Thursday, March 10, 2011

Odd doc Thursday: the ROE form for the DOD

For years, I got frequent correspondence from the Department of Defense regarding my mother's marital status. Over and over, in perfect impersonal documentese, I was asked if my mother had remarried. I had to check in a box to say she had not. I always added a scrawled note to the effect that, "my mother has Alzheimer's and is not fit to marry." And then the next month, another one came. And another. Finally, I sent in a copy of my certificate of guardianship, adding that my mother was not capable of remarrying, and please stop sending the request. As of today (not because this arrived today, but because I am cleaning house, so that I know now that I'm late in responding to the request), I received this note. I gather that my mother has graduated from someone who might defraud the DOD by remarrying, into someone who might assist me in defrauding the DOD by ceasing to exist. Here's the verbiage; I've taken off the header, which includes her social security number.

This is no nameless form; it is called the "Report of Existence form," one that assures you, not that she is alive, but that she exists. The part of me that nurses perpetual irony marvels at this: yes, it now is a question of existence for her. That's the point. Her "life" (is there a "Report of Life" form?) has been edited down to the size of such a form; that she exists, rather than living what we sometimes refer to as a "full life" (ah, Lakoff & Johnson, your containers are showing), is the point. Not the point that they're getting after, however. More irony. This is about money, after all. If you exist, you get your late husband's pension. If you no longer exist, the money runs dry.

This is the ROE that I will sign and send back. I will not discuss the problematics of my mother's getting paid for the work my father did in the military until he retired in the early 1960s, because of course military funding is sacrosanct in this country. But I will write a note to say that yes, my mother is still alive, thank you. I will put content on the form, but that doesn't mean they're [in] any relation to one another.

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