I went to Tampa for two of the last three major holidays, which is a lot for me. When my parents first moved down there I didn’t go there for the two or three years. Due to our family squabbles, it was not my sort of place to go and have a good time. Actually my family fights all the time. I’m not sure if we exist in spite of, or maybe because of our fights. We have child molesters, thieves, pimps, pushers and priests. We have all kinds. You know the old joke; in our family tree I would fall into the fruit section. Just don't let me hear some family member say that cause there would be hell. There are some who work for the State, while others are serving time for the State. So we have disagreements all the time. Anyway, for a long time, it was so long God bless and maybe I’ll see you on the other side.
You see most of the men on my father’s side die young. The women on my mother’s side seem to live forever. My mother still lives. She is basically looking after her mother who is getting close to ninety. Although, it’s even money that she may or may not make that number, but who knows. That being said, “Mommie Dearest” has passed the seventy year old mark herself and even though she is strong and relatively healthy, she may come to that point where things start to get too much for her. She has said that after my grandmother passes, she may sell the house and get something smaller, but that would require some sort of financial acumen and as Kurtz said in the Heart of Darkness or Apocalypse Now, “The horror! The horror!”
It’s not that I don’t have any trust in her financial savvy. For instance, I remember when she would she would buy clothing for me when I was younger. There was no Woolworth’s bin or bargain basement store that was too good for her first and only son. Every penny spent would be prized and accounted for no matter how I felt about the situation. I would only hope afterward that no one I knew would see me, or at least question me.
Take the time when I was eleven. She bought me a burgundy colored cardigan for school. It matched the colors that we were allowed to wear in class, but the length came down to just over my knees. “This is for women,” I told her. “No,” she said, and went on to tell me that she found it in the men’s section and that it was the latest fashion and everyone one would be wearing it. If they were, then all I can say is that I never went to drag shows at that age so I never saw them. There I was, the only fool in school wearing this long nightmare of a thing, clinging to both cheeks of my backside. Making me look like Mrs. Simms the assistant Headmistress who’s biggest attributes, I am sure anyone can ever remember, were the size of her tits and behind. I wonder if that’s when I first started to change my sexual interests.
Anyhow, dearest papa keels over a few years ago and I realize this woman, my mother that is not Mrs. Simms, does not have a clue about what she has, where it is and what it’s supposed to do there for her. After all these years of me thinking that she was today’s woman, emancipated and in control of her own life; I find out, as it happens in many households, that all money matters were handled by the man of the house and she just signed papers and followed orders.
My father had left things tied up in so many knots that I think that was partly what killed him. In fact that the day after he received a letter from the IRS telling him that he owed over 37K in taxes, was the day he moved on to glory.
“Tell them you’ve been recently widowed and knew nothing about the finances. Then offer them 10%. They will settle for 35. That money is just peanuts to the IRS. They’ll be glad to get anything. It’s just a number for somebody’s quota,” I told mother before I left Florida. But she didn’t listen, I was not my father.
One week after the funeral and two days after I left, mother decided to pay off the entire tax bill leaving me with yet, another regret to add to the list of regrets in my life. I had not taken care of things for her when she was vulnerable.
Mother, like so many of the elderly today would be happy just to get the 2% interest from Wachovia and wherever else she has her retirement accounts. My fear is that she will believe that she is not entitled to more until some slick bastard comes along, smiles and tells her that he can give her the world for just a small investment with no risk involved. Will I be able to protect her?
It’s true, I do have a rather large extended family, most of them live in New York, but some of them live in Florida. However, for the most part, they are as old as she is and whatever schemes that would fool her would probably fool them. There is Andre, a cousin of mine a year older than me who lives about fifteen to twenty miles away from her but I think he must have smoked too much ganja when he was younger or suffered a head injury that I haven’t heard about. I don’t think he would be much help.
Well, maybe I’m just worrying too much. After all when my mother took me to lunch the last time I was in Tampa, she decided it would be her treat. She took me to Romano’s Macaroni, a restaurant between the mall and the local highway. As long as we got there before 3pm the value of the coupon she received from the senior center would be doubled. As I looked around and noticed the chachki that you can only find in fine highway dining establishments located in the suburbs and the other grey and blue haired ladies that surrounded us, I thought two things, “look at the ladies who lunch – Central Florida style. God save me,” was one of them, and the other one was that some things never change. And you know what, maybe they don’t need to.
My mother has been living her life her way for the longest now. Pinching pennies when she could and throwing away money needlessly because she could. Bending when she has to and stiffening up when it was necessary. She can make her own mistakes and recover from them. She can make her own choices and be happy or not happy, because that’s what people do. We learn or we don’t learn but we keep going. And I’m sure she will, maybe even long after I’m gone.