This post will be filled with raw, unedited emotion. Proceed at your own risk.
The old Broad died this morning. Note, I did not say passed away, transitioned, went to heaven or any other feel-good term. She did not just pass away. She died. And she fought it hard to the bitter end.
Let me start by saying today was a good day. It was a mind-numbing, back-breaking, lawyer and accountant legal/financial-ese day for me. But for mom, it was a quiet, no issue, sleeping comfortably-type of day. Well, not quiet. Broad snores like a lumberjack. (Do lumberjacks snore? Let’s say lumberjacks DO snore. She snores like one.)
This week the Universe has been sending messages. LITERAL messages. First, on the day my mom started to really decline the 16’ Saguaro cactus that was in her front yard fell over, dead. Now that may not be a big issue except it is a SIXTEEN FOOT CACTUS. They never die. This cactus was the landmark my mom used to tell everyone how to find the house. It was usually described as “the tallest cactus in the complex. Bigger than anyone else’s in the neighborhood.” And “that cactus is the reason we moved here.” They hyperbole was thick when describing the awe-inspiring, mystical nature of this cactus. I was a bit jealous.
So, it’s a bit hard not to see the symbolism when a strong, tall, fierce survivor falls over dead.
Then today. Another sign. A literal sign. A literally literal sign and literally a sign. Literally.
This sign has hung in front of every house, farm, ranch, trailer, fifth wheel and shack that my mother has lived in since 1991. Until today, when it fell to the ground…at my feet. Geez! Universe, why so fucking literal? I don’t know how many other ways you can let me know that my mother’s time on this earth is coming to an end. Oh wait – there is one more.
We all know you hang a horseshoe in a “U” to “keep in the luck.” (Wait, that’s a thing, right?) Well, today, as I am carrying a box of clothes into the shed, I bump the side of the door and the horseshoe that had been hanging in a “U” flipped over spilling out all of the luck.
WHAT. THE. LITERAL. FUCK?
I’m wrapping myself in bubble wrap and staying in bed.
There was one positive sign to counteract all of the mind-fuckery going on today. Next to the fallen cactus was a baby cactus. I’d like to think that the mighty saguaro, knowing that her time was coming to an end, sent out a burst of positive energy (and maybe a seed?) and the circle of life continued unbroken.
I received a call from my Mom’s Hospice nurse. She was new and wanted to introduce herself. She gave me an update on my mom, and although her health was clearly failing. She was still sitting up, talking, smoking and drinking watered-down vodka. This was on Tuesday.
Yesterday, Wednesday, I got a bit more frantic of a call from the nurse. My mom was declining, her memory is failing, she’s having trouble sitting up, and she seems to be in some pain. I spoke with my mom for 20 minutes on the phone. Other than sounding tired, the conversation didn’t seem all that different. I told my mom I would drive out this weekend.
This morning, Thursday, the call was urgent. She is entering the “active dying phase.” I threw some clothes in a bag and drove to Yuma.
When I arrived my mom was sleeping. She heard me come in and woke up. I grabbed her hand and she smiled. She mumbled something too faint to hear and fell back asleep. Her breathing wasn’t labored. She didn’t seem to be in any pain (morphine). Other than her trying to, but being unable to speak or her trying to lift her head off the pillow, she “seemed fine.” In fact, at one point when she was trying to speak, and all I could hear were tiny breaths of air, she gave me “the look” and waved me away. It was a classic “I am clearly saying something and your inability to understand is infuriating.” Stubborn, old broad.
As I sat there next to her, all I could think of is this what dying looks like? Because it looks like napping. Or having the flu. I see someone struggling to do things her body will no longer allow. You can’t sit up. You can’t roll over. You can’t speak. But you “look” the same. Frail. Weak. Snoring. But clearly still very stubborn and strong-willed. Does she know that she is not speaking, just emitting puffs of air? Does she think she is having a conversation with me? Or does she realize that she has entered the “active dying phase?” Her eyes fly open when we mention a name. She knows we are sharing memories. But does she know? Is she sad? Scared? Hopeful? Resigned?
I’m grabbing a few hours of sleep. When I wake up I expect to see her sitting on the couch, smoking, with a glass of white peach juice and cheap vodka in an iced tea glass. She still thinks we think it’s iced tea.
It is 2018. EVERYTHING is managed online. My mother does not have internet, or a smart phone or even know what WiFi or Bluetooth are. She doesn’t care to know. She is very good at having other people handle it. She practically made a career out of it. So when an issue like when the cable/satellite goes out, she is completely ill equipped to handle it.
Kathleen (not her real name) from the satellite company was so patient with me as I tried to explain that I was 275 miles away from the situation but trying to fix my mom’s TV. I had to go through a few security hurdles which were easily answered because my mom, like virtually everyone from her generation, has exactly one password. I guessed it the first time and I have been correct every single time since then.
After a few minutes of trying to find my mom’s account (registered under a LONG since turned off phone number) we are in. I try to retell what I was described to me by the caregiver – black screen, “no network.” Unfortunately, nothing is working. Finally, I pick up a second phone, dial my mom, and LITERALLY play the game telephone.
It is not lost on me that I could have conferenced the calls together. You’re welcome.
A phone on each ear I am repeating two sides of a conversation – “Did she reset the box?” “Did you reset the box?” “Yes.” “Yes.” “Is the red light flashing?” “Is the red light flashing?” “Which red light? “Which red light?” “The one above the logo.” “The one above he logo.” “The DISH logo?” “The DISH logo?” “Yes” “Yes” “Yes” “Yes it’s flashing?” “No” “No it’s not flashing?” “No, there is no logo.”
At this point Kathleen (still not her real name) offered a solution. A super secret special way that my mom’s caregiver could call back and be connected with Kathleen so they could resolve the issue quickly. I wept with joy.
I nominate Kathleen (or whatever her name is) for sainthood.
“The TV isn’t working!” she was clearly agitated. “What do I do?”
“Um, good morning. What is the issue?”
“It’s not working! It’s just black.”
“Are there any words on the screen?”
At this point I realize I have spent a lifetime dismissing the patience of the Geek Squad – or Apple Genius Bar employees – or ANYONE on the other end of the line during a repair call. In three minutes I had run through the “turn it off and on” “what button?” “which remote are you using?” “read me the screen again” loop and was out of ideas. Clearly MORE than a little frustrated she hands the phone to her caregiver. “YOU talk to him!”
“It says Network Not Found but I called Dish and we think it was the wind last night but they can’t find her account even with the address and do you know what her account number is cause she doesn’t know it?”
“Um, hi, I’m Jim, her son.” “Yes, I know.” “And YOU are?” Always an awkward conversation when “meeting” one of your mother’s caregivers for the first time. I start to panic a bit about the level of care she is actually receiving based on how quickly the situation turned to “the son will fix it.”
“The TV hasn’t worked all morning and Miss J is getting a little upset having to stare at me all morning. We’ve run out of things to say.”
Yikes! At THIS point I take back every side eye I gave to every parent who used a Disney video or cartoon to keep a kid occupied for an hour.
“Would you like ME to call the satellite company?” “PLEASE!”
Mom. Old. Fraudulent activity. New checking account. Change info with utilities. Strike Out.
I had no luck in changing the billing information with my mom’s cellphone company. I figure when they don’t get paid in two months they’ll find a solution fairly quickly. So I moved on. Next call, Water and Sewer. This one will be short.
ME: “Hi. Blah blah fraudulent checks. blah blah calling for Mom. Blah need to give you new checking account information.”
THEM: “Great. I’m happy to take that information.”
So, I read them the information. Then…
THEM: “OK, so go ahead and mail us a voided check and we will get that set up.”
THEM: “We need a voided check to change the account.”
ME: “Didn’t I just give you that info?”
THEM: “Yes, but we need the voided check to verify the account.”
ME (blood pressure already in the unsafe zone): “It’s 2018. You are telling me that you need a PAPER CHECK sent through the US POSTAL SERVICE to verify an account for AUTOMATIC ELECTRONIC BILLING?”
Rushing home, I logged into email, clicked on the link provided by Revizon and, angels singing, setup online access for my mother’s cell phone account.
I was so excited that this was finally coming to an end. I had been trying for the better part of SIX hours to change billing information. I had thought I would spend ten minutes TOPS resolving this. I still had six or seven more direct billers that I had to contact.
We will verify your identity by sending a six digit code to the phone number on file.
Wait! What? No! No, no, no , no, no! This was supposed to be the solution to that. Scroll, scroll, read, scroll OR we can send the code to the email account on file. YES! that’s what I want. Email me baby!
Email received. Click on link. Complete registration. Done, done, and done.
Update Account> Update billing information>
I’m starting to sweat I am so excited to finish this.
TO UPDATE BILLING INFORMATION WE WILL SEND A SIX DIGIT CODE TO THE PHONE NUMBER ON FILE TO VERIFY.
What the actual fuckity-fuck? Are you kidding me? Scroll, scroll, read, scroll…
YOU MAY USE THE EMAIL ADDRESS ON FILE TO RECEIVE THE VERIFICATION CODE.
Thanks to all that is holy. Select.
EMAIL ADDRESSES CHANGED WITHIN 30 DAYS MAY NOT BE USED TO VERIFY ACCOUNT CHANGES.
To bring you up to speed…new checking account, contact billers to switch account, easy-peasy. Hours on the phone with Verizo…er…Revizon. At the end of it all the solution was to text a code to my mom’s phone, which does not receive text messages.
So… I implored the lovely lady from Financial Services that there had to be another way. I understand that this type of change needs to be verified. But I’m not changing anything about the service, I’m just trying to provide a new account for them to pull the monthly bill. Don’t they want to get paid?
She had an epiphany! I could read her the new routing and account information, she will then pay NEXT MONTH’s bill in advance using the new account, and then – magically – the system will recognize the new account.
Nope. But at least next month’s bill is paid.
I could hear the crack of electricity as a new thought hit her like a Motorola DynaTAC. “I will add YOUR email address to the system so you can create an online account. THEN, you can go online and make the changes!” She was SO excited. I was excited. Some customers standing in the store making bets on how this would be resolved were excited!
I gave her my email address. I immediately saw (on my phone – it is 2018 after all) that I had received an email from Revizon. I figured I needed a bigger screen to finish this. I thanked everyone, ran out of the store and dashed home. I gave myself a mental high-five for finally having a resolution to this issue.
The guy betting against me was grinning. He knew he had a safe bet.
My mother’s checking account is filled with thousands of dollars of fraudulent charges. Scum and villainy preying on the elderly…Tech Service contracts for a woman who doesn’t have internet, Repair My Credit scams, Medical Insurance consultancy fees. I’m sure all were agreed to without her even realizing what she was doing. Heck, if you’re a kind voice on the other end of the line she’ll give you her SS# and the keys to the house.
So, I opened up a new checking account in her name and began contacting the legitimate businesses that direct bill to give them the new account information. This should be easy. I set aside an hour at lunch. Three days later I have only successfully switched ONE account. One.
Let’s start with her mobile phone service…I’ll call them Revizon.
My mom has an ancient flip phone. ANCIENT. She doesn’t want a smart phone. She wants to play Snake(?). She wants familiar, the feel of a button being pressed, the satisfying flip to answer a call. She does not text, nor is her phone set up to send or receive texts. This is important when trying to do anything in 2018. It is this simple fact that has resulted in me spending one hour and 12 minutes on the phone with Customer Service and then Financial Services, 56 minutes in a Revizon store while the adorably befuddled sales guy sat on hold with Financial Services, and an additional 26 minutes with me on the line with them. You better believe I timed this.
The end result is there is no end result. This is still not resolved. I am powerless because the only way to instigate this change is online. I should say online using the code that they will text to my mother’s phone. Which doesn’t receive text messages.
A few years ago I restarted an old, dusty blog when the situation surrounding taking an Alaskan cruise with my mother became so surreal I had to write about it. “Travels With Jim” was reborn. It helped me see the humor through the stress. I still reread it just for giggles. Usually when I’ve had too much champagne (kind of like right now).
Well, I’m facing a similar situation, also having to do with my mother. So to save my liver, I’m trying to manage the stress by writing about the trials and tribulations of a mid-50s gay son as he tries to figure out how to make sure his slightly demented (dementia-ed?), alcoholic, chain smoking, immobile, Republican, (suddenly) Catholic (again), bitter, angry, foul-tempered, opinionated mother doesn’t
Burn the place down
Get a DUI on her “mobility assistance device”
Piss off EVERYONE who has tried to help her, or
It ain’t fuckin’ easy.
So it’s time to dust off this old blog. Let the healing begin.