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••• The International Writers Magazine - 22 Years on-line - Modern Living 2021

A Better Day - Saturday, September 18, 21
• Martin Green


The day before had been stressful.   Beverly and I had gone to our local pharmacy, Walgreen’s, to get our flu shots.  We’d made appointments online, mine for 12:30 and hers for 12:45.  We’d also filled out fairly extensive forms asking for detailed information, something that seemed to be necessary for doing anything nowadays.  We were members of one of California’s largest health providers, Kaiser, and had gotten our flu shots at this Walgreen’s last year so expected no problem.  We made sure we had our Kaiser and Medicare cards with us.

After a short wait on line at the Walgreen pharmacy I got to the window and gave the girl my information and, as she requested, my Medicare card.  Meanwhile, Beverly was shopping for some items we needed.  The girl punched some information into the computer or whatever device she had and there seemed to be a problem as she left to confer with the pharmacist.  This happened several times, then she asked for my Kaiser card.  I gave it to her and said we’d gotten our flu shots there last year with no trouble.  She punched some more information into her machine and then left again.  When she returned she told me that Kaiser no longer covered a flu shot at Walgreen’s and I’d have to get it at a Kaiser facility.

I asked her about booster shots and she gave me a piece of paper with writing on it so faint I couldn’t read it.  I found Beverly and told her what had happened.  She couldn’t believe it and went to wait on line at the window.  If anyone could convince Walgreen’s it was Beverly.  In Paris she’d convinced the desk clerk at our hotel to move us from our original tiny room to one twice as large, and she didn’t speak French.   
When she got up to talk to the girl I could see her forcefully making our case but this time  it was no use.  We weren’t going to get our flu shots.  We finished the shopping and I drove home.  I told Beverly that the trip wasn’t a total waste, we’d gotten some things we needed.

Later I found a number that was supposed to be for Kaiser customer service.   I called and got to some woman and told her what had happened and said I was very upset and how come Kaiser was no longer covering the flu shot.  She had no information on this but said she’d set up a case file.  I asked her about Kaiser booster shots and she said they weren’t starting until the 27th.  I was reminded about our experience with Kaiser about getting the Covid vaccine when everyone we knew seemed to be getting them while Kaiser kept telling us on its website that vaccines were in short supply and we should be patient.  We finally ended up getting the vaccine, not from Kaiser, but from another health provider which was giving shots, not only to their own members, but to everyone.    

After this fruitless phone call I went out to get the mail and, to my surprise, not to say shock, found a State tax refund check from the Franchise Tax Board.  This was the epilogue to a long struggle I’d had because, without going into the tedious details, they’d tagged me with a $1,500 penalty that I’d finally gotten removed, leaving a $24.60 refund.  I’d never expected to actually get this and the amount was too small to bother with, but here it was.  The day was getting a bit better.

I had my lunch, finished reading the morning papers and retired to my Lazy-Boy chair in the bedroom, my usual afternoon spot.    I got out my iPad and checked my e-mails.    Amid the usual spam were two e-mails from friends.  I’d told the Kaiser lady that even that short excursion to Walgreen’s was a strain for an old guy like me, which was one reason I was upset with them.  The least they could have done was let us know.  Actually, I did feel tired so decided to lean back and listen to music on the iPad, something I hadn’t done for a long time.   I went to my Music app and clicked on a Judy Collins album.  I don’t think I’d ever listened to the entire album before so left it on playing (I’d discovered this was possible) while I went to my iBooks app and resumed reading a May Sarton memoir, “After the Stroke” I’d started.  

May Sarton was a poet and novelist of whom I’d never heard of before and I hadn’t read anything by her.  I’m not sure how I came across her but was interested because she wrote several memoirs of her old age, or of her later life anyway, and I’d written a memoir I called “The View From 90” and wanted to see what hers was like.

Needless to say, I Googled Sarton to find out something about her.  It seems she was a lesbian, at least primarily so.  As a young woman in her twenties she went to Europe and had affairs with Julian Huxtable, brother of Aldous, and his wife Juliette, which was interesting.   She’d also written lots of novels, books of poetry and later those memoirs.  I guess she was pretty well known but had escaped my attention.

“After the Stroke” covers Sarton’s 74th year (she’d had the stroke, a mild one, the year before) when she was living by herself in Maine.  Reading it, I found out that Sarton was a passionate gardener and wrote a lot about gardening; these parts I mostly skipped over.  However, there were other aspects of her life that resonated with me.  She was a cat person, as am I, and at the start of the memoir lost her cat Bramble, a devastating blow.  I knew how this felt.   She gets another cat, a Hymalayan, she names Pierrotte, who’s pretty wild.   Sarton spends a lot of time letting him out and then back in at all hours and mentions she did think of getting a cat door and I wonder why she didn’t.

She also describes the rigors of getting old.    I was struck by this one passage:  “I am aware for the first time perhaps what courage it takes to grow old, how exasperating it is to no longer be able to do what seemed nothing at all even a year ago.”    Exactly.  Of course Sarton was a relative youngster when she wrote this.  When I was 74 I was still playing tennis.  Other things resonated.  She writes of being careful so as not to fall, of having trouble with buttons, of tiring easily and of spending a lot of time on a chaise-lounge, which was to her as my Lazy-Boy chair is to to me.  Sarton wrote several later memoirs until she passed away at age 83 so she kept writing until the end, something else I find admirable.

After a while I looked at my watch and realized I’d spent the entire afternoon listening to Judy Collins and reading May Sarton.  I realized I’d put the Kaiser/Walgreen’s incident out of my mind.  I’d just had the most pleasant afternoon I’d had in a long time.  It was a much better day.

© Martin Green October 1st 2021

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