Su Lum: Slumming
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
Early this summer, I arrived at work to find a large manuscript on my desk titled “Against Her Will,” by John Wyman.
I don’t know John very well. He cut my hair for a while when he shared the Ulibari salon above the Butcher’s Block, and I remembered him telling me that his grandfather was the elusive and mysterious B. Traven, who wrote “Treasure of the Sierra Madre” and other books while living under many pseudonyms.
Now here was a manuscript out of the blue written by John, and I had no idea what it was about or what to expect. With some trepidation, I started reading and then found that I couldn’t put it down.
The book was raw, both in execution and subject matter, but riveting. The meat of it was John’s battle with various social-service agencies to get his mother away from state-appointed guardians and out of a nursing home in Illinois into his own custody. It was an expose of the abuses of our current health care system for the elderly and/or incompetent, with a chilling caveat: This could happen to you or yours.
Without resources or decent legal advice, and despite a horrific childhood that made me wonder why he’d invest the energy, he just kept on keeping on, driving back and forth between Aspen and Illinois only to find hearings postponed without notice and seas of red tape and delays that would make a lesser man understandably give it up.
During this years-long nightmare, he began writing about it, and when it was over and his mother came to live with him in Woody Creek – where she is now – he was determined to get the word out.
I was not the only person to receive his manuscript. He sent it everywhere, called newspapers, radio and TV stations, and sent a copy to President Obama. I said, “John, you have a terrific story, but how can I write about it if people can’t buy it? You can’t do it with Xeroxes.” On the other hand, I didn’t know how he could get it published, either. The book wasn’t fully baked (a good part of its charm), and he was leveling serious charges against the establishment.
Last week, a copy of the book was on my desk. He did it – got it published himself (“I manifested it”) and is off and running, already garnering national publicity, and he will not falter or stop. He is on a roll. Old people are being swept up into institutions and overdrugged in the name of compassion, and behind it is a sea of fraud and financial self-interest.
A friend of mine is immersed in the exact same quagmire. Once your family member becomes a ward of the state, it is almost impossible to reverse it. Of course, some elderly people need to be protected from avaricious family members, but many also need protection from their governmental saviors.
John aptly describes “Against Her Will” as “a cautionary tale.” Every baby boomer should read it. The book is available at Explore Booksellers, where John will soon be holding a reading, and soon will be on Amazon and on John’s website. A must-read.
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