The Thing That Wouldn’t Die

Oh, just me…

More distracted than angry, but this shot will do

What was I thinking? Of course it’s related to the book, i.e. The HELEN CHRONICLES: When Your Mother Falls Apart, the annotated collection of blog posts that tell the story of my mother’s chaotic last few years under the influence of dementia, Alzheimer’s, paranoia, schizophrenia, delusions, and hallucinations. All of a piece, too, those stories, today, and the still-warm detritus of the old family saga in Tucson. Open a channel, The Thing walks again.

This time it’s my brother, the emissary of sad, he of the easily-addicted persuasion, the man with no teeth who can’t wear his partials because they don’t fit, a stranger to math and a sucker for the ages. To briefly recount, he lives on Social Security in a trailer deeded to him as part of his inheritance after my mother died. The rest of that gift, a not inconsiderable sum, came and went in a few months. Early this spring, however, my three siblings and I each got a tiny fresh new bit of money from our late aunt’s estate. In an forgivable moment of idiocy, I agreed to be trust agent for my brother’s portion. She had his number, all right, and set things up so that he gets twenty percent per year for five years instead of the the whole thing in one hunk. As official agent for the trust, my job is to send him one-fifth of the total each year, which I did for the first time around April 1st. All gone now, of course.

A few days ago he called me at 7:30 a.m., 6:30 a.m. his time—hmm—to ask for an advance on the 2015 check I’d be mailing at the end of the year. “Four or five hundred,” he said, due to being “overextended.” This was outside the rules and I told him as much, and then quickly relented and said I would send it. It’s his money, anyway, right, and I wanted all the whole thing to just vanish, so I scribbled a check for $500 and put it right in the mail. No, I didn’t write “for deposit only” on the back of the check. So?

Things being the way they are, when the phone rang last night at 10:30 p.m., I saw it was him and braced for the worst. Nothing so terrible, though, just incomprehensible. He asked me to please send another check, “just for four hundred this time,” (?) because he’d lost the first one. Oh yeah. Looked everywhere, he did, but just couldn’t find it. Speculating that it might have blown out of his pocket, he said, “It was really windy here today…”

(It’s about to get windier, too.)

I told him I’d see what I could do and waited until this morning to cancel the check. In my haste to be rid of the aggravation, however, I’d forgotten to write the date in my checkbook and couldn’t use the online form on my bank’s website. This meant I’d have to take time out of my day to drive to the bank and explain things in person. Well, fuck it, I thought. Enough is enough. He can just go back out and find the damn thing. Look harder, you know?

If I do cancel the check and send off another one, it’ll come out of next year’s twenty percent. He’ll be eating his future, not to mention that my duty ends in 2019. I left a phone message to tell him all this. While I was still on the line, I heard the beep of an incoming call. I finished my message and looked at the phone. It was him again, all right. I put down the phone and let it ring until it stopped.

The check still hasn’t been cashed. He’ll look most of the day and then call me again. He doesn’t even know how much he needs. I have the guy’s money. I could ignore my instructions and send him the balance, but I know what would happen: screw-ups, more phone calls, pleas, and wasted emotion. The same flesh and blood, what can I do?

A tale from the crypt, if ever I heard one.

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John Hamilton Farr lives at 7,000 feet in Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico, U.S.A. As New York Times best-selling author James C. Moore tells it, John is “a man attuned to the world who sees it differently than you and I and writes about it with a language and a vision of life that is impossible to ignore.” This JHFARR.COM site is the master writing archive. To email John, please see CONTACT INFO on About page. For a complete list of all John’s writing, photography, NFTs, and social media links, please visit JHFARR.ART  

  • Marti Fenton Whitedeersong May 30, 2014, 2:07 PM

    Sounds like my ex-husband. He doesn’t do drugs but schizo-affective disorder and bi-polar comes out about the same.

    • JHF May 30, 2014, 3:59 PM

      My brother may actually be whatever passes for straight these days, as hard up as he is. And I did give in and go to the bank to stop payment on the missing check. Just feels better that way.

  • dar May 30, 2014, 2:45 PM

    awww, figured this would be about the trusty F150…

    • JHF May 30, 2014, 3:57 PM

      That would have been nice, eh? The Ford is still doing fine, BTW.

  • Bob May 30, 2014, 5:54 PM

    That’s so sad. Frustrating, I’m sure, but sad. In my mind there are few things worse than watching loved ones wither away.
    My wife’s mother (who I dearly love) was recently diagnosed with dementia. It’s going to become a real test for all of us eventually but so far she’s given us some great laughs…go ahead and say it, we’re horrible people.
    She’s seventy-five years old and lives alone on a small acreage in South Texas. There’s nothing she loves more than puttering around the property and the last several years she’s been consumed with moving rocks. She loads up her wheel barrow and transports them back and forth across the property building flower beds and patios and what not. Some of them have seen more service than Chelsea Handler. Lord knows it’s good for her to get the exercise (Mom, not Chelsea) but she falls. There’s about a seven in ten chance that when we next see her she’s going to have a bump on her forehead and her glasses will have been not so elegantly twisted back into shape. Fortunately none of her falls have been serious. She did get her head stuck between the house and the steps once but she extricated herself before the scorpions and snakes showed up.
    But we know that day is probably going to come when hard choices will have to be made. At what point do you tell her it’s time to go? Is it when we find her waltzing across Texas talking to the trees or when those cranial extrications become too much to manage on her own? I guess we take it episode by episode and be glad at least some of it made us smile.

    • JHF May 30, 2014, 6:53 PM

      I understand your concerns. But I’d say you’re blessed to have something to laugh about. It is funny. And that can help. It’s so different from the horror and abuse in my own family. From my perspective, you guys are in great shape. Your mother-in-law sounds like a fine woman. Can people really have dementia at seventy-five? Geez.

      I had a great-aunt Minnie. About thirty years ago there was a dinner at my father’s cousins place near Denton, MD. Aunt Minnie was there, as were another aunt and uncle and a bunch of people I didn’t really know. Anyway, at one point Aunt Minnie, who was already pretty ditzed out, surprised us all by pouring a whole pitcher of cream into her strawberries at dessert. You only needed a little bit, of course. But it was the funniest thing we’d ever seen. The whole table was laughing and giggling for ten minutes. I don’t recall Aunt Minnie being put out or anything.

  • M.J. May 30, 2014, 9:14 PM

    Hang in there! Don’t lose it! This reminds me, the night I drove an hour to drop $9,000. off into my sister’s mailbox in the middle of the night, and she wasn’t even there to get it! Three months later, I get a call she needs more! It makes you totally crazy at the time! I just kept thinking, I am being tested. Tough love, I guess that’s why they call it, ” TOUGH!”

    • JHF May 30, 2014, 9:34 PM

      Oh, it’s not so bad. I have nothing to give him, anyway. Being the agent of my late aunt’s trust in charge of his money, however, no matter how little it is, pulls me back into that world when he messes up. A phone call from jail or the hospital would probably be worse.



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