My daughter paid a visit to get some Southern California weather after testing Alaska winter for the first time. The sun cooperated.
And of course Mom died. It was reasonably quick. She was comfortable.
My daughter was fortunate enough to visit with her grandmother while still alive, albeit Mom was severely limited - but I could tell by the look in her greying eyes that she recognized, and appreciated, Nichole's presence.
And certainly my daughter appreciated getting those last couple of hours with her grandmother.
It was last Saturday when we visited. Mom gave me "that look." It said, "I know you, I trust you, you can feed me and I'll eat what I can." She did. I did. Mom couldn't speak. She was too weak to even grasp my hand.
But she grasped my heart. I felt it.
Of course, then Mom checked out Wednesday evening. I was scheduled to visit the next day so I went anyhow to take care of the various tasks that would need my attention at some point in time. Now or later, may as well be now.
I was too busy to feel grief.
Yesterday I took Nichole to Burbank Airport for her return to Anchorage. She packed her bicycle in a box and checked it through. I said goodbye at the TSA checkpoint.
Now, Mom is gone. Nichole is gone.
When I woke up this morning, though, workers' compensation was still here.
Over 30 years of exposure to workers' compensation; I didn't realize until now - I have personally witnessed nearly one-third of the life of work comp.
My naïveté at the beginning was understandable of course, but alarming to me now. Reform after reform brought, and took away, various levels of medical control, indemnity increases and limitations, guidelines, reviews, and other assorted points of special interest to lawmakers, who for the most part, have the same level of understanding I did 30 plus years ago.
There's been fraud busts, and new fraud to replace those busted. Insurance companies have come, more have gone.
Rates have gone up, rates have gone down. Somebody, somewhere, is always complaining - one person's outcomes based incentives programs is another person's benefit denial target.
Courts make decisions that find compensability when no one thought there would be, and other courts have denied claims where others felt it unfair and unjust.
There's talk of constitutional challenges, federal review, and general media criticism.
Alternative work injury programs are hypocritically criticized by the work comp cognoscenti using the very same argument points they say is wrong with traditional comp.
There are audits, but perhaps not enough. There are penalties, but perhaps not enough.
Someone, somewhere, is going to take advantage of something that no one else thought would make a difference, until it does make a difference, and then the special interest matter ends up back in front of lawmakers, who for the most part, have the same level of understanding I did 30 plus years ago...
I was sad to see Nichole go too. We're always sad when our children leave. But I'm quite certain I'll see her again, though likely not soon enough for either of us.
And then there's work comp. I don't think I'll ever have to say goodbye to this incredible institution, at least not before I die.
For all its faults, for all of its negative traits, work comp is incredibly attractive and complex.
I see in comp "that look," those greying eyes that grasp my heart.
We can't fix everything, and we can't fix everyone.
To me, it takes only that one case though, where someone is profoundly affected by unfortunate circumstances and the benevolence of those trained in the system to rectify and bring some solace ...
My heart ...
This past week brought some perspective to my life.
There will be other times when that happens as well.
In the meantime I have the constant of work comp. For as much as it changes, it remains principally the same as I knew it some 30 plus years ago.