• Anita Tosh

A Visit with Mom

Updated: Sep 9

It all started with a hysterical phone call.

“I’m being sued!” my mother-in-law screeched and then sobbed. “I don’t know what to do!”

“Sued? Are you kidding me?”

“No, I have the paperwork right here! I really need some help.”

Knowing I could never sort this out over the phone I said, “I’ll be right over.”

Thirty minutes later, I arrive at her retirement community. On the way there I wondered if this could be real, or just a misunderstanding. I knocked on her door. No reply. I tried the knob, and the door opened. She was coming toward the door smiling, “Oh, hi honey, I didn’t know you were coming. It’s good to see you.”

“So, how’ve you been?” I say, wondering if she might say anything about her problem.

“Oh, alright,” she answered with a shrug. “So, is there any reason you stopped, by?”

“Well, you called me to let me know you were being sued.”

“I’m what?” she exclaimed!

I noticed some paperwork on the table. Her frantic babbling became background noise as I picked it up and begin to read. “Yeah, this says you're being sued for eleven thousand dollars.”

“Oh, no! What am I going to do? I don’t have any money.”

“Do you have any other records on this account?”

“Anything I have would be right there in that drawer.”

I got comfortable on the floor and begin going through her files. This took time, and, we chatted as I went through the files. Then she asked, “So, why did you come over today? Did you just want to clean out my files?”

“No, I’m looking for paperwork on this account.”

“What for?”

“I want to find out why they are suing you.”

“I’m being sued? Oh no! What am I going to do? I don’t have any money!”

I realized it won’t matter how I answer her as she will forget what I said in a minute or two. I turned the conversation to other things, asking about her friends there at the center. Once I have cleaned out the last thirteen years of files, I realize there are no statements from her bank. I ask, “Where can I find your bank statements? I need to see if you have any money to offer them.” She looked puzzled. “Don’t you get a statement in the mail from the bank each month?”

“No, I haven’t gotten one of them for a long time.”

“I guess I will have to call the bank to help me figure this out.”

After some time on the phone, I have an idea of her financial situation and briefly go over it with her. “It looks like you might be able to offer one hundred a month, but that wouldn’t leave you much for food or anything.” I walked over to the table and notice a binder there with the bank logo on it. When I open it I find monthly bank statements neatly inserted by date. “Look at this. You have your monthly bank statements right here.”

“Well, I could have told you that.

Why fight it? I smiled and shook my head. No one is going to believe this, I thought to myself. Her youngest son keeps in touch with her, so I thought I might call him. “Does David know about this?”

“About what?”

“That you are being sued.”

“I’m being sued! Oh, this is terrible! Everything is happening at once!” She buries her face in her hands and sobs in earnest. I could kick myself for mentioning it again. I send David a text. He called back quickly.

“Did you know about …”

“Yes, she’s being sued for eleven thousand, eight hundred and eighty-six dollars and ninety seven cents”

“What can we do?”

“Nothing,” he laughs,” She’s an old woman and she doesn’t have any money. They can sue her, but they can’t get anything.”

I had just wasted my whole day. I hang up and notice she is glaring at me.

“I have a right to know. What am I supposed to do? You said I’m being sued.”

“Oh, don’t worry about it. David said everything is taken care of." I clean up the paperwork, including the original “intent to sue” pages I had found there, and put them safely out of sight, into her file drawer, not to be seen again for another thirteen years. “I better be getting home and cook some dinner for Terry. He’ll be hungry when he gets home." I gave her a hug and a kiss, grabbed the trash bag of old files and headed for the door. “Love you, Mom. See you next week.”

“Love you, sweetie. Bye now.” Then under her breath, “I wonder why she came over.”

"Hi, dear, I didn't know you were coming."

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