WEST FORK KICKAPOO - Two years ago, we had just sprung Mom loose from what had to be Milwaukee’s worst care center, moved the furnishings from her ginormous two-bedroom apartment into an assisted living facility, and begun the mind-boggling process of figuring out her finances.
My brother, Jack, called and asked me to pick Mom up the following day and take her to the bank, where she could close out her personal checking account, leaving only the new account she’d recently co-opened with him. Because she was 92, she and Jack had agreed this was the right thing to do, especially with her poor eyesight.
Nodding while Jack explained the what, why, and how of Mom’s bank situation, I hung up, thinking, Simple!My plan was to pick Mom up, have her use her walker, drive her to the bank, and assist in any way possible.
I’d forgotten that nothing involving a walker, motorized cart, or wheelchair was easy with Mom. She liked to maintain her independence by fleeing on these gadgets whenever I turned my back. I once lost her in the grocery store, until I saw cans falling from an end-cap; and on a museum outing she’d managed to roll away so fast while I was looking at an exhibit, I thought she’d been kidnapped.
When I arrived to pick Mom up, it seemed to take an hour for her to maneuver from her room, down the hallway, and outside. After loading her walker into the car, we drove to the bank. No sooner had I parked the car than Mom swung her door open and was hopping out like a kid hyped up on six bowls of sugar crisps.
“Wait, Mom, wait, you’re going to fall again!” I cautioned, but she trotted off.
Grabbing her walker, I dashed after her. Pushing it smartly with one hand, she marched up to the first teller. I said, “Hi, I’m here to help my Mom close her account, but keep the one she opened more recently with my broth—”
Before I could finish, Mom shoved me aside, pulled her tiny, frail self up to her full five-foot-two (on an incline), and said loudly, “I don’t know what I’m doing here. I fell and had a concussion and when I woke up I was in a prison. It was awful.”
“Oh, gosh, no! Umm, Mom that’s not accurate. You fell in your apartment months ago and the ambulance took you to the hospital. And later, because you hurt your arm, they transported you to a care facility for rehab. They checked out your head—it was fine.”
The teller's eyes became the size of flying saucers, and she said, “Just a minute. I’ll be right back.”
Meanwhile, Mom seemed calm and was standing stronger than she had in months. She loved an audience, and by the looks of the teller, who was now coming back, she was going to get one.
“I talked to my manager. Why don’t you follow me to her office. Your Mom will be able to sit down.”
Good grief, I thought, the FBI is on their way.
Mom marched gaily behind the teller, telling everyone we passed how she’d just gotten out of a prison and how she’d knocked her head real hard and couldn’t remember anything. I slogged behind, pushing her walker and silently cursing my brother.
The manager engaged my mom in a conversation. As Mom’s story grew (and her nose should have too!) she wept to the manager over how she’d had money before she hit her head and now, “Theysay I don’t have any.”
I tried to interrupt, to explain how we’d moved Mom from her apartment into assisted living, and that while the cost had quadrupled, it included three meals a day, having her laundry done, snacks, activities, cleaning, and nurses’ care. But neither my mom nor the manager was listening.
Mom started listing the money she’d need for monthly haircuts, new eyeglasses, a hearing aid, food, a new bridge for her teeth, and at least $100 extra spending money: “I need to be able to tip people.” The manager was making notes and putting together a monthly expense sheet for Mom. This was going to get worse before it got better.
As we left the bank, Mom chatted about how wonderful the manager was. She was holding a piece of paper with her monthly expenses all figured out. I didn’t have the heart to remind her they hadn’t included her rent or other monthly bills. The pension Dad had left her used to be able to cover everything, but no longer.
My priority now was getting Mom back to her new home where she’d be safe and sound, and hopefully stay out of trouble. And I wanted to drive back to Viola quickly, still fearing I was going to get picked up for kidnapping my mom and tryingto make her close out her account. Which, I realized, we never got around to doing.Mom’s feistiness still makes me laugh out loud. However, I did refuse to take her back to the bank: Jack had to do it.