My Father -- 30 Year Career U.S. Diplomat -- Left Out To Dry

"You probably have never heard his name, though you might recognize his face. You may not know the lives led by career U.S. diplomats over the last fifty-odd years, but people like my father bled red, white, and blue during the Cold War years, ushered in a new era of relations with the Third World, and wrote the book on how to deal with integrity with people across the world. His kind were rare, and are much more rare today. He truly cared about the world.

My father is William Schaufele. He began his diplomatic career in Germany, in 1950, after having served as a tanker in World War Two, fighting in the important battle of Bastogne, the fulcrum of the much larger Battle of the Bulge offensive. As the fifties ended, he then shifted his focus to Africa, which would become his area of expertise, and served in Casablanca for four years. Next he moved to Bukavu, The Congo -- now the Democratic Republic of Congo -- opening a consulate there. Following a few years back in the United States, he was then appointed U.S. Ambassador to what is now called Burkina Faso, in West Africa, by Nixon. In the 1970's, with ambassadorial status, he worked at the U.S. Mission to the UN, under George Herbert Walker Bush, a typically benumbed, unknowing political appointee, out of his depths in the diplomatic arena. After stints as Inspector General and Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, he was named U.S. Ambassador to Poland in the late 70's, and so witnessed Solidarity and the naming of the Polish Pope. After his tour there he retired, not wanting to serve under the incoming administration of Ronald Reagan, and became President of the Foreign Policy Association, headquartered in New York City.

Throughout his career he won awards and the admiration of many Third World leaders. He was truly one of the few Americans African leaders felt they could trust, and in the end that may be his lasting legacy.

Over the past few years Dad had become quite infirm, and his mental faculties began to fail him. It is always so difficult to see someone who had such command of all their talents suddenly reduced in strength and stamina and mental acuity. So, about a year ago now, my Mother and I made the decision that we couldn't properly care for him anymore -- we had been successful doing so for quite some time, but it became too much for us -- and we placed him into an assisted living facility in Northwestern Connecticut, nearby where my parents had retired.

Now the truth hit us like a ton of bricks. Dad's health care would not cover the cost for the 24 hour care he required. We made inquiries to all the proper government agencies, pulled every rabbit out of hat we could think of, but it was not going to happen. A thirty year career diplomat, award winning, well respected and beloved, responsible for some of the few *good moves* enacted by the United States over the past fifty years, was left out to dry by his government insured health care.

Quickly we switched over to Medicaid, which would pick up roughly fifty percent of the cost of the 24 hour care, and breathed deeply with prayers, hoping this would somehow work. The monthly cost for caring for him is around $12,000, so we wound up having to pay roughly $6,000 a month. Now a year has passed, and dear dad is still fighting for life, breathing, eating, and seeing his family every day, though his condition continues to worsen.

But we cannot afford to keep paying for the care. It has finally come to this. And we are on the verge of having to sell the family house, the only thing of value we have left. Now, it's easy to think that we're rich -- and there are certainly millions of people out there in the United States who have it worse than we do -- but we certainly are not rich, in any way, shape, or form. We once had security, in the house and in investments. But it has all dwindled away because of the escalating prices of everything these days, including health care. We are not rich. We have next to nothing. And now we are being forced to make the extremely difficult decision to sell our house in order to take care of dear Dad.

We all know what's happening to the economy in this country. To sell property at this time is akin to economic suicide. Clearly we are on the verge of a depression, no matter what our corporate media tell us. And our family finds itself in the position in which so many wonderful Americans find themselves: having to sell out to the system in order to stay alive. I have investigated alternatives, contacted various governmental associations, sought out any avenue I could find, to help us. Heck, I've even considered contacting Henry Kissinger, with whom my father once worked. But we all know about Henry, don't we? Who the hell would want to shake hands with a world renown war criminal, one of the chief architects of our demise in this country, just to get some financial assistance for a slowly dying true hero? We sure don't. We would rather waste away than go there. After all, we still have integrity, while Henry can't even travel to most places in the world for fear of being arrested. We will have to sell the house.

The story of William Schaufele is a sad, broadly-stroked picture of what has happened to this country. While many Americans remain hoodwinked by what they hear, see, and read, we in fact have already lost just about everything, and the bottom is going to drop out any time now. And the mere fact that my dear father has been left out to dry, impoverishing his family as a result, because of a corporate driven health care system and an unconcerned, uncaring governmental infrastructure, is just one painful thread in the rapidly deteriorating tapestry of America.

--Peter Schaufele

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