There are times that you want to react like a character in a movie or at least a sitcom instead of the calm, collected, mature adult that you are . . . or the one you’re trying to convince everyone that you are. Inside your head you may be screaming and yelling but outside you nod and smile, or maybe grimace if the situation warrants, and hold all that emotion inside.
Well that’s how I felt when I was opening the mail the other day. Recently, my husband had undergone a minor surgery at the local hospital. As my family was watching football, I wandered over to the kitchen counter where 3 envelopes that had arrived in that day’s mail were sitting. One was a credit card application which I immediately tore in half and threw away. One was a letter from my bank which kind of scared me but turns out they were just increasing the credit line on my credit card. As if I needed more room to hang myself. The third was an envelope from the hospital. I opened it casually while glancing up at the score of the game then looked down to what was in my hands. It was at that moment that if I’d been in a sitcom, or the latest Sandra Bullock comedy, I would have passed out and the next scene would have been someone carefully cradling my head as they waved smelling salts under my nose. Someone would say, “Are you ok?” and I would appear dazed but beautiful.
But my life ain’t the movies so I stifled a gasp and tried to refocus my eyes on what was in front of me. “Total cost of services rendered: !!!!!” I won’t tell you the exact amount but it was 5 digits. “Breathe” I thought to myself “Do NOT panic” also went through my mind. Then there were words in big bold writing that said “THIS IS NOT A BILL”. Not a bill? Then why the hell would you send me something with this God awful amount of money on it that’s obviously what you think someone owes you??? Then I see the verbiage “This is a summary of charges and shows the insurances that will be billed on your behalf”. Ok well, that’s good. Whew! Ok I feel better until I start calculating in my head what 10% of this 5-digit number is. That’s how much is typically the patient’s responsibility. Oh crap.
My husband and daughter meanwhile are completely unaware that this dramedy is playing out just a few feet behind them. They are blissfully engrossed in the latest play of the game. I casually fold the bill or notification or whatever the heck it is up and put it back in the envelope it came in, then I place it in my bill basket in my office as if it is no more important than the monthly water or cable bill. Because I’m the Mom – the head of the family – and I can’t afford the luxury of freaking out. If you are thinking that the Dad is usually the head of the family then 2 things: 1) You must be a man and 2) BWAAHAAHAAHAA – you are so wrong. Anyway, I remain calm.
I’m in charge of our family’s money management and have been since a week after my husband and I opened up our first joint checking account together nearly 20 years ago. Before the first box of checks had arrived in our mailbox, my husband had our account overdrawn. I remember going to him, asking for his checkbook and then beating him with it. For years he was only allowed to carry cash and 1 credit card. There was no such thing as debit cards in those days. He never has really known the value of a dollar. When we were first married he spent money as if it grew on trees, but these days he’s gone to the opposite extreme. He thinks paying more than a $10 for a shirt is too much. I should clarify that he only has this strict guideline when it come to his own clothes not mine thank heavens. So not only am I in charge of the money, but I’m also in charge of shopping for additions to his wardrobe. I just rip off the tags before he sees it and then claim that it was on clearance. So knowing that he thinks $10 is too much for a shirt, I’m pretty sure he’ll need the smelling salts if he sees the cost of this surgery. Insurance Pending or not.
I start to wonder what the devil’s name the hospital is thinking by sending something like this out. What about someone who just had heart surgery? If they opened a letter like this it could cause a heart attack! I can only imagine what the total of something like that would be if a minor surgical procedure totaled more than 5 figures! Maybe it’s the hospital’s way of drumming up repeat business.
Anyway, after dropping that letter like a hot potato on my desk I sit back on the couch and resume watching the football game. Both husband and daughter are still completely oblivious to the fact that I just had a near-death experience. I think about telling my husband, but he’ll just worry himself sick or privately decide he’s never going to the doctor again. We have insurance, thank God, and this is the time it comes in handy. Kind of making up for those 3 years that none of us even had to go to the doctor for a cold. If this were a movie or a sitcom then there would be some kind of crisis where the insurance company dropped coverage the day before the surgery and then there’d be a big battle probably with a lawyer that wore a cowboy hat and in the end all would be well and everyone would live happily ever after. But it’s not a movie, just an average middle class family who will probably have to argue a few points with the insurance company and end up paying a little more than we’d like out-of-pocket but otherwise no worse for wear. Well, except that I might be buying a few more $10 shirts than I have been lately.