The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Pick Yourself Up June 8, 2011

Well thanks. I read your comments with tears, embarrassment, gratitude, relief. To know friends are out there really does help to keep me going. Immediately after I’d published my post I was filled with regret and shame, filled with the imagined comments of people who would justly scold me for being so full of self-pity today. Everybody has laundry. Every mom has a messy house. And chickens? I’ve lost chickens before, it’s nothing new, plus it’s to be expected in the country. Money problems? I’m able-bodied, I should just suck it up, get a day job and pack my kid off to a babysitter, right? Isn’t that what most people do? Who cares if I net two dollars an hour, at least it shows I’m trying, right?

Sometimes it must look as if I’m not really doing much about my situation. Some kind of action is called for, why have I not taken any? Why not? Now is when my mind quiets. I know why I live as I do. I know, and this is why: at the end of the day I would rather be poor and enjoy life with my son than well-off and seldom home. Although this notion doesn’t fly in a court of law – and in fact actually works against me – I can’t care about that. And because I have this ability and freedom in my life I should just cease my complaining and remember what I do have. I have the ability to do many things, and to do those things mostly when I’d like.

Today was not necessarily a bright day, but it was an important one.

I learned that my folks don’t have many great options in their future. In the beginning stages of his Alzheimer’s, dad neglected to renew his long-term care insurance and so now that’s not an option for them any more, in spite of them having once had it in place and having paid for it for a while. A real disappointment and waste. Wish my mom had taken action when she realized this, but hell, I know that the feeling of defeat kinda zaps you of the resolve to fight. She might have had a chance of appealing this when it happened, some seven years ago, but not today. Looks like the Tiffany lamp which hung in my dad’s childhood home might have to go to pay for the Jamaican lady who’ll have to come out to the house to look after him in his aged years. (Maybe not, as this may become my own full-time job one day.) If they title the house and other stuff over to me, then I won’t have the lifeline of welfare that currently keeps us fed, because on paper I’ll show to have financial means. And as I understand, if they put their few assets into a trust, the NY state laws may well end up allowing Medicare to attach it all anyway a couple years down the line, in order to pay back the system for any medical bills it’s covered thus far. (Apparently the new laws which we’ve yet to learn are being written as we speak.) How is that a trust? I thought trusts were supposed to protect against that kind of stuff. ?? Ok. Great prospects.

Is it all really so bleak? I look out on the landscape of the people around me and wonder, are they doing well or not? Do they understand their own financial futures or are they a big guessing game? How many know the rules – and how many don’t know and don’t care? My father’s mother burned through a couple million dollars – thirty years ago – languishing in a nursing home for a decade. At that point in her life she remembered no one. All the money her husband had carefully invested and set aside during all of their lives served no other person or purpose but to pay for her bed and meals as she lay there, just waiting for her death. God save us from that fate.

Leaving the elder lawyer’s office, I didn’t feel any better, in fact I felt worse, although I said something like ‘at least it feels good to know’ to my mom. Yeah, right. Thought there would have been more options. Well, we’ll do our homework, set up another appointment and hope that the future brightens up a bit by then.

Turns out I have a $15 credit with the garbage collector. That was good news. I enjoyed a nice exchange with the gal on the other end of the phone and we both laughed about it. Ok. I’ll take that. Pleasant chat, good news. Moving down my to-do list. I learned it will cost and additional $400 should Elihu and I choose to use our airplane tickets to Chicago before they expire in August; there is a myriad of fees atop the ticket price, making it likely I’ll bail and lose my initial purchase price of $600 altogether. (They’d been bought one year ago when it looked likely that Fareed and I had reached an agreement on our settlement. I was coming out for the court date. Turned out he wasn’t in agreement, and there was no need for my being present for yet another pointless court date.)

Sick feeling, gotta move on here. Decided to be proactive and called one of the three legal firms which continues to send me scary letters each month regarding payment of my marital credit card balances. Nothing interests them except money. Calling to say hi doesn’t do a thing. If I wasn’t sure before, I am now. They may take legal action, I hear them say. They may put a lien against the house in Dekalb. Go ahead, I have nothing to lose. Really. Bad feeling in stomach, but at least I tried.

Sometime during my disheartening day of grown-up nonsense, I ended up canceling the appointment with Elihu’s mobility gal that we’d had planned for after school, because I thought it would just be too much in addition to the news I’d yet to give him. Thankfully she agreed. So I picked him up after school, took him out to get a snack at the local store (something I seldom do) and then finally drove him home, dreading the scene to follow.

I’d stalled as much as I could, finally I sat him down at the kitchen table for our talk. ‘I have something serious to tell you’ I said. I tried to prepare him for the moment. ‘What?’ he asked. ‘It really is serious, I just want you to know. It’ll all be ok, but it’s kind of sad.’ His eyes were fixed on me and the moment seemed to linger, timeless. ‘We lost all our chicks today’. He paused, never taking his eyes from mine. ‘All of them?’ I nodded. I wanted to say as little as possible, to let him express all he needed to. I was ready just to be there for him. I watched his face. Nothing. No scrunching up and crying, no laughing with discomfort, no anger, nothing. I told him that I’d cried all morning, and that if he wanted to cry of course he should. Once again, he was stoic. ‘I want to see’ he said, very seriously. ‘Yes, I wanted you to. I didn’t move them at all. I just waited for you to come home’. We walked out to the garage. He moved among the small bodies, picking each one up very matter-of-factly, examining them, noting how much was left, speculating how they must have died. At each one, he’d say their name and say that he’d miss them. Then he tossed them into a bin. He came to Pickles, the pretty, all white one named by a friend, and his voice sounded sad. ‘Oh, Pickles, I’m sorry’. He asked me to take a picture of her for the girl who’d named the chick. We set her aside. Finally, he came to Josephina, the black barred rock hen who’d been born on his birthday. ‘Jo-se-phee-na, oh Josehpina’ he lamented. But he did not cry. We set her aside too. We decided the rest would get tossed for the crows (and coons too, probably) and we’d bury Pickles and Josephina.

All in all, I think he did very well. Sometimes I wonder at how easily he takes this news; his father would likely say Elihu’s becoming acclimated, somehow desensitized to the deaths of his ‘pets’, but I would not agree. He acknowledged them, thanked them and then sent them on their way into the universe. After we wiped the dirt from our hands Elihu mused quietly ‘that’s life on a farm, I guess’. He wasn’t broken-hearted, but neither was he jumping with joy. It was what it was. A moment of stock-taking, of  pause, before moving on once again.

Elihu lost a tooth today. And while watching the Monty Python ‘Piranha Brothers’ sketch on you tube. ! A happy moment. And tonite, as I fished around under his pillow for the tooth and slid in the bill (yes, a bill, and having foolishly set the precedent at the market value of $5, that’s again what the tooth fairy left) I considered how lucky I was to know this moment. How lucky I was that I would have this to remember one day.

Hookay. Got it out of my system now. Time to pick myself up, dust myself off, start all over again.

 

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