Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Baby Boom Delusions and Solutions (Chap.1, Part 1)
With this post, I am making good on an earlier threat to use this blog to pre-publish the book that I have toiled over for more than three years: Baby Boom Delusions and Solutions. Given its length, this will be accomplished via serialization. The end result will either be a ticker-tape parade in downtown Peoria--with me riding in the convertible--or a blog readership that shrinks to nada, as if it were the wet witch in the "Wizard of Oz". Either outcome could be good, depending on your vantage point. No guts, no ticker-tape.
Please take note: The person of "Deborah Anne Chase", featured in Chapter 1, is referenced throughout the remainder of the book. This is a literary device that allows me to provide examples of the topics covered in the subsequent chapters. Therefore, a reader who begins reading at some point after Chapter 1 would be confused by any "Ms. Chase" references. Therefore, in this blog version, I will parenthetically remind the reader to ("see Chapter 1") when these references occur. For those of you who start at the beginning it will be but a minor annoyance. Mea culpa.
Also, the subject matter is serious. Therefore, I try to respect the content appropriately
A BABY BOOMER'S LIFE AND DEATH
This is a story for those Americans born between January 1, 1946 and December 31, 1963, the Great American Baby Boom. The narrative will be true with some details altered to avoid unnecessary angst for Deborah Anne Chase and her family in the future. The details of the story are based on the facts of a real life and the realities of growing old, dependent and dying in America in the 21st century. Barring significant changes to current policies, programs, health care systems, institutions, ethics and attitudes, this story mirrors how the great bulk of the Baby Boom Generation will decline and die when their independence wanes. While this happens, America will financially struggle to keep its promises to a generation who thought mostly of itself. Only the Baby Boom has the financial and political power to demand the necessary changes so that this story is not their fated future or that of the country. Only a truly great generation would have the will and capacity to demand and institute these changes.
May 4, 1950, Greensboro, North Carolina, 8:52 a.m.
Deborah Anne Chase gulped in her first air and cried.
December 14, 2035, Atlanta, Georgia, 3:35 p.m.
Deborah’s final breaths were raspy and labored on this cool late fall afternoon. A tear pooled in the corner of the one eye that remained open as she slowly grew still. This was as close to crying that her body would allow. Her eyes hadn’t seen much in that sterile hospital room, the final 90 days of her 85-year life. A respirator had softly and inexorably shuffled air in and out of her useless lungs. Nutrition, one recoils from calling the milky liquid “food”, had dripped directly into her small intestine through a surgically inserted abdominal tube. It had been nearly four years since she had eaten a pleasant meal, cooked in her own nicely appointed kitchen. She had once, and for a long time, been a creative cook. Now, in her desperate silence, her clouded mind conjured long forgotten favorite recipes in great detail. Strange how the failing mind can manage to recall the specifics of small things loved.
Her daughter had finally insisted on the removal of the respirator and nutrition support. She left the room in tears a few minutes before her mother’s labored breathing finally stopped. She was simply not prepared to observe her mother struggle to breathe. Remaining in the room were Deborah’s youngest grandson who was a third-year med student, the shift nurse who had removed the feeding tube, a hospital administrator and a young resident who had agreed to turn off the respirator. None of them thought to hold her hand in those final minutes.
Deborah’s pulmonary specialist had refused to assume the “withdrawing of treatment” task, citing ethical and legal concerns. This particular specialist had been assigned to her case several weeks ago but he had never really communicated with Deborah because, in her condition, only eye contact communication was possible. He avoided the family. Too many questions and he had no good answers.
This doctor had noted to one of his colleagues that Deborah often had tears in her eyes when his morning rounds included her room. Those visits became less and less frequent in the final days. The doctor had concluded that Deborah was aware of her environment even though she was unable to communicate. He was thinking of writing a paper about the issue of the “incomplete communications loop” and its impact on treatment decisions. Interesting article topic, he thought, when he had time to get to it. In the meantime, he had patients who might actually recover most of their functions. He didn’t know that Deborah had been a world-class communicator most of her years.
Until the 2030 brain aneurysm that, in a matter if minutes, permanently took away much of Deborah’s left-side muscle function, further clouded her memory and sentenced her to over four years in a nursing home and finally this hospital room, she had lived the American dream. Born to educated middle class parents, Deborah earned a degree in French from Tulane University and then a Masters Degree in Business Administration from Georgia State University. Deb then did a two-year stint in the Peace Corps, an adventure that took her to Ecuador and fulfilled a self-made promise, following JFK’s assassination. Kennedy had been killed later the same autumn that Deb had screamed her thirteen-year-old-self hoarse at a concert in Jacksonville, Florida: The Beatles.
She married her college sweetheart in 1978 and they had a daughter in the spring of 1980. In spite of their subsequent divorce, the couple remained committed to raising the daughter as partners, remained on good terms and succeeded in raising a young woman who became a successful business owner and mother to two of Deborah’s grandchildren. Deborah’s remarriage in 1990 brought two stepchildren into her life and eventually three additional grandchildren. Over the 37 years that she was married to her second husband, she and his children grew very close and all the grandchildren simply adored “Dee”.
By 1981 Deb had begun what was to become a successful 30-year corporate career in financial services. A true believer but not a shrill voice in the pursuit of women’s rights, Deborah did not change her maiden name through the course of two marriages. She advanced in the corporate world with the Chase family name. An admired manager, skilled at recognizing and rewarding talent, she became a valued senior executive and was well known in the Atlanta business community because of her board participation with several large non-profit organizations. By the time she retired in December of 2011, Deb had earned a comfortable retirement nest egg. When her Social Security checks began arriving she diverted the money to her grandchildren’s education funds because her pension and investment income was more than sufficient for her needs.
She and her second husband used the freedom of their retirement to launch second careers, he as a free-lance copywriter and she as an American craft artist, turning a long time hobby into a small business. They also enjoyed hosting their children and grandchildren on trips to Europe, the American Southwest, South America and Africa to visit the places that they had come to cherish in their earlier travels together. Deb had a talent for languages and always charmed the locals by using their language with passing skill.
In the spring of 2027, Deborah’s husband died suddenly of a massive stroke while on an Arizona golf vacation with his son, sons-in-law and grandsons. Some would say that he was the lucky one.
Returning to Atlanta after scattering her husband’s ashes in a national park on the western slope of the Rockies, Deborah resumed creating art, reconnected with friends, hosted the children and grandchildren for holidays and adapted to life as it now confronted her. However, during the next two years it became evident to friends and family that her short-term memory was failing. This memory loss led to a series of prescription medication mistakes, three times sending her to the emergency room in 2029. With each crisis her level of confusion grew. The children suggested that she sell the house and move to an assisted living facility. Deborah was having none of that.
(To be continued)
Observoid of the Day: You can take the bumpkin out of the country but you can't always take the bumpkin out of the bumpkin.