Ernest Hemingway:

As Ernest Hemingway once said...
'All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.'

Thursday, March 12, 2009

the train to japan

So we have this client. He's 75, and his wife died in 2006. Since then he's had numerous problems...among them a stroke which left him without much use of his arms. He can use them, just not like before.

He has a small life insurance policy. He's had it for a while, since '98, so it's been building cash value since then. Long story short, he took out a loan after his wife died to help pay for the funeral (he's never had a lot of money, but enough to get by). With the market being like it is, and with the loan interest that's been piling up, the policy is on the brink of collapsing (not enough cash to cover the loan interest).

We helped him last year to fix it a little, but this was before the market turned to shit. So now I'm in the process of helping him fix it a little more. Basically his kids want the policy to be kept alive so they can have the death benefit when he dies. Now I don't know the full situation, but I do know they're helping him pay for it a little, so it's not as bad as it sounds. It's not as if he's throwing money that's needed elsewhere (to help him eat, for example) to keep this alive just for his kids. I think it's more of an issue of it being sucky that he's had it for so long and put so much into it that to let it collapse would be a shame. A couple thousand is worth the amount of the death benefit.

Normally this would be a pain in the ass. He's a small client, and he doesn't really get what's going on. And this is time consuming. But he is the sweetest, kindest, most soft-spoken man in the world. Every time we speak the TV is on in the background - usually an old movie of some sort (he must be going deaf too, it's loud). I imagine him sitting in a dim, wood-paneled room. He's in an old, ratty, beat-up recliner, maybe with a TV tray set up next to it to hold a drink or the remote. I imagine he sits there all day watching TV, occasionally getting up to get some food or use the restroom. It literally breaks my heart.

I want to be able to reach through the phone and give him a hug. I want to go over there at least once a week and help him with his bills, cook for him, or just keep him company. Unfortunately he lives 3 1/2 hours away. For all I know his kids do this for him.

Maybe it's the fact that I really only knew one grandfather, and he's been gone for five or six years now. I used to go to his nursing home once a week and eat dinner with him. He would tell me stories about how he took the train to Japan. I loved indulging him. He was a hard man, but so very sweet in his old age.

Maybe it's this strange affinity I have towards the elderly. I love them. I've always had a good time with them. I volunteered in a nursing home a couple of times, and really enjoyed going room to room and listening to their stories. I contemplated taking my hound to the home where my grandpa lived to visit; greyhounds are really good for this, they like nothing more than standing there and getting pet. His nursing home is Catholic, run by nuns. It opens its doors for anyone who needs it, whether they can pay or not. I like that. Of course now I don't have the time. Or maybe that's just an excuse. Maybe I should take the Beezer with me, they'd probably get a real kick out of that.

Maybe it's the disdain I see for the elderly in today's society. No one values them. They're put in nursing homes, forgotten. Treated like children. The elderly used to be respected; we looked to them for advice, learned from the mistakes they made. Not anymore. It's disgusting. Of course people today are rude towards everyone, not just seniors.

This post ended up somewhere I didn't expect. I miss my grandpa and his silly stories. I wish I could do more to help our client. I want to volunteer in a nursing home. I hope I can make that happen.

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