meant to be a creepy little funny saying. And it really was; as a child I loved to say it, and in the creepiest little Count Dracula voice I could muster. What it did however, was created in me the opposite effect of what it probably has done to others. I fell in love with cemeteries.
Cemeteries do not frighten me. I do not fear them, I do not think they are creepy, and I actually find them very peaceful. Unlike many people’s perceptions however, I also don’t equate cemeteries with death. Cemeteries are history. Cemeteries are stories waiting to be told. Each stone is a lasting monument to a real human being. A person, flesh and blood, sweat and tears, like you and I.
Look at the marker in the picture. I intentionally found it through a random online search. I don’t know where it is located. I don’t know if the cemetery is small, large, or even perhaps just a family cemetery. Here is what I do know: It marks the final resting place of Lucy Blanchard. Lucy served as a nurse in the U.S. Army during the Civil War. She was already in her early 40’s when the war started, and she lived to an impressive (especially given the late 19th and early 20th centuries) age of 90.
Lucy was a very real human being. She was somebodies child who probably swam in creeks or swimming holes and played hide-n-seek with friends and siblings when she was young. Maybe she grew up on a farm. Maybe not. I don’t know if Lucy was ever married nor had children. I would like to believe she did. Married or not, she undoubtedly knew how to love and received love from those around her. She probably had her fair share of suitors, and might even have had a few detractors. Was her hair blonde, red, brown, black? I don’t know. Color of her eyes? I don’t know. That I don’t know doesn’t make her less real. It doesn’t mean that she doesn’t hold a place in the history of our world.
Can I infer anything about Lucy. I think so. Lucy was a caring woman. She didn’t have to act as a nurse during the Civil War. Women weren’t drafted; but she did. Knowing Lucy was a Civil War nurse, we also know that she witnessed countless horrors: Minie balls fired from muskets created horrible wounds, cannon and mortar fire tore limbs away. She must have witnessed field amputations and surgery where there simply wasn’t sufficient, if any, anesthetic. I am sure she watched brave, young men who fought for their country waste away and die of infection from their wounds and of rampant disease. Lucy saw things that we simply cannot imagine.
I love history. I am fascinated by it and I am moved to know that I might trod the same ground or touch the same walls and door handles that people touched 100 years ago. It’s all very innocuous, just another day in passing, and yet we cross paths with the past all the time. I want to know more about the people – not the famous people, but the everyday worker, father, mother, brother, and so on and so forth. History tells the stories of the famous, but it’s the non-famous, the average person, who really makes the history, who really tells the story.
I wish when I knelt at a grave I could talk to the inhabitant. Not in a creepy way. I’m not looking for a Stephen King experience. One clean pair of underwear a day suffices just fine. I just want to ask them about their life. What did they do? Where did they live? How did they celebrate their holidays? Were they married? Have kids? Where were they from? What made them laugh? I could spend hours asking and listening. People fascinate me (living ones too). I want to know their stories. I would love to write their stories. I believe the saddest thing is when you visit a cemetery and you see the graves of the forgotten. I wish I could help them be remembered.
I call my blog the “Senseless Ramblings Blog.” If you made it this far, then you have truly experienced one of my senseless ramblings. It is what it is and I hope you enjoyed it.
I dedicate this piece to little Romona Keaggy; she’s another story for another day.
All the best!
As I write this, I am gazing out my back door. The sky is an absolutely clear, beautiful blue. The maple tree in my back yard is still fully crowned in green. It is currently 69 degrees. Other than the cooler temperature, it might almost appear a perfect Summer day. But the signs are there. The signs that we are heading into Autumn.
I love the change of seasons. I can’t really answer why, nor is the reason
important. I simply do. It is just something I feel. Each new season brings its joys and wonders. Each new season brings its headaches and annoyances. The combination of all these keep each day, week, month, and year fresh.
Autumn is by far my favorite season, though.
It starts with the light. There is just something different about the light in the fall. I’m not talking the scientific aspects of light relative the positioning of the earth to sun. This light defies science. It defies explanation. It is completely sensory. The light shines, shimmers, and glistens; and I’m not talking reflections, but the light itself, suspended before my eyes.
Then there is the air. Winter air can be cold and harsh. Spring air can be overly flowery and sometimes musty. Summer air can be humid, heavy, thick. Autumn air is as different as Autumn light. It’s thin, fluid, crisp, and clean. It is so refreshing that you want to take the deepest breaths you can. It is like breathing fresh, spring water but never feeling suffocated or drowned.
What of Autumn colors? They, too, are splendidly different than any other
season. The deep ruby reds of the changing maple leaf are not the same as the red of a rose. The vivid golds are not the same tarnished tones of the wheat and hay in the fields. The luminescent oranges make the most vivid sunset seem dull. Somehow all the colors of Autumn evoke the sense of earth for me. I never feel as one with our planet as I do in Autumn. How can they be so different? They are just colors after all. But different they are.
Even the word Autumn is special. I will be the first to tell you that more often than not, I use the word Fall at this time of year. Most I know do. The word Autumn has a very special place in language for me though. For some unknown reason, Autumn looks better to me in print. It has a fine shape and tenor to it. It is the best word to evoke all I feel that I can not otherwise adequately explain.
Then there are all the human aspects of Autumn that I find so agreeable. Cider mills with their smells of pressed apples and fresh hot fried donuts
coated in cinnamon and sugar. Caramel Apples. High school and college football. The start of a new hockey season. Halloween, pumpkin carving, children trick-or-treating, and the prelude to the holidays.
For me, Autumn is also about peace. I find that I like long hikes in the woods in Autumn much more than any other time of year. The animals are on the move and to see the deer moving, the squirrels gathering, and the geese flying is a special treat. For all the sounds of nature, Autumn is strangely quiet. Leaves rustle and creeks trickle. Footsteps crackle on dry leaves. Combined, however, it all seems to create a great, white noise that envelopes me, lulls me, and brings me a solitude I need after the busy, active days of Summer.
In short, I find Autumn amazing, and beyond this poor attempt to place into writing why, it defies my ability to explain. Is there a need to explain however?
I don’t think so. It is for me what it is for me. It is for you what it is for you. The beauty of Autumn, of all the seasons in fact, is that we get to witness a change in the world around us. We do not live in a world where we enjoy the same day 365 day a year. In fact, I know that I wouldn’t enjoy that.
Here’s to Autumn.