Have you any stash?

“Bobby, it’s a tumor.”

I can still see Frank Hampton looking directly into my father’s face and saying those horrible words.  He had wanted to tell my dad himself, since he and my dad had been friends for years.  I felt the bottom drop out of my stomach – sort of like what happens when you’re on a carnival ride, except this wasn’t fun at all.  It was literally deadly serious.

The day was September 26, 2001.  Frank had admitted Dad to the hospital because he woke up that morning not making any sense when he spoke.  We thought he’d had a stroke.  At the time, the MRI was at the imaging center in Rome, so I took a ride in the ambulance over with Dad.  He knew every doctor in town because of his work with the hospital authority.  After his test, every doctor scattered.  I knew something was very wrong then, but I just didn’t know how bad it was.

I didn’t realize at the time how profoundly that day changed my life as I threw myself into researching brain tumors and, upon finding out he had the absolute worst kind you could have, researching what treatment options there were.  Going over his assets with him before the brain surgery so somebody would know what was going on if he shouldn’t survive it. I made a legal pad of information that I lived by for six months after his death.

But that day was when I switched from being a 43 year old adult who had very little responsibility outside of a job to a caregiver.  And I stayed in that role for the next 13 years till Mom passed.

I know that God has a purpose for everything.  I had to grow up fast during Dad’s illness, and I appreciated the fact that he had been so proactive in getting everything in order so that I could just manage things.  But the tumor gave me a gift in an odd way – I found out more about Dad’s boyhood and how he grew up with his siblings in the time he could still speak than I had ever learned before.  I treasure the lunches we had together on the two days a week I’d come up to take him to his radiation treatments.

Dad and I had always been close. He had a dry sense of humor that I adored. He’d get a twinkle in his eye before he did something silly.  And I couldn’t believe I was going to have to go on without him.  But by the end of three months, I had to let him go to God. It was a blessing because he was in such pain.

I learned a lot while Dad was sick.  I learned while watching my husband gently help my father take care of himself, then again years later while he held my mother down so they could medicate her while she was delirious (while tears were streaming down his face), that I had married the right man. He loved my parents, and he loved me during the nights of crying (which still happen).  I learned what a fantastic church family I have who supported me and came to Rome and stood with me at the funeral – both times.  And I learned that I have a core of friends who I’ve chosen as family.

September 26, 2001 changed everything in my life. I spent the next thirteen years essentially as a caregiver – first guiding Mom through living without the person on whom she’d been dependent for 52 years… then helping her through her final struggles with emphysema and dementia. It’s been two years since she passed, and I’m still adjusting to life without taking care of someone.  I’m watching my friends starting down the same path I’ve already traveled, and I wish I could make the way easier…

Fifteen years have passed since my life path altered so radically.  I miss my parents daily. But, when all is said and done, and I consider all that has happened and the road I’ve traveled – in the words of the beautiful hymn… “It Is Well With My Soul.”  Thanks be to the God who never left me.

(with apologies once again to my friend Jackie, who is a very nice person who works for them)

I have a friend for whom I do some business work who has a business account at BOA.  Opened it thirty six years ago in 1980.  She runs an organized business and is very low maintenance, banking-wise.

This past week she had need to open a second business account to do some online transactions.  I figured she’d go, open the account, transfer some money from her primary account, and be done with it.  Easy peasy.

Obviously I forgot who we were dealing with.  The manager at the branch informed my friend that a) there was no way they could open this account without the *original* paperwork she presented thirty six years ago and b) she’d have to keep an astronomical minimum balance in it.

Now, I understand that the business environment has changed in 36 years, but I have small businesses opening accounts all the time without such demands for documentation.  How many people do you know who can lay their hands on paperwork that old?  Anyone? Bueller??   I could have understood the demands if it were a new business coming in – but it was an existing account holder trying to open an additional account.

All of this to me was code for “We don’t want your business anymore.” I advised her that it was time to change banks to someone more business friendly – which is exactly what’s going to happen this coming week.

I still find it amazing that banks can treat people like this and stay in business… but then, based on my personal experience with BOA, I shouldn’t be surprised by anything.

 

We recently purchased a new, larger bird feeder. Our smaller one was doing a great job feeding only the finches, nuthatches, and other smaller birds, but I really missed the big guys… woodpeckers, the occasional flicker, and most of all, my cardinals.  Even though the cardinals were on the box of the smaller feeder, it just wasn’t to their liking.

Predictably, it was just a matter of time before the squirrels bellied up to the sunflower seed bar that’s hanging from off my deck. One has started hanging by his (her?) toes from the top while he dines to his heart’s content from the easy pickins.

I have nothing against squirrels, really.  I find their antics comical.  But, frankly, the price of seed has gone up just like everything else, and my intention was to feed birds…

Working from home today, I gazed out, and our furry contortionist was having a late brunch.  I pounded on the windows.  The squirrel looked up as if to say “hey!” then went back to his (her?) meal. I pounded some more.  The only result was that my hand hurt and the squirrel remained entrenched at the feeder.

I looked at Penny. Time to earn that kibble, girl.

Now, when our precious Oscar was with us, the mere sound of the word “squirrel” would send him into a fury. He’d fly to the door going out to the deck, barking his fool head off, and wait to be released to do his level best to catch the offending creature. We could say “squirrel” and he’d leap up onto the chair to see out the window to get a look at his prey.  We’d open the door to the back yard and he’d run straight to the tree where he just knew they lived, barking for them to come down and meet their doom.

Eventually, the word “squirrel” was banned in our house in favor of the less troublesome “furry tailed rodent” or “FTR” for short.

Penny looked up at me waiting for a treat.  “Penny!  Squirrel!”

A totally blank stare came back at me.  I went to the door to the deck.

“SQUIRREL!!!  SQUIRREL!!” I  screamed as I opened the door.  The squirrel, oblivious to all the commotion, was still hanging onto the feeder.

Penny sauntered out onto the deck, walked right past where the squirrel had climbed up to access his brunch, and then turned around and looked at me like “what??”  Evidently unless there’s a visible treat, life doesn’t exist higher than dachshund head-level.

The squirrel, now seeing me on the porch, did his (her?) best dive off the feeder, into the hydrangea below, and across the yard and up the tree.

Up at the Rainbow Bridge, I’m sure Oscar was barking.

With many apologies to my friend Jackie, who is truly a good and kind person currently trapped in employment by this organization, I’m going to relate what happened with the mortgage on my mother’s home.

Your mom still had a mortgage at age 85? Well, yeah.  My parents lived in that house 50+ years and remodeled it multiple times, and they always used the equity in the home to finance the remodeling.  Plus, I never let her pay it off because I didn’t want to deplete resources unnecessarily and the interest helped on taxes. But the original loan was with Countrywide, which was absorbed by The Borg Bank of America (BOA).

The trouble began when I got a notice that the mortgage payment was going up by more than 100% due to an escrow being tacked on top.  I found this more than curious, since the loan had never been escrowed.  Now, right off the bat, I’ll tell you that I neglected to inform BOA that Mom had passed.  I’ve got the house for sale, and I figured (incorrectly it seems) that the house would sell quickly and it wouldn’t be a problem.  Silly moi.

So I call BOA to talk about the escrow.  I get a gentleman on the phone who immediately asks me if I’m a representative of the estate – remember that I’ve never informed them that Mom had passed… this becomes critical. I tell him yes, then he informs me that he can’t speak to me without proper paperwork, which I then offer to fax to him.  Oh no, I can’t fax it to him, I have to send it to another department and allow at least a week to pass.

I allowed two.

I called BOA again to talk about the escrow. The first four departments couldn’t help me. Finally, on the fifth try, a woman tells me that it’s gone into escrow because they’ve purchased insurance on the property, since the insurance lapsed in October.  Excuse me??  Isn’t this important information to relay?  First I’d heard of it. I asked the woman why it took five departments to tell me that’s what was wrong — she was clueless, because she said it was right there on the same screen all of them shared.  She gave me the address and fax number to send confirmation of insurance coverage, and let me know that they’d draft the bank account for the full payment plus escrow, but then they’d refund any overage back to that account.

I called my insurance agent in a panic and got coverage on the house (NOT CHEAP) and gave her the info BOA had provided to send confirmation of coverage. I foolishly thought it had been handled….

…till I got the letter the next month informing me that I hadn’t paid the mortgage.

I checked the bank account online – sure enough, it hadn’t drafted.  I refer you to the paragraph above whereas I was told the payment would draft.

I called BOA.

“Oh no.  Mrs. Early is dead.”

“I realize that.  I’m her daughter.  I buried her.”

“We can’t draft from a dead person’s account.”

“Well, you’ve been doing it for nearly two years… and you told me she was dead when I called you in the first place, so your organization can’t deny that you knew of her death.”

Silence on the phone…. then “Well, you’re going to have to give us another account.”

“I don’t have one.  You take it from that one or you don’t get paid.”

More silence.

“What’s the payoff?”

“I have to transfer you for that.”  She was very glad to get rid of me, and she sent me to three other departments before I landed with the next person.

“Please fax me the payoff on this mortgage – I’m going to give you my fax number.”

“That will be a $30.00 charge for a fax.”

“You. Are. Kidding.  How much to just tell me on the phone?”

“Oh, that’s free.”

“Then just tell me.”

After I got the payoff amount, she had the audacity to ask if I had received “world class service from BOA.”  Not even close.

So now, the loan is paid off, and I’ve confirmed it, but I’m still receiving threatening letters for non-payment. I’m going to wait another month, then I’m going to sic my attorney on them.  My family has never, ever missed a payment on a mortgage in our lives, and we wouldn’t have then if BOA had lived up to their end of the bargain and done what they said their representative would do.  I am appalled that someone would be treated this way following the death of a loved one.

 

 

 

Dear Mom…

It’s been a year since you went home to be with Dad.  I just wanted you to know that I’m ok down here.

I’m not going to say that things haven’t been really different.  I mean, there are still times when I reach for the phone to call you.  And I catch myself looking at the clock at 7:30 every night, because that was the time I’d normally check in.  And, I find that when I’m out with my besties, I have this little voice in the back of my head that says I need to get home to check on you. Then I remember that you’re all right… you’re with our Lord and with Dad and with Mamaw and Papaw and all your brothers and sisters.  From what you told me about all the times you and your brothers had when you were younger, I can only imagine that there’s quite a celebration going on.

You were always worried that I’d be alone… I’m not.  I married a good man, but you knew that. I’ve got a good church family, and I’ve got a circle of girlfriends who accept me for me and still love me for some reason.  And you were always worried about the house – it’s being taken care of… probably not as quickly as you would have liked, but our friends who helped take care of you are helping with that too. God sent me some good people, and I’m very thankful.  (And yes, I pay people who work for me – I know you were always worried about that too.)

Business is going well – be sure to tell Dad that.🙂  I’m as busy as I want to be.

Richard and I are taking time for us now. We bought that little place in the mountains I had told you about, and we’ve spent some time fixing it up.  We know we’re going to enjoy spending some weekends there with the dog (and yes, she still bites me… and no, I still don’t like her chewing on me, and no, she’s not really hungry, she’s still just trolling for food, but I know if you were here you’d give her every bite off your plate).  I’ve gone off on a couple of stitching weekends with friends and one all by myself. I know you never liked for me to travel alone, but I’m really alright.  You and Dad taught me how to take care of myself.

So Mom, I miss you, and I miss Dad; I love you both, and you’re never far from my thoughts. I know that you’re well and whole and happy, and I know that I’ll see you again one day.  Do me a favor and stop by the Rainbow Bridge from time to time and give Oscar a belly rub and a chicken biscuit and tell him I love him too.

Thank you for the wonderful life you gave me.

Love,

Jean

 

The best laid plans…

We had planned a relaxing 4 day trip to the condo in Highlands after Christmas as a treat to ourselves for surviving the holidays and the year in general. The contractor had assured me that at least one bathroom was in full working order and the unit was habitable, even if all the remodeling wasn’t finished.

So, we packed up, put Penny in the car, and headed north on the day after Christmas.  As usual, we stopped in Clayton to stock up on groceries before we headed up the mountain.

Got there to discover that there were no shower curtains in the bathrooms or coverings on the windows. We dug around and found the shower curtains, but no rods… so Richard was off to the local hardware store to get a shower curtain rod and some masking tape for us to put paper over the windows (I really didn’t feel like sharing all aspects of my life with my fellow condo dwellers).

While he was gone, there was a knock on the door. The sweet lady from the condo right below us was there to tell me that there was a water leak.

Now, we had replaced the old water heater with a new, larger, more energy efficient unit.  It had been rather hurriedly installed right before Christmas.  She suspected that was the culprit and figured it was a “one time thing” while they were doing the installation, even though she had cut the water off to our unit (the shut off is right by her condo). I apologized profusely; assured her we’d repair the damage, and turned the water back on.

Richard returned, and we went on about our business of getting the TV and internet working (evidently with the new wiring we can have one or the other, but not both, so we were using our tried and true workaround), when the pounding started on the door.

“The water is leaking again!!!”

Groan

We cut the water off again and pinpointed the leak to a weld in the water heater installation.

At that point, it was pretty obvious we weren’t going to be staying there.  Thank goodness the lodge we generally stayed in had a room for the night (they’re very pet friendly and welcoming of Penny).  We gathered essentials and headed there – after talking to the contractor (on vacation herself) who was mortified over the entire situation and promising that it would be remedied.

We figured the water could be fixed the next morning, later in the day, or maybe not till the first of the week.  Our best move was to cut our vacation short and just come home.

The next morning, I gave the perishables we’d bought that wouldn’t make the trip to Atlanta to the downstairs neighbor who had been inconvenienced.  She has been very gracious about the whole thing, so I’m anxious to get her condo back to normal as soon as we can.  We loaded the car, then took our time getting home.

Hoping that we have better luck on our next trip. In the meantime, maybe we can get some stuff done around the house.

The Traveler

I saw him sitting in front of the convenience store when I pulled up to fill my car.  He was a young man – far too to young to be homeless and begging on the street.  I wondered what his story was.

What struck me about him was the big, Labrador-type dog he had with him.  The dog was wearing a sweater that was far too small, but it looked at its master with the eyes that only we dog lovers know.  I watched as the young man took out the dog bowls and carefully put half of his sandwich in one, torn up into small bits… then poured half of his water bottle into the other bowl for the dog.  The dog ate ravenously and looked for more, and the young man gave him more bites of the sandwich.  When they were both finished, the young man meticulously cleaned up the area around them and was preparing to leave.

I reached in my wallet.  I don’t normally react that way, but something told me it was what I should do.

I approached the young man. “Sir, are you traveling?” I asked… ignoring the sign by him that read “Homeless – broke”.

“Yes ma’am, I am.”

“Here.  Take care of your dog.”  I handed him the money.  To me it was the amount I would spend going out to lunch with a friend.  His eyes grew wide when he looked at it.

“Yes ma’am.  I will.  He’s my best friend.”

“I can see that.  Looks like he’s a good one.”

I went back to my car and pulled away.  The young man and the dog were headed down the road, on their way to wherever they were heading.

I don’t know his story or how he came to be in the situation he’s in, but it moved me that he was determined to take care of his best friend in the world…even though that best friend had four legs. Must be some goodness there somewhere.  I wish him all the best.

And I went home, to my warm, safe home… and I hugged my dog.