Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Why I Sometimes Screen My Calls

The phone rang a couple of days ago, and, unfortunately, I chose to answer it.

Unsuspecting Me: "Hello?"

Caller: Long pause accompanied by heavy breathing. "Who is this?"

After hearing the first two panting breaths, I already knew it was Doris. Her inquiry as to my identity completely confirmed hers.

Me: (very jovial tone) "Why, it's Delia!"

Doris was surprised, then contrite, then put-out by turns. She eventually got to the reason for calling.

Doris: "The girl at the bank said Anthony's been trying to get money from my account! She said he ordered a whole bunch of cards to get into my account!"

Me: "Really?"

Doris: (indignant, really hurt tones) "If he needs money, all he has to do is ask me!"

Now, if you understood our financial situation, and knew exactly how many times Anthony had actually lent or out-right given money to his siblings when they were flat broke or in trouble or for any number of reasons, none of which was very good, but none-the-less caused them to ask, you'd laugh.

Anthony has managed his mother's money since his father died many years ago. He's invested it very profitably for her, and calculates and files her income tax for her, gratis, every year. He set up automatic bill payment for her utilities so she could continue to live in her house (she couldn't keep the bills straight.) He pays her property taxes when she forgets, and when she started leaving the stove turned on at inappropriate times, he made sure her house was properly insured and coverage was up-to-date, all things she had difficulty with, or never even understood at all.

Anthony is the only one in his family, his deceased father and sister included, who has lived a straight-and-narrow life of responsibility, hard work and strategic monetary investiture of the highest order.

I fall more-or-less into that description as well. Although I think I've had more fun down the line than Anthony. I digress. We have no money issues is what I'm getting at.

Anthony's brother, on the other hand, is a louse. He's perennially broke and mooching off Doris, or outright filching cash from her purse when she looks away. If anyone were trying to get into Doris' account, it would be John, not Anthony.

But of course, Doris, in her paranoid, hostile, delusional state, immediately suspects the one person on earth she can actually trust.

It's incredibly hurtful behavior. But when dealing with Alzheimer's disease, all you can do is suck it up.

Me: "Doris, I really don't think Anthony tried to get money. I think the girl at the bank was probably trying to tell you about all the bank cards Anthony applied for on your behalf."

Doris has lost her purse, wallet and/or bank card at least half-a-dozen times in the past year. Anthony's been kept hopping, what with having to fetch her down to the bank each time in order for her to cancel the old card(s), apply for new ones, and then reset all the automatic bill payments to the new cards. It's a time-consuming, annoying task, but he does it for her.

I knew my explanation would fly over her head, but I had to try.

Doris: "Er...gurgle...huh?"

Me: "Anthony mentioned to me you'd lost your purse. Right?"

Doris: "Huh?"

Me: "A few months ago, you lost your purse. And so he applied for a new bank card for you. He's had to do that a few times, hasn't he?"

Silence. No heavy breathing, no mumbling. Just frosty silence. Doris doesn't like logical explanations that get in the way of her delusions.

Me: "Anyway, no one can get into your account but you Doris. The bank would never issue a card to anyone else, not for your account."

Doris: "Well...."

I've taken the wind out of her sails. She wanted to have a good long rant about her untrustworthy son Anthony. And I wouldn't accommodate her.

It's on the tip of my tongue to suggest that if any money is actually missing from her account (which of course isn't the case), perhaps she should look to her other son.

But I don't say anything.

We bid each other goodbye, and I quickly email Anthony to warn him that his phone will be ringing momentarily. And it will be his mother, and she will want to know about the bank cards, and his blood pressure will probably start to rise and he should stay Zen and.........

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