How Do We Solve A Problem Like Maria?

There’s a guy in McDermitt, the local yokel, the stereotypical small town drunk, who comes into the bar a couple of times a day to play slots, drink cans of Budweiser and buys packs of cigarettes and six-packs to-go from us. In this post I’ll refer to him as “Maria,” to protect his identity.Otis in Mayberry

Along with Maria’s regular visits come updates on his state-of-affairs, tales (tall, long, and repetitive) and general rigamarole. Maria is a bullshitter. Maria reminds me a little bit of my late step-father. Maria is ill.

Maria has recovered from prostate cancer, among other illnesses, and is obviously (to me) suffering from other maladies. During the past week he’s told me several times that he has doctor appointments in Reno next week, and that one of his doctors cut-off his refills for hydrocodone. He has a lump/goiter in his neck, problems with his vision and other ailments I probably am not aware of, and probably thankful I’m not. On a supply trip to town a couple of months ago, I picked up an eye patch, upon his request. I mean, how often in life do I get to buy eye patches?!

It appears to me that Maria won’t be in Reno for his appointments. Maria can’t drive, and lives alone in McDermitt – a very rural area, about 250 miles from Reno – he can’t just hop on a bus or catch a cab, and a four hour drive with a blabby alcoholic is a lot to ask a neighbor. My husband, Sean, being the super nice guy that he is, once gave Maria a ride to the doctor in Nampa, Idaho (a shorter drive than Reno). Sean doesn’t regret doing this, but admits that it took A LOT of tongue biting and internal laughter/crying to tolerate Maria’s bigoted banter and repetitive storytelling.

elvis gifMaria has many stories that he’ll tell anyone who will listen (or pretend to be listening). One of my favorites is the tale of when he was Elvis Presley’s roadie and/or bodyguard in Hawaii (although his stories are repetitive, the details are sometimes inconsistent). I am unsure whether this was during the sixties or seventies. Today he told me that he once was lounging poolside next to Roberta Flack and Donovan — soooo, maybe the sixties?

I imagine there is a large population of residents in rural areas that are in the same situation as Maria. They’re aging, ailing and unable to get the medical help they need. They’re on Medicare and receive social security plus any other benefits or compensations due or granted them, but the only doctors that make house-calls out in the middle-of-nowhere are veterinarians.

On the reservation, there is a nurse practitioner at a clinic, and a Senior Center that used to deliver lunch to elderly or sick people in the area, but I’ve heard their services have been cut due to lack of grant and federal funding. In Winnemucca (75 miles south) there is a Meals on Wheels, but their services do not reach McDermitt. So basically, if you’re old, sick or alone and an emergency befalls you, you’re shit out of luck (i.e. – misfortunate, screwed, damned, doomed).

People out here are tough, and most of us help each other when we can. But what happens when there is no one left? When all bridges are burned? When asking for help is only heard by the tumbleweed…?

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