Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Who will speak?

Rubbermoon image with color pencil.  Not currently in catalog.

Today I may have a new aspiration: to become a Professional Stink-maker. Can you see the buisness cards?

I learned advocacy when my mother went through heart surgery 23 years ago. Following what was diagnosed as a transient ischemic attack, she was admitted from the ER to the closest our neighborhood hospital had to an Intensive Care Unit. Not all that close.

She soon began hallucinating, which I learned in the middle of the night when they called and told me someone would have to come and stay with her in the room. Not one professional on duty was willing to take that assignment. My training had begun. I don't think I've ever been without a notepad or pen since. You never know when it will be necessary to document or quote or preserve essential facts.

Diminishing health is not the only reason behind a reluctance to confront. Many of us are simply too battle-scarred, too weary for the toe-to-toe combat needed to see our rights protected. Years ago, a friend whose job was as a court advocate for children in the foster care system suggested that to me as a career option. And at that time I felt I was too leaky a vessel to speak convincingly for any child whose trauma and abuse were likely more horrifying than my own; my skin was impossibly thin.

The aftermath of my son's illness required putting on my step-up suit again. Eventually we were strengthened by a lawyer on the front line to help secure benefits, since a civilian, even a persistent one, can only achieve so much. Today I was reminded how thick the underbrush has grown, like briars around a fairy tale castle, to keep as many of us as possible separated from what is our due as aged or disabled, in financial distress or without resources of varying descriptions.

Whether you believe in astrology or not, Aquarians, myself among them, are the zodiac's champions of the underdog. I feel the need acutely to see justice, or simple fair play, prevail. Good luck with that, right? But even in my state of limited mobility, tucked back into my reclusive and daydreaming tendencies, I have a voice, I have words and I still possess a bit of fire. As a teenager, I admired Upton Sinclair - all the more when I learned he had run for governor of California as a Socialist - and believed in muck-raking, fuss-raising, stink-making. Not on my behalf but for others.

We don't even need to explore tasks assumed during the Vietnam war. I am one of those who knew we were seeing a revolution. While visions of torches and pitchforks have faded, the awareness remains that many of our brethren would benefit from a reasonably sane, decidedly insistent voice speaking for them. There are times when thinking the call might be for me makes me cranky, but I turn my head with the secret smile, for it feels good, the chance to be of service.

This may be merely today's fancy, especially the conjured vision of business cards, or there may exist a niche in the bureaucratic maze for a creature with my specific combination of pluses and minuses; I am not afraid to look a fool, actually posses a minor talent for diplomacy and can be found, loitering at the station for the good outcome to arrive, when everyone else has gone home. At the very least it is something new to ponder. I wondered how I was going to fill all those idle hours.


Angella Lister said...

when my elderly aunt was in failing health and needed services, we eventually had to hire a lawyer to secure them, even though she could not have had more persistent or able advocates than me, a journalist by trade, used to sussing out needed information, and my cousin, a political science professor able to write very persuasively. the fact was, no one would act on our petitions and applications until there was the threat of legal action. One cannot depend on weary civil servants to do the right thing or to even know the right thing, simply because it is the right thing. i was reduced to tears of furious frustration more times than i can count. we couldn't afford that lawyer. but we couldn't afford not to hire him either. so your business cards, professional stinkmaker, seem like an inspired idea to me!

Marylinn Kelly said...

Angella - It is knowing all that you have shared that makes me think this is not a field for enthusiastic amateurs. We lack the necessary teeth. I am glad that we both prevailed. I have so little patience with agencies, departments who believe if they stall or refuse us long enough we will just go away. If I had it to do over again, I would likely become an auto mechanic who attends law school at night. xo

JeannetteLS said...

I want the business cards... or perhaps NOTEPADS, Marylinn. For those of us who make a mighty noise for others (notice how much harder it is to make a stink for ourselves?), having a notepad to remind us to keep it up might be a great thing!

I was the advocate for my mom, dad, daughter, and my sister as they made long, painful exits from this life. And I had to be my own advocate very early on during my nine back surgeries--I was far from home and there was no one there to speak but me.

And then there is filing for and fighting for disability. Done that three times now.

You do not get through these things without having to do research, MAKE A STINK, keep track of myriad details. And the people assigned to help more often than not had too much on their plates to keep track of those crucial details.

I learned, though. But as I move through these processes again now, with disability and other aid, and hospitals and insurance and... well. YOU know full well... as I move on, I think notepads with your drawings/stamps/paintings and reminders to keep making that stink? I would love them! we could call them stink pads! It sounds dreadful, but you would get people's attention, and I bet you a whole lot of people would want them.

I just don't know that people would sign on to a business doing this. It is too exhausting.

Wonderful piece--and BOY, I needed it today as I brace myself for another round with an agency that has, for the third time, stopped my food stamps for absolutely NO discernible reason. thank you!

Jayne said...

Marylinn- I do not picture you with thin skin at all! Anyone would be so lucky as to have you as their Stink-maker. I can only imagine the eloquent letters...

And the maze? I have a feeling you'd be quite efficient at navigating it. Take notes, indeed. :)

Erin in Morro Bay said...

I think our generation was the first to realize we could "make a stink" and, sometimes, change the world. And whether it's civil rights, an unjust war, the proper medical care or just letting people who love each other get married - a "Stink" can be a very positive thing!

Robert the Skeptic said...

Well the good news is that television evangelist Pat Robertson has decreed that it is OK for a person married to a spouse with Alzheimer's to divorce that spouse... and by the way, keep those checks commin' in, folks.

My wife has described herself as the "Social worker for the family". Indeed she is; a labor of love but it is taking it's toll.

Anonymous said...

Starhawk - a woman I admire greatly and have seen in action myself, is a major Stinkmaker.

You do have illustrious predecessors and the path is already laid - think of Ghandi, Princess Di

Stinkmakers, all.

Antares Cryptos said...

Silence is deadly.

If more people spoke up the world actually would be a better place.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Jeanette - It does deplete us, that stink-making, but so do tasks of much less importance. Always, finding balance is a challenge. You have far more experience at this than anyone would want, and it seems the skirmishes are not over. Thank you, and for the encouragement to keep expanding on this plan, however it may come together, though we know it will be, of course, as volunteers. It seems there are not many of us who remain uncalled to this assignment. Wishing you success with what still awaits. Stink pads united. xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

--Readers--More responses later today. Sorry to have been so slow getting back to you. Not a lot of computer time this week. xoxo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Jayne - Thank you, though I still have moments of feeling too fraught to be of much good at all, yet we mostly manage somehow, don't we? Nothing like being of service to someone else to pull our heads out of places they don't belong. xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Erin - A Stink, not only a positive but a beautiful, transformative thing. Somewhere in the process, I became acquainted with the phrase, "Pick your battles." There is only so much of each of us to go around; how is it best spent, where might it make the greatest difference? I have always loved the Margaret Mead quote, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the
world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Robert - One can pay a high price for being the designated social worker in a family, as Jeanette's comment makes clear. I trust your wife knows when it is necessary to take a step back, put on her oxygen mask first. It was a lesson I had not learned, illness following being the advocate and care-giver. And did I miss the announcement of Pat Robertson being put in charge...of anything? I should be, by now, unshockable but that is not the case, nor is it ever likely to be.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Denise - Starhawk, of whom I have not thought in a long time. I need to go back and remind myself of her teachings. And yes, we do have a fine ancestry of Stink-makers, though much of the populace does not take kindly to those who point out national or world short-comings. xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Antares - Silence IS deadly and prevalent in too many corners. While stink-making may not always achieve its desired end, doing nothing, saying nothing guarantee that nothing will be the outcome. Seems to have been a week when thinking about and talking about stepping up was on the agenda. :D