Vital Signs

Hillary Clinton and My Grandmother's Toenails

My grandmother was a frugal lady. She was a warm, friendly, and loving person, but she could squeeze a dollar until George Washington's eyes crossed. When she frosted a cake she used only half of each ingredient in the recipe, so the frosting was paper-thin and tended to disappear after a day or two, but she always had a slice for us kids when we wanted it.

Grandmother's legendary parsimony extended to all areas of her life. For example, no one in the family can remember her going to see a doctor during her first 85 years. I'm sure she had her share of colds and flu, but she would never have been willing to pay for a doctor's advice or treatment unless it was absolutely necessary. Most people of her generation felt the same way about doctors, which is one of the primary reasons why medical care was far less expensive in Grandmother's day.

Being a practical person, Grandmother decided around age 86 to sell her house and rent an apartment in a "senior citizens' home," where she would have the security of other people around her and a professional staff to call on if needed. The high rent seemed to be justified by the amenities offered. One of these amenities was free medical care.

Of course, the medical care was not free at all. It was paid for by Medicare and by the tenants themselves as part of their rent, but since none of the seniors ever had to write a check to pay for a doctor's...

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