The role of caretaker continues to take me in yet another direction. While interviewing managers of Assisted Living Homes back in January I was given a little business card that has opened up a wealth of information. Do you know that as a military veteran or spouse you may be entitled to a pension benefit? The program is called Aid and Attendance for Veterans, http://www.veteranaide.org. This benefit can help with the cost of assisted living, nursing home care or for enhanced independent living. As a wartime vet you are not forgotten in your senior years. This little known program has been around since 1951 but is a closely guarded secret. With the business card in hand I made an appointment with a representative located in Foley, Alabama. The appointment could have been a life ending decision for me, but more on that later. The cost of keeping both of my parents in their assisted living home is not cheap and their savings will dwindle quickly if they are in there for several years.
The day of the fifty-five minute trip dawned warm and sunny. A friend suggested I take the beautiful back roads to Foley, rather than the quick way on Interstate 10. With the driver’s side window rolled down in my car and the breeze lightly blowing my hair, I turned westbound onto Mobile Highway. Sure enough the drive was leisurely and calming, as I drove by horse and turf farms. I kept my speed at the posted 55mph since I had an hour to get to downtown Foley. Twenty minutes into the trip I drove around a corner and I noticed a big RV in the opposite eastbound lane. In a split second I also saw an SUV accelerating around the RV heading directly toward me in my lane. Now stop reading this and count to ten. That is a long time, isn’t it? Time moved slowly for me. There was nowhere I could go. The decision about my fate was unfolding in mere ticks of the second hand. The SUV driver held the upper hand. Should he drive head on into me or go into the ditch? He pulled his steering wheel to his left, toward the ditch and then pulled back towards me. I had a car’s width of space between him and the RV. It was like a scene from the Dukes of Hazzard; all three of us choreographed our moves and survived. The SUV ultimately ended up in the level, grassy ditch. Neither the RV nor I stopped to see if she or he was okay. He was an idiot. So sue me. Twenty minutes later I came across an accident with the police cleaning up the aftermath. So much for a beautiful, calm drive. But I look at this near death experience as a way of reviewing my future. What do I have left to achieve in my remaining time on earth? Who would take care of my dogs if something happened to me? Do I carry enough emergency information in my purse or in the car to assist the police in identifying me?
By the time I pulled into the VA representative’s parking lot my heartbeat was back to normal. The gentleman gave me so much information I had to take notes. The application for this benefit is twenty-seven pages long. They will need information about my dad’s military service and retirement, my parent’s financial records as well as their health information. To prepare for the benefit request I will have to do a lot of running around to gather all the necessary information. So much for any chance of me enjoying my own retirement. This is going to be a full time job. Sigh.
From there I rewarded myself with a visit to the Eddie Bauer store in the Tanger Outlet Mall, http://www.tangeroutlet.com/foley. When I arrived the place was a ghost town waiting for the deluge of holiday shoppers to hopefully stop and spend money. The sales were tempting me but there was nothing I had to have. My last stop was to the Blue Girl Beading Company, http://www.bluegirlbeadingco.com, where everything tempted me to spend money. Controlling myself, I only bought some buttons for a current peyote beading project.
My day was almost finished as planned. All that remained was a scenic drive south on Highway 59 through Gulf Shores, turning east on Highway 182 to Orange Beach, Gulf State Park, and Perdido Key State Park. The condos lined up along the road were all immaculately landscaped, looking picture perfect. The grass in front of the multi-storied buildings was lush and green; the palms, bushes and plants were colorful. Even the sand was picture perfect, white and inviting. The sky was blue with only a group of clouds off on the horizon warning of a storm coming in from the east. Finally I could relax and enjoy the scenery. This really is a beautiful state. I can see why people come here to retire and rejuvinate. It is a bit of paradise.
There is still so much more to see of Alabama. Later this spring my dog shows will take me to Huntsville, the home of the Space and Rocket Center, in northern Alabama. Until then I’ll be dog training and filling out twenty-seven pages of VA forms.