Saturday, August 23, 2008

Wills and Mathematics and the Problems of Percentages

The year I was eleven I developed the certain knowledge that my parents would die the year I turned eighteen. What led me to believe this I'm not sure, but I was utterly convinced that I had seen the hand of fate, that we would be huddled on Mom and Dad's bed after the funeral, us against the world, spurning the entreaties of various relatives to join their various households, that the bank would take the house, and that I would be forced to get a job and become the stoic provider. I was enough convinced of this that I thought it best we take the precautionary step of creating a will on my parents' behalf, carefully outlined in my childhood diary. This led to the now infamous family story of my sister Ellen's response to the question, "When Mom and Dad die, which of their things would you like?" No hesitation:

"The money."

Ellen was five at the time.

I was thinking about this today while searching for lawyers so that I could make my own will, hopefully one more binding than a handwritten list sealed with a heart-shaped lock (not that my eleven year old self's claim to Mom and Dad's Shaker china cabinet wouldn't hold up in court). The plan is to divide my household effects and savings evenly among my sisters. The problem is that I have three sisters. The bank won't recognize 33.3333333333333(to infinity) as a legitimate allotment option; someone has to get an extra one percent.

In the interest of fairness, I think I might award this to Karyn. She had only just turned four when we made that first will, and all she thought to ask for were the plant stands.

Friday, August 22, 2008

No Guarantee

Doing something on behalf of the MS always feels like a staggering achievement. After finally calling to schedule my first MRI in the States (the crowd roars!), I thought it would be wise to phone the insurance company to double-check my coverage (roar gives way to murmurs of general approval and agreement). I felt very responsible. I was, in fact, being very responsible. It only takes a single expensive insurance mistake to turn you into one of those people who's always running back in the house to see if the stove is turned off.

"Do you require prior authorization for an MRI?" (The MRI place had told me to ask this; I don't really know what it means.)


"Okay, great." So why the niggling feeling? "But MRIs are covered under my plan, is that correct?"

"We don't guarantee coverage. If it's medically necessary it should be covered."

"Uh... I think it's necessary. But you can't tell me for sure?"

"We don't guarantee coverage."

"You can't give me an idea? This is the difference for me between five hundred and five THOUSAND dollars."

"Ma'am, I don't know what you want me to tell you."

She actually laughed at me a little here, a chuckle that landed on the 'don't' and skidded a bit through the 'know'. Her laugh seemed like a pretty good summing up of multiple sclerosis as a whole. After first being diagnosed I was so rageful for so long, it's somewhat of a relief to now have that feeling contained to only a handful of sharp moments.

I try to deal with MS issues during class break so that any emotions they raise will be necessarily elided. It's not so much that I wish I didn't have MS as that I wish I didn't have to always be navigating other people's hurdles for it.

Thursday, August 07, 2008


It's never a good sign when the language of the country to which you're going has a single word for the idea 'teeming with ants'.

I brought up my concern to my Arabic teacher. "Ah, yes," he said. "We also have a word for 'teeming with bees'."

This did not have the comforting effect he perhaps intended.