VA Hospitals and Clinics

Lately we’ve been getting lots of troubling news about some VA hospitals, notably in Phoenix and some other locations. Of course it’s absolutely unacceptable that any military or ex-military should be shunted aside. After all, whether or not any of these persons actually faced fire, all were pledged and expected to do so if needed. Imagine being required to face a foe who is trying to kill you. You can’t run. You can’t hide. You have to keep going. The next step you take may be your last. Mines, snipers, bombs….Death is all around you. Imagine being a young person facing that with a family at home, a life ahead of you…if you can just survive.

But despite some VA facility shortcomings, I feel the need to mention that not all VA hospitals and clinics are alike. I live in the Sacramento, CA region and feel constrained to say that I’ve never had better or more attentive care than I receive at the VA facilities here. Everyone here treats veterans with the utmost respect at all times.

My doctors and/or their nurses call me at home whenever something comes to their attention. How many doctors call you at home? My primary care physician, Dr. Peters, keeps right on top of my health. If something shows up, he calls or has his assistant call. He never hesitates to send me to a specialist for whatever he feels necessary.

He got me a blood pressure monitor so I could keep up with my blood pressure at home. For my trigger finger complaint he sent me to a plastic surgeon and considering the preparation and care Dr. Whetzel took, you’d have thought he was doing open heart surgery on the president.

I knew when I first saw Dr. García that I was in good hands. He did cataract surgery on both my eyes and I feel that I’m having the best care possible. I’ve never been required to wait an unusually long time for an appointment. In fact, my cardiologist and my primary care doctors routinely send me notices to make a new appointment, or they simply go ahead and make one for me and I get call or a letter in the mail.

I’m wearing top-of-the-line hearing aids and bifocal glasses, courtesy of the VA. And no, I’m not a retired general or admiral. Just an old ex GI, but not so old that they think I’m only a drain on their time and attention. I just have to wonder why some clinics and hospitals are so very different than others in the same system.

In any event, I want to thank all the fine doctors, nurses and staff for the wonderful treatment they give veterans in the Sacramento region.



How not to have control

penI‘m sure most of us like to believe we’re in control of our lives, even though experience tells us we’re mistaken. It’s certainly a comforting thought to know that you’re totally in control of everyday events around you, but of course we know that’s not strictly true.

Best laid plans…etc. We’ve all had the experience of planning say, a picnic only to find it decided to rain that day. I remember one time when I confidently went out and bought an expensive stereo on the time payment plan only to be laid off my job a week later. And so it goes. It’s pretty disappointing to finally realize and admit that we don’t really have much, if any, real control over our lives.

But when it comes to writing, ahhhh. When you’re writing, you’re God are you not? You’re completely in charge. You dream up a plot or situation and start creating characters to act out their given parts and you have the option of changing any and everything you want to. Right?

Well…maybe. Maybe usually, but here too there can be exceptions.

I know some writers make detailed notes and outlines when they write, others less so and some just sit down and start writing. In my own case, I normally don’t do much if any outlining on the computer. Being primarily a mystery writer, I usually begin dreaming up a plot and creating at least some of the characters in my head and before I actually begin writing, I usually know the ending. I know who the baddie is and how to expose a murderer. But nearly all of this is bumbling around in my mind.  Once I begin in earnest I usually make a list of the characters as they come along so I can remember their names and anything else of importance about them, but that’s about all. I’m not saying it’s the best way and it’s certainly not the only way, but alas, it’s my way and I’m too old to learn new tricks. After all, I can barely use a cell phone and consistently hold the TV remote backwards. If it was a gun I’d be dead right now.

All this preamble brings me to the point of this.

After a number of stillborn attempts and misbegotten ideas I finally began to put together a plot for (hopefully) my next epic opus. It came to me complete with a title: “The Morgenstern Murders”.

I had this Morgenstern. He was one of those investment banker birds who made a killing in the big bust and quietly retired to a luxurious compound overlooking the lovely Pacific Ocean in sunny California. Naturally, because of the many people whose fortunes and sometimes, lives, were ruined due to his shenanigans, he had accrued a pile of enemies as big as his fortune.

Before long I was actually writing. Started off well. I was fully in charge. But then, about a week or so into this work, something unexpected happened.

That jerk Morgenstern didn’t want to be an unscrupulous investment banker. He wanted to play doctor. Doctor?!

Slipping completely out of my control this guy had decided to be a doctor instead of an investment banker. That meant I had to go back and add “Dr.” every time I mentioned his name. Luckily, on the computer that isn’t so difficult. And he didn’t like to be such a lowlife either. Enemies? Sure. As a doctor, he had opened several abortion clinics in the bay area and found his clinics plagued by protesters who marched daily around displaying placards. They even located his compound and began marching outside in front of his home.

Okay. I didn’t ask for that and didn’t expect it. I honestly don’t know where that came from, but there it is. Even my fictional characters come out and mess up my plans.

Now let me say right here that this isn’t a moral story. I couldn’t dream of writing a scathing philippic against abortionists, and I certainly can’t blame those who are against it. I write mysteries and don’t want anyone to think I’m trying to make a statement. Blame Dr. Morgenstern if you want to blame somebody. I don’t know how or why he decided to become a doctor and set up abortion clinics.  I certainly don‎’t have the expertise to speak for or against abortions. I’m not writing to make any judgments, and I’m not here to defend those who don’t believe in abortion and I can’t judge the doctors who perform this service. Being a male, I’ve never had occasion to consider having an abortion. Fortunately too, the possibility has never come up in my extended family. Everybody related to me already has plenty of kids and more on the way. I suppose one thing in favor of abortions would be the savings in birthday presents, but I kind of enjoy all those little birthday parties even when the cake is on the heavy side.  On the one hand, I wouldn’t advise anyone to have an abortion, but on the other hand, it’s certainly not up to the likes of me to tell women I don’t even know how they should live their lives.

I hope to get this book finished before the end of the year, and God willing, it will be available early next year and I’ll be done with the late Dr. Morgenstern. Yes, despite his change of career, he still gets whacked. (Call it fate, Kismet, destiny.) And although he isn’t really a bad guy, I’m just not that emotionally involved with him to be upset at reading of his demise.

So the takeaway here is that we’re not only not in control of our lives, but evidently we aren’t always in control of our fiction either, but I guess that isn’t all bad. Makes the whole journey more interesting and sometimes even fun.

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