Jen opened her grandmother's screen door and stepped into the kitchen. Marie glanced up from her rocker between the stove and the window and continued crocheting. "'I'm not going."
"Gran, please? You have to go for a checkup if you want to refill your pills. The ones for your blood pressure are important."
"I haven't taken them for six months or more, so I guess I don't need them since I'm still here, doing what I do and feeling fine."
"Gran, you said you had a headache last week, and that could be because your blood pressure is too high."
"No, it's most likely because I watched the TV and saw that hateful excuse for a man they call the President. What on earth were people thinking? Do they think all the Democrats are going door-to-door and dragging pregnant women to get abortions? What a big mess that whole subject got us into. That" s what gave me the headache. I see no reason to turn that TV on ever again, especially since I don't have my stories anymore."
Jen sighed, pulled over a kitchen chair, and leaned close to her grandmother. "If you go to your appointment, I'll take you out to lunch afterward, and we can go to Dianne's and share a banana split like we used to."
Marie put her hands in her lap, still holding her yarn and crochet hook. "Jen, Darllin', you're starting to sound like I'm a child and you're the adult. No, I'm not going, especially since Doc Hartly retired. I'm too old to start with someone new and young enough to have no sense at all."
"Gran, please? It's my birthday next week, do this for me? It will be the best gift you could ever give me. Set my mind at ease and all, please."
"That's a low blow, Child."
Jen smiled, "I know. I don't care."
"Fine, Jen, but you'll have to fill out all those pages of questions they'll give me. I'm sure they never even read them. Last time I checked the box that said that I was pregnant and one that said I had erectile difficulties." She laughed and shook her head. "So, why bother? And then, when I got in there, they asked the same ones all over again. I think they give us all those forms to keep us busy while we wait, and I'd rather have a crossword puzzle to work on."
"Be careful what you put on forms, Gran. They might think you have dementia, and you'll be in a big mess if they try to put you into a home because of it."
Marie looked alarmed. "Jesus wept."
While Jen drove, Marie looked around, "Oh, this is so sad. All those empty stores that I used to go to. Lerners, Winklemans, even the Saunders. After they put in that Walmart by the interstate, business just died in town Hey, Jen, honey, you're going the wrong way!"
"Sorry, Gran. After Doc retired, his replacement opened a whole new building."
"Closer to Walmart, I bet."
Jen chuckled, "Well, yes, it is. I didn't think of it like that."
"Humph." Marie opened her window. "It's hot for April." Her wispy white hair fluttered about her head like feathers.
"Close the window, and I'll put the AC on."
"No, I like the fresh air."
Jen obliged, fearing Marie would change her mind about keeping the appointment.
"Here we are, Gran. Wow, that is quite an impressive building, isn't it?"
"The old one was fine, and I could walk right in from the sidewalk. Look at all those stairs!"
"You can use a ramp. There's a ramp on both sides, see?"
"I don't need a ramp, but I don't want to climb stairs either! Between my knees and hips! Don't they know old people don't like stairs?"
Jen looked at her watch." It's quarter to one, so we'd better go in."
"What's going on over by that ramp?" Marie pointed.
They watched as a heavy-set man tried to roll up the ramp in his wheelchair and failed. He tried again and failed again. A younger man ran from his car, pushed him to the top, and stopped, reading something on a white sheet of paper taped to the glass.
Next, another tiny elderly woman walked up the ramp, grabbing the handrail and pulling herself along. She, too, stood and read the notice. Pulled on the door, but it appeared to be locked.
"Wait here, and I'll go check. Maybe we came on the wrong day, or there's been a power failure or something in the new building."
Marie put on her glasses and pulled her yarn and crochet hook from her purse as she watched Jen climb the stairs who was older herself at fifty. Marie counted five steps. She put her crochet work back into her bag, pulled out her rosary, and prayed. She watched the four of them reread the sign as if in disbelief, shrugging their shoulders.
Jen came back, started the car, closed the open windows, and turned on the air conditioning. Marie noticed Jen's face was red, and her hands shook.
"Oh dear, Jen. Is the Doc sick? Is he dead?"
"I think somebody is! I don't believe this!"
That notice on the door? It says they are now closed from noon until one o'clock for lunch! And the door to the building is LOCKED! This isn't a bank. For Christ's sake, even banks are open all day! Sorry, Gran, but day off to keep this appointment!"
"Oh no. Why didn't you schedule it for a Saturday? I hate to think of you missing work just for this."
"It's okay. I have quite a few vacation days left, but you know what else?"
"What? Don't get yourself all riled up, sweetheart. It's only a checkup."
Jen took a breath, let it out slowly, and said, "They are no longer open on Saturdays or Sundays. And according to the notice, they're only open until noon on Friday and won't answer the phone after 4:30 any day! And there are no door openers for the disabled. How is a person in a wheelchair supposed to get in? WHAT THE FUCK?"
Marie shook her head. "Oh my."
"Sorry for swearing, Gran."
"I don't care about the swearing. I'd say fuck, too, if I used that word. I'm talking about that doctor!"
They both chuckled.
"Jen? You told me you made the first appointment after lunch. So, why are all these other people here?"
A middle-aged woman and an elderly man now joined the crowd standing outside on the hot pavement.
"I did. One O'clock, so you wouldn't have to wait. I guess all these other people thought the same thing. They said to be ten minutes early. Why if we can't get in?"
Jen pulled out her phone and called the doctor's office, putting it on speaker. They listened: "The office is closed for lunch. If this is an emergency, please go to the nearest emergency or dial 911. We will open again at One O'clock."
Marie patted Jen's hand, "You know, honey, people never went to the doctor when I was young. If you were really ill, say with pneumonia, they'd come to your house, and then maybe you'd get came about, or if you were old like me, you'd just die. If you cut off a finger, you might go to the hospital, or someone in the family would pour whiskey over what was left and bandage the stump.
"Then, it became a 'benefit' when the factories couldn't or wouldn't pay higher wages and gave them medical insurance instead. This led to doctors, pill makers, and hospitals charging higher and higher prices, and many workers took advantage. They'd stay in the hospital for weeks, with free food, rooms, etc. Hard to believe, but hospital rooms were a comfort compared to the way many of them lived. Mrs. Backer up the street said it was as good as staying in a hotel, and the doctor said she needed a rest cure. Which she probably did after having ten babies."
"I don't think that's exactly how it went, Gran."
"Your Mother, God rest her soul, worked for Chrysler's and had free health care, dental care, and eyeglasses, and so did your father, because he was her spouse. That's how she and your dad got that laser treatment and didn't need glasses; they were in their sixties! She hadn't worked for that company for twenty years or more!"
"Yeah, I remember Mom complaining when co-pays started! I'd forgotten about that. And even with all her checkups, tests, and cholesterol medicine, they didn't find cancer until it was too late. I still don't understand how such a thing happened."
"Me either, Jen. Then the mills and factories closed, and people got poorer, but the costs of medical care kept going up."
"That's true. I work full time but don't have medical insurance, and it takes me most of the year to pay off my yearly checkup. Sad, isn't "it? To be honest, I skipped last year's checkup to save money. We working people always get the short end of the stick."
Gran shook her head. "Take me home. If anything's going to kill me, it will be this place."
Jen looked at the poor, roasting refugees waiting to be admitted. The man in the wheelchair started to leave, but the younger man wheeled him back. "Sorry, Gran, I had no idea things would be like this."
"I know, Dear. What The Fluck."