I love and hate many things about America. Not the least of which in the "hate list" is how the "end game" is played out.
As the partner for 32 years of a Social Security/Medicare recipient, living in Florida, I had to constantly fight the system that would give no legitimacy to our relationship despite reciprocal powers of attorney. I ended up giving up, and listing myself as my partner's "caregiver", which they would accept. Also the system meant that half a day at a time my partner would need to wait, stand in lines, go from one specialist to another to obtain the care he is entitled to at the cheapest cost and most convenient schedule for them. As he no longer drives, I had to arrange doctor's appointments around the work schedule I maintained in order to even obtain basic health coverage for myself ($320.00 monthly).
Then one day it occurred to me- that between paying for all types of insurance, property taxes, "Western" lifestyle considerations, and overpriced prescriptions, I was not only working for less than what I was worth, I was missing out on the most important remaining years of my partner's life.
We have been fortunate to have traveled through much of Europe and Asia. For some time we thought of Morocco as perfect, but then in 1994 we visited Thailand and fell in love with the hospitality of total strangers and the unquestioned respect for elders. We were traveling on business, but made the most of it and spent eighteen days traveling around the country. I had been self employed from the age of 26 and had worked half the weekends of each year along with typical 70 hour weeks and too much time away from the man I loved devoted to road travel. Our vacations together were a time when we could reconnect with why we loved one another and everything about Thailand screamed "come back" even thirteen years later.
After selling our company (it was always ours, but it had my name on it) and moving to Palm Beach County, I took a 40 hour a week job in an art gallery. As a professional sales person I quickly became the largest generator of dollars in a 14 store chain and was on a first name basis with the owner in Tennessee. I earned more money than my gallery director, but I was still feeling hollow inside over leaving my partner alone.
I discussed it with my Robert and he was initially resistant about leaving the United States. Only when I agreed to a two month vacation in Thailand would he agree to return for an evaluation. It really only took a month of traveling around this special country to be reminded of what we lacked in our everyday lives. Time Together. We visited beautiful places, but also housing developments, supermarkets, hospitals and marveled. We bought our condo before we left during the initial two month stay.
Last Saturday night when I had to call for an ambulance for my partner, who was in severe pain, a nurse, doctor and two attendants were at our door in fifteen minutes. He was rushed to emergency and I followed in our car. They quickly gave him relief from pain and we kept him in the hospital overnight in a private room that was more like a luxury hotel suite. When I said I was his "life partner" the nurse said: "How nice, don't worry, we will take care of him. Would you like to stay in his room overnight? I will have a bed brought in for you."
By 9:00 AM the following morning they had isolated his problem, solved it, but leaving him needing care since I was by myself. Still he was ready to go home and I was relieved. Neither of us could believe how wonderful the staff had been to his slightest need. He returned as an outpatient for a checkup five days later and had an additional small surgical procedure. I then took him home again.
My partner has no insurance here whatsoever as he will shortly be eighty years old. The staff, ambulance, emergency, private room, medications, doctor followups? Under $700.00. Immediate care, immediate comfort, no paperwork, no lines and enthusiastic inclusive care for my emotions as well.
I remembered when my partner's younger brother died and we longed to hold one another in the hospital, but could not in 1978. Here, I could kiss him, stroke his hair, and keep him from fear or despair. In other words, I could treat him as my spouse/partner/husband/whatever and the staff was glad I was there.
I have a premium policy that will die with me regardless of age that costs $94.00 monthly. I could get this because I am younger and began this policy which is about three times the cost of a policy that terminates at age 65 (That's right, as little as $30.00 a month for basic care). My partner's prescription costs are far lower here than they were in America (even with the new drug policy) as his drugs are expensive (courtesy of the American Drug Lobby), he would burn through his allotted amount of credit in six months leaving six months to be paid in full. His drug cost in Thailand, $140.00 a month. Half of that goes to one drug which still must be gotten from America, but at a reduced cost as we are in a "developing" country.
Most importantly we have something of greatest intangible value after decades of working side by side. We have time for one another in a country that culturally respects elders. Lacking Christianity, they also lack homophobia or any hypocrisy about it. Too often, through too many waiting rooms, sneering nurses, and doctors offices in Florida, I felt merely tolerated and never welcomed.
We have found home. For however much time remains to us both, we have found home.