Sunday, April 27, 2008

Looks like it's going to be a perfect 10

According to Gene Norman, the weather guy on Channel 11 here in Houston, these past few days have been unusually warm and humid. As he says, “The muggies are back!” Compared to Maine where I lived before moving here two years ago, “muggies” are not too hard to take, especially with temperatures near ninety during the day and low seventies during the night.

Most of my neighbors in the apartment complex where I live have had their AC's cranking at full force, but I leave mine off and instead go old fashion by opening my patio screen door. With a tower fan in my living room, and a slight breeze blowing through the screen, I find I'm more than comfortable, and don't really seem to be too bothered by the humidity.

Today was a particularly exhausting day at work. As a disability advocate, I occasionally have to represent clients who’ve had their claims for Social Security disability denied. When clients have been denied on their initial claim, they can file for Reconsideration. If the initial decision is upheld, they can then request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. I spent most of this day writing a brief for a hearing that I have coming up within the next month

Preparing for a hearing is pretty intensive work. It involves a complete review of medical history and records, job history, and what an individual's specific limitations are as a result of their medical condition. Also involves considerable research sometimes. Especially when a client has a medical diagnosis you're unfamiliar with.

For instance, I once had a client diagnosed with cauda equina syndrome. I never heard of that before but I recognized the meaning of the Latin words right off. “Cauda” means tail, whereas “equina” relates to horses. I translated her condition as “horse tail” syndrome and was struck with a bizarre image of a poor lady switching flies. Turns out that it’s a very serious condition that involves compression of the peripheral nerves at the base of the tail bone. As a result the condition can make sitting extremely uncomfortable and painful, and can often lead to paralysis of both legs from the waist on down. In her case I was able to get her claim for disability approved at the initial level.

As the sun begins to set, the air begins to fill with the song of birds, punctuated by the melodic tones of my wind chime. I add to the harmony by putting on Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos. The ambiance I’ve created calls for a bottle of Guinness. I sit down on the couch facing the patio to do a little writing in my journal, and then pick back up on a couple of books I've been reading.

This year has marked a particularly interesting milestone in my life. Both my son and daughter are now “legal.” Last year my son turned twenty-one, and this year it was my daughter's turn. Last month my son arrived here in Houston from Afghanistan on 18 days leave. First thing he wanted to do was take me out for a beer. Imagine that, my son buying me a beer. It was good to see him, and we were hoping to make a trip up to Maine to visit with friends and family, but it turned out 18 days really wasn't enough time to fit in every thing he had hoped to do before having to head back.

He'll have leave again this coming September and hopes to make a visit with friends and family then. The community of Belfast has been incredibly supportive to him and the men he serves with in Battle Company, 2nd/503rd, 173rd Airborne. They adopted the 173rd and provided much appreciated necessities during the long, cold winter months. Warm socks, tuna fish, beef jerky, hand-warmers and other items sent by the community went a long way in keeping their spirits up during that frigid time. In an email sent in response to my question of how he was handling being out in the cold, my son said, “I know I grew up in Maine and experienced a lot of cold winters, but I was never like, 'Hey, let's go camping out in this.'”

It was so good to see him. He's so full of life and at times, himself, but that goes with the territory of being “bad ass.” When I was a Marine, I had the same attitude and can-do spirit. Considering the immense fighting he has had to participate in, he has done a terrific job with keeping his emotions intact. Oh, sure, occasionally you can catch a glimpse of him locked in a “battle stare,” but his sense of empathy and compassion toward others has not suffered much--nor has his sense of humor--and he is optimistic about his future.

I put my journal down on the coffee table and step outside for a short walk. As the sun begins to slowly dip below the horizon, the clouds begin to appear brushed with the soft hues of pink, white and purple swirls. If I were Gene Norman, the weather guy on Channel 11, I would say tomorrow, “Looks like it's going to be a perfect 10.”


Lorna said...

I hope alll the days since have been the same. No, not the same as in identical but the same as in perfect.

S L Cunningham said...

Thanks, Lorna. Appreciate the sentiment.

rdl said...

It is a perfect 10. Nice to have you back!