Reckoning Part 1

(I am posting this in two parts as after I finished it, it seemed too long.)

Of course everything changes. Since I’m here for ten days I figured the constant would be spending early mornings in this rocking chair by the bay, thinking and writing. When I was sitting here earlier it seemed money would be the thing today.  Then it all got twisted – phone calls from both last night and this morning haven’t changed the fact that I need to deal with money but have pissed me off so I’m not sure how to begin. And it pulls in so many situations, with so many people…the bay is still here, the clouds both harmless and threatening, I’m still rocking in my chair, trying to breathe. Serenity cannot be forced.

I’ve lots of fear around money which tells me I haven’t a whole lot of faith. I don’t mean the kind of faith that says “Don’t worry, everything will be all right.” Because my definition of “all right” in any given situation might not be what is so. That doesn’t mean the outcome was wrong, just different. If I insist only my way is correct I’m in for a world of sorrow, disappointment and rage. A better definition of faith is, “I will be able to handle this and there is help to ask for if I need it.” I’d do well to stick with that when it comes to money. Of course, that also requires my willingness to admit I need help and the humility to ask for it. I prefer to do things on my own. I have an attitude of “who needs you?” born from needing to take care of myself best as I could since I was a kid. Early example: first day of Kindergarten meant all us little ones were brought to the school cafeteria and assigned to tables based on who our new teacher was to be. I walked in happy and confident and looked around at the myriad of crying kids clinging to their parents. What babies, I thought. Who cries over their parents? I took my seat at the head of the table and never looked back.

By 5-years-old I’d learned the value of “not needing,” which was really a survival skill. It’s also a hindrance as no person is an island. Insisting that’s true requires denial and self-deception. But back to money, and to start with, Alzheimer’s. My mom’s Alzheimer’s has forced my brother and I to look at her finances. My mom has always been independent . My dad died nine year ago and she’s been living in their single family home since. She has a family friend who sees to any repairs that she might need. She has a car, so she comes and goes as she pleases.  My brother and I have never been on top of her finances but there was never a need to be. She’s got Social Security and a couple of pensions from my dad. She has my uncle M (her brother) who (we thought) she could rely on who lives close by, and another decades-old friend who’s an accountant who helps her pay her bills and file her taxes.

A friend of Maria’s here at the shore has met my mom and adores her. You probably would, too. You didn’t grow up with her. She’s a friendly old lady who looks terrific for her age and that has big cachet. But not as big as it drawbacks. Last April my mom spent $800 at her hairdresser, which doesn’t include the $200 gift certificate given her as a birthday present that month. That is an outrageous amount for someone on a small fixed income. She goes to her hairdresser every Friday – for all she forgets from Alzheimer’s, that she never does. I’m sure it’s because she’s been doing it for decades. I called her hairdresser to set limits. Then there’s her nails. We found out she’d been going two – three times a week to get tips put on at $80 a pop, going home and pulling them off, forgetting she did so and going back a day or two later and doing it again. My mom’s friend M reported this to me, and told me the woman at the nail salon kept trying to talk my mom into a simple and less expensive manicure but my mom became belligerent and insisted on her tips. I went to the salon and spoke to the owner myself, then had to tell my mom no more. She didn’t believe me, insisted she didn’t pull them off, insisted she wanted her tips.

My brother and I have since had to take her car away as both her GP and Neurologist say she can no longer drive. In case we needed proof, R pulled the car out of the garage a few weeks after we took her keys away and discovered a huge dent in the driver’s side fender that went from the top of the hood to under the bumper, along with a hole in the fender. She didn’t know it was there. And when R brought the car to the body shop to appraise the damage, the mechanic asked if we also wanted to fix the dent on the passenger side, the one we we hadn’t noticed. 

We’ve hired a companion who drives my mom around and who has instructions that she is only to get a manicure and only once a week. We’ve been working with a senior advisor to set up a trust so she can get Medicaid which will pay for home care in a way that her Medicare won’t. We are working to get her the VA benefits she’s entitled to since my dad was a veteran during the Korean War. We’ve had to look into her reverse mortgage which means her crazy expensive one-family-semi-attached-home-with-a-tiny-concrete-backyard is worth a fraction of its value to her since she spent most of what it’s worth. I don’t exactly understand reverse mortgages, don’t want to. All I know is money I thought would be available to take care of her in her old age should she need it is not there. Neither is what I also thought would be both my and my brother’s inheritance.

Talking about inheriting is embarrassing. When I think about it I automatically look at it from the outside in, meaning what it is you all (whoever “you-all” might be) will think of me. That I am callous and greedy. That my mom has Alzheimer’s and I am worrying about the wrong things. It doesn’t, of course, matter what anyone thinks. It matters that I look from the inside out, at what is driving the way I react. This is a tough one – a really, really tough one – because there is a lot of pain here, pain I’ve managed to put off dealing with because I never thought I’d be in the position of having to deal with my mother in this way. I come from what people call “good genes.” My family is pretty healthy and for whatever my uncles who’ve passed have died from, no one has gotten Alzheimer’s. I just assumed one day my mom would die, my brother and I would sell the house and split the money. And not that it would be a terribly lot of money, but enough that I could finally buy something for myself somewhere that I’d actually want to live.

Next, Part 2

© 2022 Denise Smyth

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ed Hack
    Sep 05, 2022 @ 07:45:20

    Feels…rushed…

    Reply

  2. Denise
    Sep 05, 2022 @ 08:11:02

    Trying to tell too much, too fast? I can’t aiways hear myself…

    Reply

  3. Ed Hack
    Sep 05, 2022 @ 08:54:18

    No, not too much too fast, but not, yet, said decisively enough. Not quite nailed.

    Reply

  4. Denise
    Sep 05, 2022 @ 11:56:08

    Okay – sounds like I need to incorporate some breathing.

    Reply

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