UFF DA Revisited

Wisconsin ID

A few weeks ago I blogged about taking “Mary” (one of the people we care for) to the Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles to get an official State ID card. She may need the Wisconsin ID to vote, but more urgently, she needs a State ID to cash in a U.S. Government Savings Bond. As you may recall reading in my May 20, 2014 blog post, we were unsuccessful in getting the ID. We needed to have a certified birth certificate. Mary didn’t have one. We walked away from the DMV with the web address for the official Illinois state website where we could obtain information about how to get an Illinois birth certificate. (Illinois is where Mary was born.) Keep in mind that Mary is 92 years old – will turn 93 later this month. She is not computer savvy.

I had titled the May 20 blog post “UFF DA” (a mild Norwegian expletive) because I had started the day of our visit to the DMV by reading the following prayer:

Grant me the grace to look with respect
upon all I will meet this day
and upon every event I encounter.
Mindful that I am a pilgrim,
may I treat each and every one with reverence and love,
as a manifestation of you to whom I journey.
[from Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim by Edward Hays]

Uff daI was anticipating some frustration in dealing with the state, based on prior experiences I’ve had. (Perhaps that will be another blog post sometime.) I wasn’t looking forward to treating “with reverence and love” anyone who would be hassling Mary and me with bureaucratic rules. UFF DA! What a prayer to begin that day with!

When Mary and I got home from the DMV, I immediately logged onto the Internet to find out the process for obtaining Mary’s birth certificate. I printed out the official Illinois form to request a certified birth certificate, and I worked with Mary to fill it out. We almost couldn’t complete the form because Mary couldn’t remember her mother’s maiden name. But then she thought of a cousin who might remember the name. We called her cousin, and fortunately, the cousin remembered the name. After completing the form, I made copies of Mary’s Medicare card, old Illinois ID card, and a bank statement showing her current address. We enclosed a check for $15, and sent everything to Springfield.

About three weeks later we received a letter from Springfield with an interesting enclosure – NOT a birth certificate, but instead a different document, “State of Illinois – Certification that record was not found.” The cover letter explained that Illinois does not have any record of Mary’s birth and that this certificate, along with one or more other documents that “prove the birth facts,” can be presented instead of a birth certificate for all official purposes.

At 9:00 Monday morning, June 23, Mary and I walked through the door of the DMV in Madison, armed with her “Certification that record was not found” document, her official Illinois ID which included her birth date, her social security card, and a bank statement showing her current address.

Waiting in Long LineI was a little alarmed to see that the line to check in stretched all the way to the door. There were at least twenty people in line ahead of us. I asked Mary if she needed to sit down while I stood in line for her. It was early in the day, and this little 92-year-old lady said she thought she could stand in line okay. Hopefully, the line would move fast.

By 9:17 we were at the head of the line. I explained to the clerk what we needed and gave her the Wisconsin ID application form, which we had already completed. She asked for a certified birth certificate. I gave her the “State of Illinois – Certification that record was not found” document and Mary’s Illinois ID. The clerk looked confused, and I explained that Mary had been born at home and that there was no official record of her birth. According to the letter Mary had received from Illinois, this should suffice. The clerk was satisfied with the explanation and asked Mary to sign her name on one of those little digital boxes like you sign when you use a credit card in a store. Mary had never used one of those before, and the stylus she had to use was as blunt as a pencil eraser, and the image on the screen was a little distorted. The clerk patiently cleared the screen for her so she could start over, three times. Finally, there was a satisfactory signature, and the clerk asked her to “click on the OK button.” Mary had no idea what she meant. I pointed to the OK box on the screen and asked Mary to touch it with the pen. She did that, and then stepped over to the wall opposite the camera to get her picture taken. The clerk snapped her picture, verified the picture was okay, smiled at us, gave us our paperwork, and told us to sit in the waiting area until our number was called.

By 9:30 our number was called. We walked to window #8 and handed our paperwork to the clerk. She asked us what we wanted. I replied that we were there for a Wisconsin ID. She asked for a birth certificate. I pointed to the “State of Illinois – Certification that record was not found” document and the Illinois ID that I had given her already. She had no idea what to do with that response. She asked the clerk working in the window next to her what to do. That clerk said to talk to their supervisor. So, our clerk left us, and went to get her supervisor. About five minutes later she came back with her supervisor.

frustrationThe supervisor asked for Mary’s marriage certificate. We didn’t have that with us, and Mary didn’t even know if she still had that document. I pointed out to the clerk that she was 92 years old and that she was from an era and culture where husbands took care of all family records, and her husband was deceased. The supervisor still wanted us to go home (20 miles away) and look for the marriage certificate.

We discussed alternatives for the next twenty minutes. During that time, Mary was getting more and more frustrated. At one point she said, “The damn thing’s not worth it. Let’s go home.”

I think her language surprised the supervisor. I persisted, saying, “It shouldn’t be this difficult. She just wants a Wisconsin ID to cash her savings bonds and maybe vote. I doubt very much that she will be able to find her marriage certificate. The documents we have provided should be sufficient to prove she is who she says she is.” I also pulled out a copy of the completed request for the birth certificate that we had sent to Springfield, which had prompted her receiving the certificate stating there was no birth record. That request provided her date of birth and connected her maiden name to her married name.

After more exploration of alternatives, the supervisor finally said to the clerk (not to us), “Well, this is quite a stretch, but use the ‘State of Illinois – Certification that record was not found’ document, Illinois ID, and Social Security card to process the request.” The supervisor walked away without looking at us.

The clerk, without saying anything to us, keyed a lot of keystrokes into the computer, and finally handed us a sheet of paper. She said, “You can use this paper as an ID until your card arrives in the mail. You should receive it in a week or two. If you have not received it in two weeks, you can call this number on the top of the page, but DO NOT CALL before two weeks!” It was clear that she was not happy that Mary was getting a Wisconsin ID without providing more documentation. The clerk had a very stern look on her face. She looked back at her computer, expecting us to leave.

I started to walk away, but Mary stepped closer to the counter. “May God bless you, ma’am. Thank you for helping me. And may you be truly blessed, and may you have a wonderful day.”

The clerk looked up, stunned. I was a little surprised, too. Obviously, Mary is living a life much like the prayer I read a month ago:

Grant me the grace to look with respect
upon all I will meet this day
and upon every event I encounter.
Mindful that I am a pilgrim,
may I treat each and every one with reverence and love,
as a manifestation of you to whom I journey.

UFF DA! I guess there are still more things I can learn by example from our elders.

"May you be truly blessed,  and may you have a wonderful day."
“May you be truly blessed,
and may you have a wonderful day.”


4 responses to “UFF DA Revisited”

  1. Jane Korsberg Avatar
    Jane Korsberg

    What an ordeal! Bless you, Marian, for perseverance and Mary for grace under fire.

  2. Marian — you are a blessing to all who come to live with you and Mim. I’m thankful for your patience and persistence! You went through a lot with the DMV and other agencies for this sweet lady! “Angels on earth . . .” 🙂

  3. I love the prayer and the insight … As well as hearing your story :-). It’s easy to forget that reverence and love once we’re in the middle of a busy and frustrating day!

    1. That’s why it’s so important to be sensitive to what we can learn from whoever crosses our path each day. I’m very fortunate to have all these 90-year-olds in my life.

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