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I got my census in the mail a couple days ago. I always kind of look forward to filling out the form – the whole “getting counted” aspect of it – though it’s generally a bit of a letdown, in terms of how little the questionnaire actually asks. For a while, in Chicago, I lived at one of the addresses designated to receive a longer, more in-depth version, which made the whole process seem a little more meaningful. This year, though, even the abbreviated standard document has taken me slightly aback, in a way that has me putting off answering even the few questions it poses for at least another week or two.

The reason for my procrastination lies mainly in my extremely literal nature. You see, the instructions state plainly that, “The Census must count every person living in the United States on April 1, 2010…. Do not count anyone in a nursing home, jail, prison, detention facility, etc., on April 1, 2010… otherwise they may be counted twice.” Though April 1 is a mere two weeks away, now, I’m not comfortable predicting that Dad, back at home since Monday, won’t be back in care by the official day of reckoning.

Of course, the consequences of such a double counting, should it occur, aren’t all that critical, and maybe one more 88-year-old added to my little town’s population assessment could put it over the top for some hidden mountain of stimulus cash. But, in addition to being very literal, I’m also just a little superstitious when it comes to making assumptions. As a firm believer in the ass-making risks run when one assumes, I often couch both my actions and my speech in what I’m sure are, at times, a tediously complete list of caveats.

This current caution is based on some freshly taught lessons. When Dad got released from his rehab facility back in early February, I assumed the re-jiggered medication list had solved the low-blood-pressure issue, and that he was actually on the mend. The first of those assumptions was proven wrong within five or six days, when his systolic pressure (the “top” number) began toppling into the 80s again. And the second assumption fell a week and a half later, when he took his second fall in three days, resulting in his re-admission into rehab.

The back-and-forth negotiations that led to Dad’s Monday release provided no assurance that any further assumptions regarding his possible progress would be much more than optimism of the potentially cockeyed variety. The nurse practitioner managing Dad’s case for his primary-care practice flat out said that nobody would be surprised to see him back at the facility sometime soon. The last few days’ blood pressure readings, down into the 80s, have provided evidence for her pessimistic prediction. This morning, after a wonderful salt- and Scotch-fueled St. Pat’s dinner with neighbors last night, his blood pressure reached up to 131/55 – just over the 130 systolic parameter attached to his medication. An hour after I gave him the half-tablet he now gets (one-eighth of what had once been his standard daily dose), the pressure had dropped to a scary 77/48, prompting a call to the doctor’s office and orders to hold that medication at least until Monday.

But, as the calendar pages turn slowly toward April 1, I realize there is a larger, more important lesson that can be learned by all this uncertainty. Maybe this is just my assumption aversion raising its head again, but I’m drawn to the observation that even those in the best health today might be being overly optimistic in filling out their forms before that April 1 date. It’s maybe a cliche to pull out that old canard regarding the possibility of a run in with a bus while crossing the street – but, really, in all of our lives there are examples of life being very different a week later than it was the week before.

So, I’m holding onto that census because life, though complicated now, is good. Spring is beginning to arrive, I had my first (somewhat frigid) barefoot-in-the-bay experience for the year this afternoon and Dad still has enough of a sense of humor to make jokes about his meds. Thirteen days from now, life might be very different. But, for now, I want to hold onto that picture until it becomes time to take the virtual snapshot of my household represented in my census response.

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