Posts Tagged ‘My Personal Story’

My Story – Part 5

Fast forward to February of 1999 when I had moved to Norman because of a promotion within the agency. My daughter would begin attending the University in the fall so by me living there; she was able to live at home. But currently, she was living with my mom to finish out high school. I received a frantic call from her one night saying that mom was lying in bed, barely breathing and her lips were blue! She was refusing to go to the hospital so I called a friend who lived nearby and told her to go over there and carry mom out if she had to, but to get her to the hospital. That is exactly what she had to do. The ER doctor called me hours later and said that when she arrived mom was near death and that her lungs had been permanently scarred from some yet-unknown interloper.

I made the two hour drive early the next morning and as I walked to her assigned room, a man in a trench coat stood outside her room. He identified himself and said he was a field marshal from the FBI. He then asked if we could speak for a moment since mom seemed to be out of it. Well, of course we could! **I don’t mind telling you I was scared to death** He asked me several questions about mom and said they had been watching the Pick-n-Pack for some time as it was a front for drug making business that seemed to set up every night and then be a regular store each day. They had done a background check on mother and found her to be an upstanding citizen somehow mixed up with these really bad people. He asked for some kind of information I knew mom would have in her purse so I went to get it and opened it up. There, in her purse, was a handgun. A handgun! Dad was the only shooter in our house – what the hell was she doing with a handgun?!?! He didn’t let me touch it and he took it away. He promised to meet me back at the hospital at 9:00 AM the next day with some news but to not let on to Shirley or anyone connected to them that anything was wrong. I cannot tell you how ridiculous I felt with all this high drama going on and I was helpless to stop it.

During my morning shower, the electricity went off. I looked out the back window and saw an electric person shutting it off. I thought it was for non-payment. When I offered to pay the bill, she said they had been notified by the owner that squatters had been living in the home and wanted to get them out by shutting off power. I told her that my father, who was dead, had built the home himself in 1958 and that was a helluva long distance phone call if he called them because mom was unconscious in the hospital. As we were talking the water guy drove up with the same story. Quickly, I figured out something was wrong and called the FBI man who told me this was most likely some kind of warning for mom and to leave the house right then.

I never learned what was up with the handgun, but whatever it was got them all three arrested with the sons going down for good in a 3 times your out count, but Shirley was let go because it was her first offense – the drug charges, not anything having to do with mom for she gave her money willingly. Although, they apparently WERE making crack or crank or something in the back that compromised mom’s health and so they considered her a victim. Another plus is that mom was a silent partner so her name wasn’t on anything………nothing she owned was seized and since she was the only one who owned anything of value, I am sure it would have all been taken and sold at FBI auction.

A certified letter came from the finance company saying they were going to take possession of the property if mom didn’t make some balloon payment in 60 days. I made a few calls to contacts I have in Norman, packed up what I could and when mom left the hospital, she came to subsidized senior apartments near my home. My daughter and I sold everything that wasn’t nailed down in the house and I made the two hour drive one more time several months later just in time to see my childhood home be auctioned off to the highest bidder. That was in 2000 and although she moved up here, she didn’t speak to me for months “because I couldn’t fix it”.

In 2004 the IRS man came calling. Seems mom didn’t pay any taxes on that $150,000 she gave to Shirley and they wanted their money with penalties and interest. While I was visiting her, she dropped the letter in my lap and said, if you can’t do anything, I guess I’ll just go to jail……..now we know where I got that martyr thing from, huh? I could have gotten an attorney, but I read all the material and they have advocates within the IRS who will assist you for free. Mom was still pretending like Shirley had done this to her and she was some nit-wit who didn’t understand what was happening. So, I made her sit down and write out exactly what had happened and when she got selective memory, I made her rewrite that portion. They agreed to a settlement of $800 which was much less than 10% of what was owed. I paid it. In the end, mom had no tax bill and a black and white version of her own participation in financially ruining her own life and although it WAS wrong of them to do it, mother is a college graduate and at some point should have listened to someone besides Shirley.

By 2010, mom was settled with a new life, daughter had a Master’s degree, a good job and a fiancé’ and I, after 21 years of being divorced, remarried and had my own new life. And then the STATE tax man came calling. 10 years after the fact. I’m sure you can imagine what the interest and penalties would have been on that bill. When I saw the letter, I just started crying. After all these years, I just wanted it to be over. My husband, who knew the fantastical story from beginning to end, said I had 2 weeks to work on it and then he was giving it back to mom and she could deal with it alone. I got an attorney, paid him $1,000 and applied for abatement for her, which she received. As far as I know, it is finally and mercifully over.

For those of you who have paid caregivers – this story and many others like it – are the exact reason in-home caregivers should not be treated as family. They are an employee and should be treated very well, but still treated as an employee. Once you begin depending on them, it gives them the power in the relationship. Sometimes that works great, but sometimes – as in our case – it does not.
So, my knowledge has come through education but also through practical experience. When a family member calls our office and complains that a paid caregiver from one of our contracted companies has violated the ethical standards set out for them when they were hired, I do a small investigation and if there is any truth at all to the accusation, I turn it over to the Inspector General’s office for thorough investigation. On the other hand, you will find no bigger champion in our state of the in-home caregiver. I have done everything within my power to ensure a livable wage for them even conducting a conference each year so they can learn new skills. There is even a Personal Care Assistant of the Year award with cash prizes. We made a professional video a year ago and put it on the internet so people could see and hear what they do and for how little they do it, but they should never cross the line…….

That’s the end and we will now return to our regularly scheduled programming — Just thought you would want to know where I learned what I learned. But, as an added bonus, please take a look at my new eBook that will be published within the next 24 hours at Amazon! I am very excited about it. This book is chock full of the nearly 20 years of experience I have and will help any person who doesn’t know the first thing to do when it comes time to begin Taking Care of Mom and Dad.

My Story Part 4

So dad died on my birthday in 1994. I never took it as some kind of ominous foreboding pronouncement – honestly, I always thought of it as a tribute to me. He and I were always so close. He was optimistic, mirthful, outgoing, and confident. All the things I wanted to be when I grew up. I’ve often said that my adoption was the best thing that ever happened to me. Most people ask why I don’t say the birth of my daughter and I tell them that I could not have been a good mother if dad had not modeled good parental behavior for me.

The funeral home said the soonest a funeral would be conducted was the following Friday. This gave mother’s family enough time to arrive. The Thursday night before the funeral, the call came saying my aunt Betty had passed away. Mom lost her best friend and her husband within a week’s time. This put her in an extremely vulnerable position. After the funerals were over, I went to work in social services just as dad had requested. He was right. I don’t believe there is anything I’ve ever experienced that has felt as rewarding as working in public service.

As time passed, mom dropped all her friends and even became isolated from most of the family. Today, it is clear that Shirley was grooming her for a set up, but at the time, I just thought she was acting out in her grief. As part of my work in social services, and since I was credentialed to do so, in my spare time I set up a free clinic for those who didn’t have private insurance, Medicaid, Medicare, or Indian Health Services. I supposed it was a coincidence but on my birthday in in 1996, I followed a volunteer physician and nurse to a woman’s house that had none of the above and was actively dying of cancer. After our final visit was over, I drove home to eat birthday cake with mom, nana, and my daughter. Imagine my surprise when Shirley was there. Mother had invited her – to MY birthday party. Since I didn’t care for her I was a bit annoyed. During the eating of the cake, mom announced that after 40 years, she was retiring from her job as a Medical Technologist. Since there was no discussion prior, I was a bit suspicious of what was going on. Mom had worked for the same Laboratory for the 40 years and to up and give 2 weeks’ notice on what seemed to me to be a whim was really out of character for her – the most unspontaneous person I have ever known.

the most unspontaneous person I have ever known.
When Shirley left, I began trying to talk with mom about the things she could do to the house with some of the money she was going to receive in profit sharing – knowing that most would have to be rolled over into an IRA so there would be no tax payments. I also asked if she would replace the car I had sold early on to help pay for dad’s medical bills. She was non-committal and remained that way until April of 1997 when she received the money. During the months between her retirement and the receipt of profit sharing I had supported us all on my salary without complaint. Occasionally I would try to engage mother in conversation about the disbursement of the money but she always avoided it. When I became angry that she had isolated herself from all her old friends, she even stopped going to church, she would get red in the face and accuse me of being jealous of her friendship with her one true friend, Shirley.

When the money came, mom took us all to a restaurant that dad had always loved to celebrate. When we arrived, there was Shirley and two men who had tattoos on their faces and necks! Okay, I say live and let live but I don’t necessarily want to have dinner with everyone either! During dinner is when mom announced her intention to be a silent partner in Shirley’s new business at a lakeside convenience store called the Pick-n-Pack by a local lake. The entirety of her profit sharing would be invested as a ½ stake in said business. She then handed me a card that said “thank you for all you have done” and it had a $100 in it. I was completely dumbfounded and wanted to yell at everyone, but we were in a public place and good manners would not allow it. When we got home, I did everything short of holding her hostage to get her to change her mind but she was determined to make it happen. I was so distraught, that I moved my daughter and I out that very weekend.

Time went on and my daughter acted as a go-between checking on mom regularly and reporting to me. Apparently, she was going to the store every day where she, Shirley and her two sons were working. Somewhere along the way, I was called to the front of my office because I had a visitor. Standing there was a childhood neighbor who, although raised in good company, had chosen a different path for a while and made some treacherous friends along the way. He sat me down and asked how my mom knew Shirley and her sons. I explained and then he said that they were all laughing about her at some bail bondsman’s office because they had told her there were some taxes due so she got a loan against her home to get the money, but that it was actually used as a bond for the two sons. **At this point, I’m feeling like I’m in a bad movie that will not be over**. I went to the house and asked mom why she had gotten our banker to give her money for something like that. She hadn’t – Shirley had recommended some finance company to her and she had used them. When I looked at the papers I knew we were in deep trouble because mom had no income, had given all her money away, and had a loan on our house at 28% interest.

I thought I would be finished by now, but the next one will be the last post on this. I have to get it down on paper because I’m not having an enjoyable time talking about it and I want it to be over! Next post soon!

My Story – Part 3

Shirley was a 55-year-old woman with 2 sons who, I later learned, spent more time in jail than out. She was proficient in her caregiving duties and she ingratiated herself into our family. We were grateful she was coming to help and I was just happy mom seemed to finally accept that I needed help. Things went along swimmingly until the spring of 1994 and then it all goes awry. Shirley left the well-established company she worked for and moved to a new start-up agency. Since she and mom were friends, she asked mom to “move” with her. I was not in favor of the move because the agency had proven to be solid and reliable but mother insisted we go with Shirley. Sooner than later the home health agency went under and we moved with Shirley yet again. At that time, my nana who was 91-years-old needed home health and Shirley stepped right in to assist.

In August of 1994 mother’s sister, Betty, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She was my mom’s closest friend and my nana’s oldest child. There was nothing to do but wait. On Labor Day weekend, mom went to stay with Aunt Betty so they could reminisce and spend one last full weekend together. During that weekend I got a little sick and slept soundly on Saturday night. When I got up about 6 AM and went into the hallway I heard my dad’s voice, raspy and tired, calling my name. Dad always said that when he was asleep he forgot he couldn’t walk anymore. He forgot again. Sometime during the night he got up to go to the bathroom and fell two steps away from the hospital bed we had set up for him. He laid on his right side for hours calling my name but I never woke up. I got him back into bed but saw that the toes on his right foot were turning dark. I called the home health nurse right away and asked him to come over. We called an ambulance and he was taken to the hospital at noon. Mother arrived at about the same time as Shirley showed up. When dad’s physician asked to speak with us, Shirley (the aide) came in with us. It was offensive to me but I was too upset at the time to say anything. The doctor said dad would not make it through the surgery but gangrene was setting in due to his diabetes and lying on the hip for so long.

Dad had not enjoyed living for a long time. He had me call his preacher once and visited with him about suicide. It was the preacher’s opinion that dad would go to hell if he committed such an act and so he did not, but he made it clear to me, mother and anyone else who asked that he wanted no heroics administered or even started to save his life. His physician knew this and so he mentioned it. I immediately agreed. Mother did not. Even though she knew dad’s wishes, there were no Advanced Directives back then; she still felt his life should be maintained at any cost. When I protested, Shirley stepped between mother and I and told me it was not my decision. That’s when I got all ghetto on her and threatened to kick her “barefoot, backwoods, cousin-marrying, country ass” out the window if she didn’t leave the room immediately. She left as mom protested but in the end it was decided that no surgery or heroics would be done and dad would stay in the hospital until he either got better or passed on.

Dad slowly declined as the gangrene moved up his leg. About a month later, still in the hospital, dad and I had our annual get-together. It always came once per year generally around my birthday and this time, it was on my birthday. It was the OU/Texas game. Dad had played college ball for Oklahoma A & M which later became Oklahoma State. He never liked OU football much so he always rooted for Texas. I always rooted for OU. We had watched the game together either at Texas Stadium or at home since I was a little girl. I went to the hospital the morning of the game. Dad had not spoken in weeks but oddly when I came into the room dad said, “Happy Birthday”. The respiratory therapist and nurse who were in his room nearly passed out it startled them so. He kissed me and then fell back silent.

Half-time came when dad turned to me and asked me who that nurse was standing over by the door. There was no one by the door. He was adamant that a nurse “all in white” was standing by the door staring at him. As he spoke to me, he kept glancing that way so I know he saw something – I suppose it was the grim reaper or angel of death or whatever entity the mind conjures up in these situations. Dad asked me to take care of mother because although she was difficult, she was a good woman and mother. He also told me I needed to so into social services instead of private industry when I returned to the outside world of work because that’s what I was called to do and for me to deny it was like denying the color of my eyes.

He closed his eyes as the game resumed. At the end of the game, mother and daughter came so we could all have birthday cake. It was in the car and I had to walk from the room to the car and back to get it. When I passed the nurses’ station on my way back I told the nurses to come to dad’s room later and have a piece of cake. None of them looked at me and mumbled something illegible. I stood there, cake in hand knowing that dad was gone.

I wish I could say this was the end of the story, but it is not. The rest is very nearly what a person might say is calamitous. It certainly felt like it anyway. As I tell this story, it feels like it happened just yesterday so I will be glad when it is completed. But I feel a responsibility to let others know there are others out there who feel the way they do and who have experienced bad things like them – and still have productive lives after it is all over. Part 4 soon….

My Story – Part 2

Over the next few weeks, I took stock in all mom and dad had. If they had been eligible for social services, many resources could have been deemed to my mom in order to prevent what is called “spousal impoverishment”, but back then I wasn’t even aware there might be any kind of program that may have helped them. So I went to visit the Edwards-Jones man finding out what stocks they had and how to liquidate them, I put the farm and the lake property up for sale and I sold the antique gun and coin collections. I hated doing it but there was a huge hospital bill to be paid and continuing bills coming in every week.

During the same, unsettling time, I learned to bathe, shave, and dress dad. At that point, he was still continent of bowel and bladder, thank goodness. However, I cleaned him and cleaned the house, I tried to cook – something I still am not very good at, I figured out all that was wrong in the house going to the public library to check out books in order to learn to fix it myself. I plumbed in a hand-held shower as our one-bathroom home never had a shower in it. I climbed up onto the roof and patched a bad place. I cleaned the chimney flue so we could use the fireplace in the winter and because we had a leak in a pipe in the backyard I dug it up by myself with a shovel so when the plumber came to fix it, the cost would be minimal. During all these long and tiring days, I wondered what the hell I had done to deserve all this. That was back when I thought about rewards and deserving people.

We finally got the bill paid, but two months later dad was back in the hospital . This time, dad had surgery for an aortic aneurysm. During his stay, because a hospital is where the sick people are, he contracted staph infection in his arm and required even more surgery. On the way back from the second surgery, dad coded on the elevator. Here, I must tell you that he was a southern gentleman who tipped his hat, held doors and coats for ladies, never cursed in front of a woman and did not believe in any “airy-fairy” stuff like life after death other than you went to heaven or hell. He was charming with piercing blue eyes and in his prime had a swagger like John Wayne. He loved to play practical jokes on people. He also loved motorcycles and the first time I was in Sturgis was 1976. I tell you all this so you understand that to tell me what happened when he coded must have truly happened since he was no nonsense in some areas of his life.

He said that in the elevator he mother came to him and said, “Come on Jack, it’s time to go”. He said it did not look like his mother but he knew it was her. He refused her and said, “I can’t go yet, I haven’t got Kelli raised”. Did I tell you I was 29 when I came home? The words weighed on me like bricks. I wasn’t raised? What the hell did that mean? I was mature enough to finish college, get a good job, leave it to come home and fix all the problems there, or at least try to. Years later, I realized what he meant was that although I was home and taking care of business, I had martyred myself and whined around about how pitiful it was that this was my plight. I had a pretty cushy life prior to 1992 and dad had always been my safety net when I screwed up.

New hospital stay made for a new bill to pay. Luckily my parents had been antique dealers so I sold most of the furniture in the house to pay that bill. My days were filled with conversations with adolescents and senior citizens. No friends, no cell phone, no Internet – yet, and no cable. I knew I was becoming depressed and it seemed that as I felt the blues rise higher and higher in my soul, dad’s needs became demands. Eventually, the only thing he could control was the TV remote and so he would run the volume up so high it shook the windows in the house. One day, the TV was off and having just gotten him into his chair I turned my back to do something when he turned on the TV and it came on so loud it scared the crap out of me! I whirled around, grabbed the remote from his hand and bopped him on the head with it. That startled us both! I knew I what I had done was very wrong – today 20 years later it is illegal – and that we, as a family needed some kind of help but I didn’t know what.

I called dad’s physician’s nurse and as I was asking her what could be done, I began crying and I must have sounded very desperate because the nurse left work and drove to the house to make sure I was okay. She had her boss sign a physician order for Medicare Home Health and one week later my salvation arrived in blue scrubs for one hour every day between 10 and 11 to bathe and dress dad as well as change his bed. My meditation was to watch Bob Barker and his Price Is Right Beauties. I lived for that hour.

However, mom was mad. She felt that since I was home anyway, I could just do it and not have people , strangers no less, in our home every day. These women who came were my age and honestly my only contact with the outside world. I could not allow mom to manipulate me into telling them we did not need their services. I probably needed them more than dad. One day, a new attendant came by the name of Shirley and she was different – older than the others. She seemed to take a shine to mom and they became fast friends. This friendship took our family down a road that altered our lives forever and the effects are still felt today. I will tell you about that next post.

My Story – Part 1

20 years ago, I moved back to my childhood home. I had great career in Denver at the time but when my nana, the matriarch of our family, called me one afternoon saying the doctors were discussing placing dad in a nursing home she told me to come home immediately – and I went. I took a leave of absence for the summer, packed up my belongings and began the long trip south. It was about 3:00 AM the Sunday morning of Memorial Day weekend in 1992 when I pulled into the driveway and as I turned off the car, it dawned on me that I would not be leaving at the end of the summer or for a very long time. I was 29-years-old with a 12-year-old daughter, two college degrees, and one very sick father.

Mother, Dad, and Me – 1982

My parents were both widowed when they met and married. He was 21 years older than her and I was 3-years-old. Dad adopted me when I was old enough to ask him to but he was always my dad. He and his first wife couldn’t have children and when she passed away, he thought he would go through life childless. Then he met my mom and me – I became the apple of his eye in true southern daddy/daughter style. Dad had already established himself in his career and even though it wasn’t the norm at the time, so had my mom. Both had careers and I would be their only child. I was blessed with horses, dance lessons, private schools, and music – voice and instrument lessons. We lived on a ranch with a farm about 100 miles away so I had lots of chores too. Those taught me responsibility and obligation. When I came home, it was with the feeling that dad had taken me in when he didn’t have to offering me a life I would have never known otherwise and I wanted to repay that kindness by taking care of him in his time of need.

I had been home a few months earlier and I completely ignored the fact that dad was in declining health and things were falling apart at the house. Mom was still working at a career she loved and I just kept my blinders on convincing myself that I had just come home at a difficult time and things would be just fine. Of course it wasn’t and it just got worse. Dad had several mini-strokes called trans ischemic attacks. His gait was becoming very unsteady and not long after I returned home, he became pretty much bedfast. Dad had always taken care of everything financially and physically around the house so when his health declined mom didn’t know what to do so she basically ignored it. By the time I got there, things were pretty rough all the way around.

Dad had Medicare and private insurance but after several long hospital stays, a few surgeries, and monthly medications and physician visits, his retirement was fairly depleted. The first week I was home, a bill came to the house from the hospital for his last 16 day stay. When I opened the bill, my eyes scanned down to the part that read: your portion of the bill is. I thought there was a typo or mistake or something! I had to sit down. I had to think. How in the hell was this bill going to get paid? My parent’s portion of the bill far exceeded the cash in the bank. So, I called and asked for a detailed bill so I could analyze it myself. Two weeks later, a box arrived that was 9 inches high and 12 inches wide. It was full. I read every single line of that bill and there was no mistake, the billing was correct and so was the payment from Medicare and private insurance.

When mom got home from work, I brought up the subject of the bill and how we might pay it. Mother starred at me a moment and glibly said, “Well, I can’t worry about that now”. And that was that. She went into the bedroom to visit with dad before dinner. When she came out, I told her we could not ignore this bill and we had to make a plan to which she replied that I was welcome to do whatever I wanted but she was not going to deal with it. This was my first glimpse of mom as a person and not just my mom.

**Not My Mom***

In my next post, I will tell you what I did to get that bill paid – exactly two months before he went into the hospital again. Until next time, thank you for reading….Kellidd

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