**An update of really no update…still worth the read.**
Apparently, I’m Dead
Apparently, according to the letter I received from the Los Angeles County Public Guardian, I’m dead. It’s been such a sublime, peaceful, extremely bright day today that I’m starting to question it myself. Though, in Heaven, I wouldn’t be out of smokes. I’ll let you know if I resurrect any time soon in the eyes of the State of California. —Molly Knop
The letter I received wasn’t a fraud as I initially thought. It didn’t ask for any money or social security numbers or anything we’re told not to give out. It was straightforward and clear; it asked how my funeral and burial expenses were to be paid upon my death. My death. The Death of Mary (Ellen!) Knop. After my initial bristling from seeing my name written wrong again, I re-read the letter. Yes, that was me, the only Mary (Ellen, damnit!) Knop in California. I scoured the Internet again for a Mary Knop in California, but as far as I could tell, I was the one, the only, the most…okay, the only Mary Knop in this great state of ours. Even Facebook didn’t have one listed in California and Facebook freakishly knows everything. Okay, I may not have searched very hard but I did dig a little deeper than Facebook. I even checked MySpace, though that one was a little harder to get to because I had to go back in time to 2005.
Still nothing. No other Mary Knop. And so, here it was, this letter of concern, naming Los Angeles County conservator for Mary Knop’s impending deathly remains. Mine.
Worrisome for sure but especially, why was I a “conservatee”? I mean, I was touched that the Los Angeles County Public Guardian had such deep concerns over my…well, being and was offering to take over my final arrangements but I couldn’t help wonder if they knew something about me I didn’t. Did I need help in this arena? Am I mentally too unstable to be able to speak out on my own behalf regarding my final wishes? There’s been talk but I still think I’m considered on the right side of borderline. And personally, I think that setting aside a fund so I can be made into a giant funeral piñata is showing a lot of sanity in forethought. Proof in fact, right?
But here I was, a conservatee, someone mentally unstable enough to properly care for themselves in life and in death and in need of a county conservatorship. I could laugh at already being dead because it was ridiculous but what if I only thought I was sitting in my little apartment with my cat in sunny San Diego? I’ve seen a movie or two. I know that while my beautiful mind might be giggling at my own fart jokes and congratulating its own cleverness, I really could be staring at a rubber wall in LA with a faraway, maniacal look on my deeply-lined visage. Hell, I could be a 28-year-old Cleveland man wondering why there are so many people in doctors’ scrubs wandering around my basement. It’s possible. And not a terrible way to spend a day, but I like my reality like I like my men, tangible and partly sunny with a chance of showers. Personal sanity, while understandably concerning, is subjective, and there’s no real way to gauge it.
So, I checked my phone and it still dialed out.
That was it, though. I was out of tricks. How do you reaffirm your sanity? I’m teetering on the edge as it is, so none of my usual thoughts were instilling any confidence in me. The little people in my head were far from convinced. I kept telling myself that I knew who and where I was and that my existence was how I knew it to be. I mean, it was taxable and taxable means legitimate, right? The IRS knows me. Believe me, they know. Reminding myself that the almighty IRS’s reality matched mine, I took a deep breath. Maybe it wasn’t my reality that was off-center here.
I went to investigate. My phone did dial out and cheerfully reaffirming that I was who I owed to, Verizon’s robot minions reminded me that they wanted their money from this alive and breathing Mary Knop as soon as possible; somewhere around midnight that night and probably in some dark alley where they would accept blood or my first born in lieu of cash. Eventually, I got a hold of someone at the LA Public Guardian. The gravelly, over-worked, tragically-annoyed voice on the other end of the line assured me that there was indeed someone else named Mary Knop “in custody” in Los Angeles.
And the story only gets darker from there.
Apparently, I’m not dead (good!) or insane (TBD) and the existence of another Mary Knop in California is…not so good.
Learning of this other Mary in California, I desperately wished her reality to be as silly as my own. The cryptic clues I was given from the short, terse, irritated conversation I had with Mr. Public Guardian and the simple, glaring fact that I did receive this letter reaching out to anyone at all with similar names about her impending death didn’t bode well. Your assumptions are easy and true and just as bad as you would hate to think.
I can only assume things did not look good for Mary and her “custody” at Chez LA County Mental Health was going to be her last. HIPPA regulations, and whatever lunch this Guardian-dude was desperately looking forward to, prevented me from gaining any real insight into her condition. I was summarily dismissed and that, as they say, was all she wrote.
I wished to, still ache to, reach out to this other Mary, this alternate-reality-me, this what-if. For her, because it’s terrible to think of this person dying alone in the world no matter their life or their failings. Someone so alone that she’s without a single family member to be there in her final days to even pat her hand or send a warm note. Or even someone to hate her enough to remind her of all the things she’s done wrong in life. As terrible as that would be, it would still be an acknowledgement of a life lived, having existed, having an impact. It would be someone missing you, at least, and not the far worse, terrible loneliness I didn’t know until that moment could be someone else’s reality.
And I wanted to reach out for me, because doing anything might save me from an existence that I, only minutes before that answered phone call, didn’t even know was a thing. The unhappy realization that people do live in this awful state of Purgatory, of waiting to die alone, presented itself in full blood-and-guts spectra-vision in my mind.
I blame the US Postal Service. I’m not sure why but they’re easy targets. Had the Public Guardian called me, emailed me, texted me, Facebook-messaged me or I’m-all-over-the-internet-for-Christ’s-sake’d me, I could have cleared this up immediately with no more thought to whom it was at the other end of their task. But, because of the formality of an official letter, a hard copy detailing the filing away of an actual someone, it became so much more real. Now I’m mourning a person I’ve never met, can’t get to or help, solely because of the accident that is our shared name. Our stupid, crappy, shared name.
So, where are we now? I added a note to the letter I sent back to the Los Angeles Public Guardian. The formal letter asked if they could make sure they clear this name thing up on their end, in writing, because I have a feeling that this is going to bite me in my ass come retirement or some internment of my own. How will San Diego’s Public Guardian know what to do with me if I already died in LA in 2013? And, of course, taxes, social security, credit score, etc., can all be affected if I end up dead in the eyes of the state. A few years ago, I was getting calls from collection agencies hitting me up for bills in a Los Angeles County hospital that I had never incurred. I thought those were a fluke or a scam or even from when my debit card number was stolen from a parking lot auto-attendant machine in LA that one time. However, it was probably that other Mary then and thinking about why is too much for now.
The note I added said that I’d like to do something appropriate for her, whether it’s a card to say someone in the world is thinking about her or a phone call to make her last moments a little less lonely. I don’t know how the Guardian would handle that, but I had to ask. I had to reach out…somehow. I’ll have to wait and see if that opens an even bigger can of worms than this one has already pried into.
As of yet, I haven’t heard back. I’m still waiting.
So as of now, that’s where I and the story stand. Purgatory. A place in neither Heaven nor Hell but somewhere in-between where you wish you would’ve peed before you left and thought to have brought a snack.
Update: I never did receive any responses to my many requests to contact Mary Knop; I can only imagine there is only one very final outcome. I also haven’t received any information regarding my own fate in the eyes of the state, either. Considering my dubious relationship with the IRS, though, I’m sure they’ll let me know someone out there has my existence in consideration. Someone’s got my back.
Today, I can only hope that one day another little doppelganger-in-name isn’t receiving notice causing her to suddenly mourn my solitary death. I would much rather have her attend my piñata party and celebrate our shared crappy-named legacy. We’ll just wait and see.
I do know that LA’s Mary has made me want to make sure that I will only share her name and not her fate. And because of that, I pray, she’ll somehow get notice that she didn’t really die alone.