Monthly Archives: May 2014

Death by Desk

Just before I was to leave for four days, return for one, and then leave again for four days, one of my hired caregivers calls:

“Hi Cathy,” she says with trepidation.

“Oh no, what now?” I say.

“No, it’s fine, really. It’s just that your brother-in-law needs a new desk for his computer.”

Okay, I’m thinking, that can probably wait for a week or so. It is an old computer table, sort of the pre-IKEA era, where you bought these cheap wood-like substances and put them together and hoped they lasted a few years. Way before laptops when your computer was a piece of furniture that needed a piece of furniture.

“Okay,” I tell the caregiver, “no problem, I’ll come do some measurements. When I get back I’ll get a table over there ASAP.”

There is a bit of silence on the other end of the line, for just a shade too long.

“Hello?” I say.

“Oh, I’m sure that’s fine,” she says, ” I’m just worried about death by desk.”


“Well, you probably have to see it for yourself, but he was so happy to be back at his computer after recuperating in bed for two months, that I think he just got a bit carried away when he needed to move his chair and go to lunch.”

“Ummmm, Okay. Well, I can go over there today and check it out and then we will decide from there. How’s that?”

“I told him I had to ask you first if he could have a new desk.”

“It’s fine. Of course, he can have a new desk. Let me just take a look.”

As it turns out, I have an old pre-IKEA desk I needed to get rid of, so I measured that first and went to my brother-in-law’s apartment with tape measure and confidence that death by desk was a bit of an exaggeration’

When I get there, he’s sitting at his desk on the computer and seems fine. “So what have you been up to Speedy Gonzales?” I ask him.

Sometimes I think he goes too fast and furious in his motorized glee  because his dexterity and hand control are more difficult due to the MS. But truly, sometimes I think he kind of really enjoys speeding around in that wheelchair wreaking just a tiny bit of havoc. In the old days, I’ve seen him drive a car and a lawn tractor and a bit o’ the race car driver was always a part of this guy.

I glance around at the side of the desk obstructed by his wheelchair and there are the pieces of the three drawers strewn all over the floor. I begin to take measurements and I see the other supporting side is knocked out from the grooves at the top of the desk that would keep it together. I’m wondering if he is actually holding up this desk on his lap.

“Yeah, you can’t sit here until I get you a new desk. This is dangerous! How about if I just get you a very sturdy table? You don’t use these drawers for anything, and that way you would have lots of room underneath for your chair, and you wouldn’t be knocking the supports or drawers with your chair when you wheel around at the speed of sound?”

“No,” he says, “I would like a desk just like this one.”

Okay, first of all, they don’t make these dinosaurs anymore. Second, I’m not buying and putting together a piece of crap so he can play demolition derby when no one is looking. And third, I actually do care about his safety and do not want death-by-desk to become our new fun game like in The Deer Hunter.

I’m on my way to get a good sturdy table, I’ll tell him I’m looking at vintage shops for a desk just like the one he has.

You just have to Laugh…………

Cathy Sikorski

Bahamas or Disability? I’ll take both….

If I could invent an insurance company manual that would be 101 things NOT to do at an insurance company, I think I might have all their training contracts.

Out of the blue, my brother-in-law receives this letter from John Hancock (see A discussion with John Hancock) stating that he has a bit of a long term disability benefit coming to him. He would have had a huge benefit, but back before he began to ask for help and my Mom and I realized he was going down the tubes fast, he would just let his mail pile up. This resulted in a Superfund clean up of his papers and mail when he was cut off from all disability payments. That’s when I ultimately found a myriad of uncashed checks, uncompleted forms for benefits, and lots of other important matters literally brushed under the table.

I plowed through everything and re-instated his disability benefits, paid all his bills, eventually got 7 years of back taxes completed and found something like $9,000 in unclaimed property from the state.

But I truly never saw any documents from John Hancock. So when this letter came saying that he lost his benefits for failure to pay his premiums seven years ago, I just had to take that one on the chin. It was “B.C.”–before Cathy.

Yet still there was a tiny stipend that was guaranteed by the company. All he had to do was apply.

I was finally allowed to apply once he came home from the hospital. I looked over the application and put it on my “to do” pile for the end of the week.

The next day I received another missive from John Hancock:

“We received your request to reinstate long term care insurance. Please fill out the following forms and we will process your request in a timely manner.”

The forms were 9 pages long, asking for medical information, employment information and if you had ever been disabled.

I was pretty certain that my brother-in-law who has had Multiple Sclerosis for over 15 years, has been wheelchair bound for almost 3 years, and has caregivers 4 times a day to bathe, dress and give him his meds, would not qualify for reinstatement of long term care INSURANCE.

Oh, if you only knew how tempted I was to fill out those forms and have someone spin their wheels on this absurd ‘request’.

But I did the right thing and called the 800 number on the letter:


I obviously  misdialed, so I checked the number and dialed again very carefully:


So apparently with John Hancock, you win a prize for being disabled.

I scanned the nine page document to see if there was a different phone number and there it was. The real John Hancock began with 888 not 800 as in their cover letter. I pondered how many long term disabled people were on their way to the Bahamas just knowing their disability checks would be there when they got back.

You just have to Laugh…..

Cathy Sikorski

What if it IS always Sunny?
Lydia’s Drawing Board

I love the show CBS Sunday Morning. And every time I watch it, I think of my Aunt Jean. When she would visit from Australia, we would usually watch it together and in spite of her serious macular degeneration, which made her practically blind, and her hearing loss in both ears, which the use of hearing aids only caused constant beeping and buzzing throughout the house that she couldn’t hear, we were somehow able to converse about each story just a little bit.

I was always beguiled by her insight and questioning in light of the ‘skips’ in information that had to occur with each tale from Charles Osgood. But there was one segment every single Sunday where Charles would tell you what interesting stories were coming up in the week ahead. Like, Monday there will be an important decision from the Supreme Court, Tuesday is national Ice Cream day (YAY), Wednesday is the Kennedy Center Awards, things like that. And that segment would have a fake calendar with sunbursts, which is the theme of Sunday Morning.


And every Sunday, she would say to me, “Oh look we’re going to have beautiful weather this week. It’s going to be sunny every single day!” And I, every Sunday, would say:


And she would be intent on the TV and not even look my way. And then she would turn to me and say:

“Well, we can go shopping and out to lunch with your mother, and go visit Marie. It will be lovely!”

And I would still be saying, “No, no, no….that’s not what it means…..”

I don’t think I ever once let it go.

So on what would have been her 91st birthday to a lovely, sunshiney woman who was my Aussie Mom…..and on Mother’s Day. I’m letting it go.

Every day is sunshine. What a great attitude.

Happy Birthday, Aunt Jean. And Happy Mother’s Day to my amazing Mom, Mary Ann, the spirit of my beloved mother-in-law, Marie and every other caregiver who gives the love of a Mom every day. Hope your smiling and laughing today.

You just have to Laugh

Cathy Sikorski

P.S. Thanks to Lydiasdrawingboard for the amazing artwork!

Some hairy things are cute…others not so much

I am a caregiver who tries to take care of herself.

Sometimes it goes haywire: A Girl’s gotta’ take care of herself, for example. Other times……

This morning I put much effort into grooming. It is the weekend. I have been way too helpful to others and wanted to put my best foot forward for weekend activities. The shower was hot and steamy, I got out the high end shampoo and conditioner, used the pretty smelly body wash instead of the manly anti-bacterial soap, and set down the path of shaving.

Sometimes I use the cheap disposable razors, but today I put a new blade in the new Venus razor. All you gals out there know this is the high end, expensive disposable blade razor.

Lately, I’ve been suffering from a sore neck. So looking side ways into my armpits has been a challenge. I guess the hot shower eased up the stiff neck because when I looked left and right it seemed like King Kong’s cousin had moved in under my armpits.

Well, this would not do.

I took that sharp, Lady Venus tool to the task and waited for the beauty of each stroke to clear away the debris.

Nothing happened. Nothing.

I scraped and shaved and swore, knowing that one of those things would definitely work.


Now I’m pissed. I spent good money on that high end appliance. If it’s named Venus, it should make me look like a goddess. It should be so sharp, I’m worried about losing my arms, not just my armpit hair.

Ugh. And how am I going to tackle my legs?

I try another blade. Same result. Of course I’m the one who got the defective pack of blades, because I always have boatloads of time to return things.

I don’t know why, but I think that if I just stare at this razor long enough, it will do what I want. Like the look I used to give my kids when they were little.

So finally, I just decide even though that blade snaps in tightly and perfectly, could it be in upside down?

Oh what the hell. I snap it out and try to turn it around, knowing full well this is stupid since it would only snap in one way. Now the shower is getting cold because I’ve been conducting experiments.

Damn! That sucker turned around and in one swoop worked like a Hoover. Only cut myself three times. But I find Sponge Bob Squarepants bandaids very sexy on weekends.

You just have to Laugh…..

Cathy Sikorski