White Dog looked up. It was time that normally Steve is awake and doing school work and Michael is returning from his early morning exercise walk; it is NOT normally a time when I am dressed and sitting in the living room. I smiled at her. "It is going to be one of THOSE days," I told her. "You know the kind where everything you have planned goes out the window because other unexpected emergencies come up." She came over and put her head against my arm.
Michael has made tremendous efforts toward becoming the master of his own destiny since he completed his work at the Transitions Program in the public school system. He has been overwhelmed at times at how different "real life" is from the life of a student/child but he keeps plugging away even though at times he wistfully misses the days of little self direction and lots of built in system motivation. All of that being said, however, Michael is still not a strong self-advocate.
Mind you, most quake at the prospect of having to deal with government agencies but unfortunately a good portion of Michael's world is built around the help and assistance they provide. Bureaucracy is not an easy ocean to navigate and sometimes even knowing the right questions--and who to ask them of--eludes him.
On Saturday the mail delivered an official notice to Michael that his health benefits were to be discontinued but it wasn't until Steve helped him carefully read through the letter that they learned the REAL problem was not with the Medicaid people but with Social Security (which had not yet sent him notice). Michael went into a tailspin of panic that his life, at least his income and health coverage, was ending. He had no idea where to even start. Sachi showed him; the Little Tyrant jumped into Michael's lap and began kissing his face. Taiko calmly walked over and rested his chin on Michael's knee. Together, they anchored him and stopped his franticness. And we made plans to find out today by taking the proactive lead.
The Social Security Office here in Albuquerque is the stuff of movies...lines begin forming outside the building in the increasingly hot sun two hours before the 9am opening. There are no benches or drinking fountains. In the bushes and at the gutter of the sidewalk are untold cigarette butts, broken glass, and the occasional syringe. It is not a place of hope or promise. We could not let him go alone to try to ferret out information when he had no real information, and no direct SSI letter...it was simply to too daunting.
Michael volunteered to stand in line while we waited in the car. It was, he said, "his problem and so he should stand in line." I smiled at this new attitude. We watched as he first listened to music on his phone and every so often checked his screen saver of the White Dog Army for confidence. Then he began to talk with the others in line; it was nice to see him participate in the camaraderie that rises in these situations.
Once we shuffled in through the security measures Michael lost his cool and confidence. We talked to an agent and got some clues about the problem. No real answers but at least we now know what paperwork needs to be filed and how to go about making sure Michael is heard before any random decisions are made.
We returned home, the morning lost, to anxious White Dogs. They milled and pressed needing to be reassured that all was good. Michael was spent physically from standing all that time in the hot sun and emotionally from the stress. Steve and I turned the situation over to the White Dog Army who knew what to do.