Friday, September 30, 2016

2016/10/01 - Riding the fear, Horace, Alex, & Lucille continued

There is this little technical problem on my bike ride down North Table Mountain that always causes me to stop and walk. It's basically a slot in a large rock that's about two feet deep and barely wide enough to get my pedals past. Like I said, I always stop and walk through it.

Then one day a few weeks ago I was following this hot shot to the spot and I watched him do it by riding up and over a huge bolder, and he made it look easy!

I yearned for the courage to try it, but chickened out each time that I arrived at the spot. I'd rationalize my wimpyness  by telling myself it's not safe to try it while alone. And of course this is true, but not the real reason and didn't ease my shame.

Then a couple of days ago I came upon the problem again. I felt confident and determined to try it, but at the last second, I balked and fell to my side. Angry now and cursing aloud, I used the energy to get up, take twenty steps backward, and try it again.

And I did it!

But today I came to a point in my ride where I could try it again or go a different way. Immediately the fear returned as I contemplated passing the spot again.  Could I do it again? Could I do it without balking? I rode the bike and I rode the fear.

And I did it again!

As I  passed I screamed out "Stevo!", a nickname I haven't called myself in many years. A nickname that belonged to a man much younger, stronger, and braver.

It felt good to feel young again.

Alex spent his days answering the same questions over and over and over again. Lucille's favorites were "What day is it?", "Am I on the right level", "Will I be alone today", "Am I eating enough fiber?", "What time do I go to sleep?", "Is there any laundry to fold".

She wanted to spend her days on the main level, which unfortunately had no bedroom, meaning a walk down and a walk up stairs every day. He would walk one step ahead of her on the way down for protection, and follow her holding her thin hips on the way up. It was hard for her, but she insisted.

One day Alex made the mistake of cracking a joke on the way up the stairs. Alex loved to make his mother laugh. In the past, on their weekly calls, Alex would always make her laugh and she would thank him saying she hadn't laughed since the last time he called.

While searching for things to keep her busy, he stumbled upon the fact that she enjoyed folding laundry. On their way up the stairs one night Alex told Lucille that he got her a job at a laundromat folding laundry. Huge mistake.

She burst out laughing and literally couldn't stand up. Meanwhile she was telling Alex not to make her laugh, that it would make her pee. They both started laughing hysterically, risking falling down the stairs.

At times Lucille was completely out of it and unresponsive, but these times seemed to be fewer as the months passed. But most times she would be totally alert, even beating Alex in a word game he found on the Internet that was recommended for people with dementia. Playing this game was her favorite pastime. Alex loved it when she unscrambled a six letter word before he could. She would raise her right arm in victory and shout "Yes!"

Alex's mom was a very old woman, but she was becoming more and more like a little girl, a sweet little girl.


2016/09/30 - Horace, Alex, and Lucille continued.

Alex's life was about to change, realizing that taking care of mom would be a full time job.

At first she was extremely paranoid. She knew that Horace was trying to take her money, and she was afraid that he would come after her in NY. In her confused state, she feared that he would come to Alex's house and kill his dog.

She was especially afraid to be alone, and this proved to be a challenge for Alex.

Alex never thought of himself as a caretaker, but it should have been obvious, for he had been taking care of animals all his life. Now his biggest challenge was an 86 year old woman, totally dependent on him.

Whereas this may have been a huge burden to most families, Alex was lucky that his wife and stepdaughter welcomed Lucille into their house with open arms. It was difficult at first, but once they settled into a routine, it got easier.

And Alex found himself falling into a even deeper love for his mother. In a strange way he felt honored to have the opportunity to be there for her in the end. What greater gift can a son give to his mom?

The fact that Horace emptied the house, saved Alex the dirty job, but left him wondering what happened to all her stuff.

There was jewelry, furniture, pictures, nicknacks, password lists, blank checks, a computer, flat screen TV, diaries, etc. Whose hands did these things fall into?

Can you imagine coming home to find your house completely empty?

Horace had even cancelled all the utilities. When Alex arrived there, the house was 110 degrees, damp and smelly, and the outdoor trees and shrubs had not received water in weeks.  Luckily Alex got there in time and had the utilities turned back on, and had the locks changed.

Without any communication with Alex, Horace handled the situation as if Lucille was dead. He took possession of all her stuff, gave to charity everything except the valuables, of which he kept what he wanted and gave the rest to his daughter.

Alex wondered: "What kind of man had his mother married?"

Over a month went by without a word from Horace, and never a mention of him from Lucille. 

Alex had been part of many breakups in his lifetime, and this seemed very odd, and too good to be true.

To be continued...

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

2016/09/21 - Alex, Horace, & Lucille continued

Alex, his wife Aida, and his mom had to wait until there was only one bag left on the rotating baggage pickup cart. Lucille couldn't remember what her bag looked like, and Horace had not thought to label it. Reality was now setting in.

Once home with Alex and his family, Lucille settled in to a quite routine, while Alex tried to settle her affairs. He arranged to have a realtor come to appraise her house, and was handling the piles of her mail that was starting to get forwarded to Alex.

On the day of the appraisal Alex called Horace to remind him that the realtor was coming at noon. Horace answered the phone and told Alex that there will be no appraisal, as he was not going to leave.

Alex was furious, as it was starting to become apparent that Horace was indeed devious as Lucille claimed. It was time to call in an attorney.

For $300 Alex arraigned a one hour telephone meeting for with a Florida attorney local to Lucille. Near the end of their conversation, the attorney called Horace and told him that he had to vacate the premises within 30 days, otherwise he would be served with an eviction notice.

Horace replied that he wasn't going anywhere, that he's been living there for 15 years and he's staying put.

A week later Horace sent Alex an email with the subject line "Good news and bad news", saying that he's moving and that he emptied the house.

"Emptied the house"? What did that mean? Alex quickly got on the phone, only to realize that Horace had already disconnected it. He replied to the email asking why he emptied the house, and what did he do with all her jewelry and other valuables? 

There was no reply.

The next day Alex got a call from Ella the bank teller, saying Horace had been to the bank to visit his and Lucille's safe deposit box. On his way out of the bank he dropped the keys and a note saying "Throw away everything that's left in the box" on a teller's desk. The teller chased Horace out of the bank saying "I can't do that", but Horace ignored him.

Luckily Ella mailed the keys, and the note to Alex. There it was, in Horace's shaky handwriting, "Throw away everything that's left in the box". 

Somehow Alex felt that this note would someday come in handy as proof of his devious deeds and  Horace's not knowing the fate of this note could surely catch him in a lie.

As if this wasn't enough, later that same day Alex got notified that Scottrade's Elder Watch group had frozen both Horace's and Lucille's stock accounts due to suspicious behavior by Horace.

This was just beyond conception for Alex. It was now obvious that Horace was trying to steal everything he could from Lucille and this was confirmed later when one of Horace's daughters contacted Lucille asking if it was truly her intend to give her all of her jewelry. 

Lucille cried when she heard that Horace was generously giving her valuables away to his children but luckily Horace's daughter was honest and returned the loot to Lucille. Again she cried as she opened the package containing a camera, gold jewelry, real pearls, and the diamond ring that Alex's dad had given her 60 years earlier.

Generosity was never Horace's strong suit, and Alex always resented that Lucille was living with this cheap selfish man. He had always hoped she would remarry a rich generous man.

But what Alex couldn't comprehend was the irony. In the past Horace, always assuming he would die first, had gone out of his way to draw up a legal document designed to assure that Alex, in no way, would inherit any of his estate.

But this was exactly what he was doing to Lucille, giving her estate away to his kids. How could he justify this to himself? This was a person who went to church every morning and posed as a very religious man.

To be continued.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

2016/09/14 - Horace, Alex, & Lucille continued

Alex now knew he had to rescue his mom before she died. While Alex was there he calculated that she was eating about 550 calories a day, not nearly enough to maintain. He knew she wouldn’t last much longer at that rate.

But how could he get her? Alex dreaded the thought of making another trip to Florida, not being sure if she would actually go through with it, not sure if she was able to handle flying, and not sure if the airline could handle her. And the thought of driving in a car with her for two days reminded him of the movie “Rainman”.

Soon after the second 911 call that mom made the week after Alex left, Horace called Alex complaining that she was getting to be too much to handle. It was a wild chance, but Alex asked Horace if he could put her on a plane, and that he would be waiting at the other end. Horace refused saying he wasn’t strong enough, but when Alex suggested he ask Marie and Rob to help, her friends he met at breakfast, Horace said okay.

It was too good to be true and Alex nearly fell off his chair when Horace called back an hour later saying, yes they would help. Alex quickly made a plane reservation for the following day, along with a reservation for handicap service.

Alex would have given it 10 to one odds that it wasn’t going to happen. Almost anything could go wrong. Horace could change his mind. Marie and Bob could change their minds. Lucille could change her mind. She could freak out on the plane.

Alex and his wife waited patiently at the arrival gate as plane after plane unloaded its passengers. Finally a woman dressed in a maroon uniform was wheeling a little old frail crying woman in a wheelchair towards them.

Alex’s heart melted when in between tears she mumbled the words “I love you so much. You’re my hero”.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

2016/09/07 - Horace, Alex & Lucille continued

The funny thing was, Horace had better options.

It seemed like he was choosing to let Alex's mom die in her house, taking all her money, her stocks, her valuables, and living out the rest of his life in Lucille's house. Thanks to Alex's diligence, this option was foiled.

The house originally belonged to Lucille, but upon their marriage, Horace had her sign a living will saying he could stay in her house if she died first. Since Lucille was a picture of health and Horace older with many serious health issues, no one ever thought that would happen.

But there were other options left to Horace besides splitting up with Lucille. Before returning to NY, Alex sat them down and proposed that they both go into assisted living together in Florida. Horace turned this down saying it wasn't necessary and too expensive. Next Alex suggested that they have someone come to the home every day to make some meals, assist in bathing, and some minor cleaning. Once again Horace insisted it wasn't necessary and too expensive.

Horace made a lot of bad decisions based on cost. He was always too cheap to buy something like a hearing aid or a cell phone, and would buy the absolute cheapest of appliances and electronics. Lucille would spend hours on the phone with technicians mainly because they bought the cheapest computers possible, prone with problems.

So in essence, Horace was telling Alex that he would rather split up with Lucille than spend any money for senior assistance.

Little did Alex know that Horace intended to block the sale of the house and stay there by himself forever.

To be continued

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

2016/09/06 - Horace, Alex & Lucille continued

Alex and Lucille had two appointments that day, one with the bank and the other with an attorney. The ride to the bank was Alex's chance to finally be alone with his mother.

"He's evil!" We're the first words out of Lucille's mouth. 

When she first married 15 years ago, she said he couldn't even tell a lie lie, and that she didn't know what had changed him to make him so devious and evil.

Alex begged her to come home with him. He said "We can go back to your house, pack a bag and I'll take you home." She said she couldn't leave because she was so afraid Horace would smoke inside the house and trash the place.

The visit at the bank went well. Lucille always dealt with the same bank teller, and they had become friendly over the past 20 years. "Ella the teller" detailed each of Lucille's personal and joint accounts, showing them the balances. She also leaned forward and whispered that she was suspicious of what Horace had been doing with these accounts.

And she had a reason to be suspicious. Little did Alex know that at the time Scottrade's Elder Watch group had already flagged his activities and froze both their stock accounts.

Ella also gave them an ID and password to manage her accounts. This enabled Alex to watch the new joint account and saw that Horace immediately transferred $25,000 from Lucille's other joint account and wrote a check to himself titled "Loan" for $500.

Back at the house Alex asked Horace about the loan and Horace fumbled to make a quick excuse, and said he'd pay it back in a couple of days.

But Horace now knew that Alex was watching.

In between appointments, Horace and Lucille had a previous date with a couple from church and they invited Alex along. Marie and Rob were younger than Alex's mom and Horace and very friendly. We were having both good food and conversation, when Lucille slipped into her dementia state and said to Rob "Could you please stop talking". This put a damper over the rest of the meal, and once he finished eating, Alex excused himself to go back to his hotel room.

Alex realized that in his mom's current condition, he had to cancel the appointment with the attorney and scheduled a $300 sixty-minute phone meeting for the following week.

Back home in NYC, Alex knew he had to rescue his mom. But how could he do this if she didn't want to leave? Alex realized that things would actually have to get worse before she would leave.

And it didn't take long for things to get worse. Lucille dialed 911 twice in the week that followed, causing Horace to take away her cell phone and locking her in her room, ignoring the screaming of a desperate women locked in her room without TV, literally a prisoner in her on house.

To be continued.

Monday, September 5, 2016

2016/09/05 - Horace, Alex, & Lucille continued

During one of her better days, Lucille told Horace that she wanted to sell her house and come live with Alex and his family in New York. This had always been her exit plan, although her biggest fear was replacing her health insurance. Her Medicare plan did not cover New York, and she didn't know if she could find new insurance at her age.

When Alex arrived at his mom's house he was in shock. The house was dark, hot, and smelled like old people. Both Lucille and Horace were in pajamas, bathrobes, and slippers, and neither had combed their hair in a while.

Alex's mom fell into his arms crying as Horace watched on from his walker, holding some flyers he got in the mail on selling houses. Alex was surprised, as he didn't figure Horace would be so willing to see Lucille sell the house and he have to move. It was too good to be true.

Using very small shaky steps, both Horace and Lucille followed Alex into the kitchen, Lucille holding onto the walls as she proceeded. Alex couldn't help but think that their living situation was an accident waiting to happen.

Up until recently Lucille was caring for Horace, who had numerous serious health issues, and was ignoring doctors orders for surgery. Alex wondered how he could possibly care for Lucille?

As he always did in his mom's house, Alex went for straight for the refrigerator expecting to see all his favorite foods. Mom always made sure to have fresh cold cuts including Alex's favorite liverwurst, diet 7-Up, and potato salad.

But not this time. Instead the refrigerator was empty except for some condiments, and a stack of 10 Stouffer's 320 calorie frozen chicken TV dinners.

It was almost as if Alex had showed up unexpected.

To be continued.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

2016/09/04 - Horace, Alex, & Lucille continued

The Dead End Kids
Alex and his mom were tighter than most sons were with their mothers. Not that Alex was a momma's boy, in fact he was more the opposite. 

As a boy, Alex and his friends modeled themselves after characters in Dead End Kids movies. He was always in trouble in school, later with the cops, and as a young adult, in and out of the courts for misdemeanors and DUIs.  

Alex's dad had given up hope on Alex long ago, but Lucille stuck by him through "thick and thin". She even flew halfway across the country to visit Alex in rehab during the "family weekend". She was a real hit with the other patients, all calling her "mom".

Throughout all the years Lucille was Alex's steady confidant and this would eventually prove to haunt him. 

The story that was unfolding was to good to make up, and the person he wanted to share it with the most, was slowly becoming unavailable.  

He often thought of documenting the events in his blog but unfortunately never found the time.

To be continued. 

Saturday, September 3, 2016

2016/09/03 - Horace, Alex, & Lucille

It all began with a phone call from Horace, Alex's 91 year old stepfather, saying "Alex, your mom is losing her mind".

When Alex asked why, he said that she walked out of the supermarket and was wandering around the parking lot.

Whereas Alex didn't think that wandering around the parking lot (as he had done himself many times looking for his car) was a sure sign of losing one's mind, he expressed concern and told Horace that he would call her in the morning.

Alex's mom Lucille was 86 and lived in Florida with her second husband Horace. They married shortly after Alex's dad passed away.

Alex first met Horace when he flew out from NYC to visit his mom when his dad died. She had him over for breakfast, saying he was a friend that she went to church with regularly.

Before Horace arrived for breakfast that day, Lucille told Alex that Horace was incredibly cheap and selfish, saying that he showed up for dinner one night "empty handed" and expected to be "served" and didn't offer to help cleaning up.

Alex had been suspicious of Horace's intentions, thinking he was "waiting in the wing" for his dad to die, and for a while this introduction relieved Alex's fear that she would get involved with Horace.

But that all changed when 6 months later his mom called saying she married Horace and that he was selling his house and moving in with her.

Alex was starting to think that that this guy was a scoundrel, sweeping in on his mom's fortune and literally sleeping in his dad's bed.

But it had been a long time since Alex had seen his mom so happy, and this pleased him greatly.

The next morning when Alex called his mom, she told him that she had Alzheimer's disease. Alex inquired about how she knew this and she said the doctor told her.

In reality the doctor gave her a verbal test for dementia.  It reveled a passibility for Alzheimer's. He recommended further testing to confirm her type of dementia, thereby determine how to treat it.

Unfortunately she refused further testing and against Alex's insisting on her getting a second opinion, she decided to "own" the diagnosis of Alzheimers.

It raised another flag of suspicion when the very next day Alex got a call from Horace, saying that she wasn't able to pay the bills anymore, and he needed to have access to a joint account that was Alex's and his moms. Instead, Alex ( not wanting Horace to have access to this money) recommended that they open a separate joint account and pay the bills from that new account.

He took the recommendation, and immediately moved $25,000 from his moms account into this new account.

Alex's weekly call to mom became a daily call. His mom would have good days and bad days. On one morning a week later, Horace answered the phone saying his mom was asleep and couldn't come to the phone.

But when Alex heard a feint screaming of "HELP! " in the background, he knew it was time to go to Florida to see for himself what was going on.

To be continued.