The Checkbook

This is a classic yet extreme example of what’s happening with my mom.

On the 30th, as I dropped her off from a visit to meet her great grandson, I asked her for her blue checkbook in order to update the register. This is the account she uses to pay bills for her mainland house, which is two blocks from us. When she is at her Island home I pay bills for her mainland home electronically from this account. I used to e-mail her the entries so she could update the blue checkbook. After the first time or two, she e-mailed me back, repeatedly, asking for the entries again because she couldn’t find my original e-mail to her. This kept happening. In late November I went to the Island to spend a couple of days with her. I found no less than 6 post-it note with the same four electronic blue checkbook entries written on them. This is when I knew there was no point letting her know, via e-mail, what was being paid. She doesn’t have the capacity to get the entries into her checkbook. I knew I needed to get my hands on the checkbook so I could write in the entries myself.

She handed me the checkbook on the afternoon of the 30th. I went back to the hospital to bask in the glow of my perfect grandson. My mother and husband met me for a late dinner that evening. Mom announced she would head back to the Island the next day. My husband dropped mom off on the way home. Before he could get back to our place (remember, she lives two blocks away), she called to say she couldn’t live without the checkbook. I asked her why. She got pissy with me and said, in a tone one would use on a stone cold stupid teenager, “I have bills to pay!” I reminded her that I had the blue checkbook, the one she historically uses for the mainland house. She backed right off of her attitude, said she’d forgotten, apologized and bid me sweet dreams.

The phone rang at 9am on the 31st. We were sound asleep. I got out of bed to confirm it was mom. T’was. I got back in bed without answering it. A few minutes later my cell phone started buzzing in the kitchen. Just before 9:30 the doorbell started ringing, repeatedly. At the same time, the door was being pounded and the brass ship’s bell that’s installed by the door was being clanged, all at once. My mother has a hidden third hand. We were still in bed. Did I mention the front door is less than 15 feet from our bed, as the crow flies? I looked at my husband and asked, “Are you going to answer the door all pissed off, or am I?” He quickly got out of bed. Recently he told me I was all soft and tender and only hard and gristly when ‘afoul a mood.’

All I heard was my mother’s voice at its most querulous. My husband returned to our bedroom and said, “She wants her checkbook.” I rocketed out of bed and glared down the half flight of stairs to the foyer where my mother stood looking up at me like I was a stone cold stupid teenager. I asked her why she needed the blue checkbook. She almost screeched that she needed it to pay bills. I said, “We had this conversation last night. I have the blue checkbook. You use it to pay bills here. You don’t need it on the Island.” She said she didn’t remember having the conversation. This is where I have to work very hard on holding my cool. It’s challenging to separate her memory loss from feeling like she doesn’t recall what we talked about because it’s not important enough. Been there done that in a prior relationship. I simply repeated that we’d talked about it last night on the phone and I didn’t appreciated being woken up by these histrionics. She apologized but qualified the apology by saying how late it was. She knew she’d crossed a wide fat line with her behavior.

As she left she told me, “We’re heading back today.” She still talks in the plural as though my dad is still alive. It’s habit.

I hope two things were accomplished by this. Usually before she leaves, she needs us to remind her how to get out of the neighborhood, repeatedly in the same 30-90 seconds. This time she didn’t. Possibly, because she knew we were upset she took a step in self-reliance. And, perhaps she may be able to admit to herself that something is wrong.

Mom called my husband yesterday. She left her briefcase with the rest of her checkbooks in it at the mainland house. She said she would get on the ferry to come pick it up. He was able to dissuade her of this notion. It’s a $70+ round trip with ferry tolls and gas. I can overnight it for $20. This morning I’ve created a new register, balanced it and will include the blue checkbook in the mailing because when I got home last night, there was voice mail asking for it again.

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