Chattering-Magpie-blog

The cheerful efficiency of the USPS.

Posted Tue Nov 25, 2008, 12:29 PM by Tracy | |

I’m not sure what happened just now, but I am sure it wil not all be “just fine,” as the cheery ladies at my local post office asssured me.

Mom got a notice of certified letter. I brought it to the post office, along with a photocopy of her death certificate, just in case, so I could pick up the letter.

The nice post office lady brought out the envelope. It was long and fat and had IRS in the upper left corner.

The nice post office lady said, no problem, and proceeded to write “deceased” on the envelope and put it back in the bin.

But wait, I wanted to pick up that letter.

Now I don’t know what it was all about, but I’m sure a certified letter from the IRS is not good news.

I have no idea what happens now. It goes back to the IRS and what? I’m pretty darn sure that we wrote on her last tax return she was deceased.

As it happens, yesterday I called the IRS to find out the status of a little hiccup in Mom’s last return. They told me they couldn’t give me any info until I filled out another couple forms: one naming me as Fiduciary and another of Power of Attorney. POA makes no sense to me since she’s dead, but hey they asked for it. I sent off those forms today as well.

Now I’m worried. I don’t know exactly what this is all about. The worst I can figure is they will disallow deductions and we’ll have to pay taxes out of the estate.

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Chattering-Magpie-blog

Why I hate the SSA.

Posted Fri Nov 21, 2008, 12:48 PM by Tracy | |

My mother, in a brief moment of stubborn lucidity, managed to convince Social Security that she was perfectly capable of managing her own affairs and would they please direct deposit her SS payments to her bank.

Only problem was the home address she gave SSA was different from what the bank had for her. Her checks bounced back to SSA, and she never got her payments.

I didn’t find this out until going through her stuff after she passed.

I filed a claim with SSA for underpayment over a year ago. At least once a month I have called my local SSA office to enquire as to the status of the claim. It doesn’t move much, according to my notes. At one point it went into a backlog. Another time it was on someone’s desk.

Only this last call did the local SSA lady tell me that my brother would also have to file a claim. And because of the amount involved, we would have to provide our original birth certificates.

First I’ve heard of it. I had never been contacted by SSA to request additional documentation.

Finally yesterday I had a call on my home answering machine to call SSA.

Today I called the number and immediately plunged into voicemail hell. None of their options, which I had to listen to carefully because they have changed, applied. Every option to speak to an operator led to another byzantine layer of automated options.

When I finally hit on the option that rang through, the automated system kindly informed me that the person at extension 4981 is not available.

Oh I left a message alright. It was not happy nor pleasant.

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Chattering-Magpie-blog

One less loose end.

Posted Wed Jun 25, 2008, 11:24 AM by Tracy | |

It’s been almost a year since Mom died and I still have a few pieces of outstanding business.

One of the many ill-considered decisions Mom made in her rare moments of lucidity was to purchase one of those mobility scooters you see advertised on TV. They advertise that Medicare will pay for it, they’ll help you fill out the paperwork, that sort of thing.

When Mom moved into a foster home, the scooter went with her. When she was almost immediately hospitalized and subsequently had to go to a different nursing facility, the scooter stayed. I left it to my brother to retrieve the scooter, but he never did.

So all this time, and it’s been over a year, the scooter has been taking up space at an adult foster home. E and I decided that if they could use it, we would just leave it with the foster home people. Small compensation for the difficult resident my mother was.

I finally got myself in order to call the foster home people about it. They still had the scooter, it hadn’t gone anywhere. Better yet, they said, yes, they could use it and accepted it. Big relief. That saves us the trouble of hauling it off, and it is a heavy beast.

That’s one loose end wrapped up.

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Chattering-Magpie-blog

One fewer card.

Posted Sun May 11, 2008, 11:58 AM by Tracy | |

This year I bought one fewer Mother’s Day card. In past years I’ve done five: my mom, E’s mother, my aunt Vi, Dad’s wife, and my birthmother.

I almost didn’t get them out in the mail. The secretary where we store stamps, my address book, and my calligraphy pen was stuck shut. E managed to get it open, with strict instructions to me to not lock it shut again. Still, the cards went out late.

I think I’m supposed to be feeling something, since this is my first Mother’s Day without my mother, but, not so much. I just don’t miss her all that much. We weren’t on the best of terms most of my adult life. I don’t miss her, I miss the person I wish she had been. I wish she could have been a happier person.

For his mother, E is preparing an eggplant moussaka that we will bring to her house and serve to the family. I made a blackberry pie.

Usually we have irises by this time of year, but it’s been so cold.

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Chattering-Magpie-blog

The long way home.

Posted Sun Apr 27, 2008, 09:48 AM by Tracy | |

My mother’s ashes were distributed and interred months ago. We finally have her memorial marker in place, between the stones for her parents and her sister (still living).

I selected the rose because her mother Gladys, has gladiolus and her sister Violet has violets. I don’t know that my mother had a favorite flower, but I think she liked roses.

The ace of spade represents her nearly lifelong passion for the game of bridge. When we were sitting at the Granite Works, trying to figure out what to put on the marker, I remembered one of my friends plays bridge. I called her on the cell and was lucky enough to catch her so I could ask how best to commemorate a bridge player.

I don’t really know whether Mom would appreciate having a memorial marker. I know she would have said to not do it and it would probably make her angry to know that I did it anyway. But I didn’t do it for her. I did it for those of us who are still here, who thought it would be a shame for her to just vanish without something to say she was on this earth.

I would hope that she would be secretly pleased, but I can never know.

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Chattering-Magpie-blog

You're dead and I can't help it.

Posted Sun Mar 16, 2008, 08:41 AM by Tracy | |

Another dream of my mother. This time she is up and about, doing household chores. She looks good, really. My Aunt Vi is there, too.

I finally have to tell her, there’s nothing I could have done to have kept her from dying.

This makes Mom angry. She takes it to mean that I wanted her to die. Vi tries to defend me which only makes Mom angrier and she orders Vi out of the room.

Nothing is changed in my dreams. It’s the same patterns as in life.

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Chattering-Magpie-blog

Back from the dead.

Posted Sun Mar 09, 2008, 11:48 AM by Tracy | |

Last night I dreamt of my mother. I went to see her and she was laying in her bed, eyes closed. She woke up and I told her she died last August, which confused her. She didn’t know that happened. I had to explain it to her.

Weird.

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Chattering-Magpie-blog

Requiescat in Pace.

Posted Sun Sep 09, 2007, 18:54 PM by Tracy | |

We laid my mother to rest, metaphorically at least, this Saturday.

She always told me she did not want a funeral. She wanted to be cremated and told me to just throw the ashes in the garbage. As usual, I did what I thought was right, not what she told me to do. I’m not quite sure whether she secretly would have wanted a memorial service despite insisting she didn’t. She’s the sort of person who would say one thing while wanting another.

We met with the pastor Friday to discuss the order of the service and to provide suitable anecdotes for the eulogy. I had to call my brother to see whether he was joining us. He said he hadn’t planned on it and asked whether he needed to. Nice. His own mother. When he did make it in, he offered the excuse that it wasn’t on his agenda. I didn’t ask the obvious question: why the hell not?

The service was held at the First United Methodist Church in our hometown. About 50 people showed up, which is a pretty good turnout for someone who hadn’t lived there for over 20 years and rarely visited. Mom still had a lot of friends and other people to remember her.

My cousins Carol and Susie each made an arrangement, and my Uncle Bill’s family sent an arrangement, as did Mom’s cousin Virginia in Minneapolis. I had two sprays of white flowers made for each side of the altar.

We sang the hymns Aunt Violet had selected and listened to the pastor read from the Bible, including Ecclesiastes, to everything there is a season. It’s a very traditional passage, suitable for weddings and funerals alike. I find if very calming.

We ended singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow, to commemorate my mother’s love of Judy Garland. Actually I thought that was a bad idea, since it is a difficult song to sing. I certainly can’t sing it. But we pulled it off; Pastor has a good voice and covered for quite a few of us. Tears welled in my eyes.

Cousin Susie generously offered her house for coffee after the service. I think about 30 people came out. We had open face sandwiches: tuna salad on wheat, ham salad on orange rye, and smoked lox on orange rye. Very traditional for Astoria. E had made potato salad, Violet made jello salad, and I made fruit salad with the melons, grapes, and pineapple cousin Barb brought.

It meant a lot to me that cousin Barb drove all the way from California. She was so good to Mom when Mom was living down there and I’m sure Mom didn’t appreciate it, just as she didn’t appreciate E and me. Barb, who is naturally humble, doesn’t think she did all that much, but she did. I know it and E knows it.

After everyone had left and we had the place pretty much cleaned up, Violet, Barb, and I took the two sprays of white flowers and Mom’s ashes to the cemetery where her parents are buried. We put half the ashes between her parents and laid the flowers on their graves. The rest of the ashes will go with Barb to California and Barb will put them with her mother, my mom’s sister who passed beyond the veil some 30 years ago.

The family went out to dinner, courtesy of the estate, that night. I remember when we did that after my grandfather’s funeral. It seemed like a really good way to wrap things up, for just the family to be together. Plus no fights over the bill because the estate paid for it.

The most fun I have had in this whole business has been paying for everything out of the estate. In a way it is fitting, because my mother always wanted to be independent, to pay her own way, and not be a burden on her family. This was her final act, through me, of generosity.

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Chattering-Magpie-blog

Stage of grief: Anger.

Posted Wed Aug 29, 2007, 13:04 PM by Tracy | |

I am just in a vile mood today and it is getting worse. It’s nobody’s fault, no one has done anything bad to me. Everyone has been very solicitous and considerate.

I picked up my mother’s ashes today in a plain cardboard box. She always told me she didn’t want a funeral. She wanted to be cremated and told me to throw the ashes in the garbage. She made a great show of being practical and unsentimental. I think she looked upon that sort of consideration as weakness.

I don’t know what I’ll do with the ashes. Maybe scatter them on the roses. Maybe add them to the compost. Or perhaps bury them in the backyard next to the cats. She definitely did not want to be interred in our hometown.

We have a date and time for the memorial service, so I can proceed forward with putting death notices in the local paper. Remembrances can be made to The American Cancer Society.

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Chattering-Magpie-blog

77 + 1

Posted Sat Aug 25, 2007, 15:15 PM by Tracy | |

My mother died Friday, Aug 24, one day after her 77th birthday.

It has been a roller coaster ride since this whole thing started, three years ago. She would decline, then improve, but never to her previous level. This year alone she was in the emergency room 10 times.

During the period spanning from the end of June to the first part of August, she had a seizure or seizure-like event (the doctors were reticent to call them seizures) every two or three weeks. I finally told the care facility to not send her to the hospital if she had another seizure. They are not life-threatening, it just takes her awhile to come around.

We finally put Mom on hospice a week ago. Probably should have done it earlier, but we didn’t have a terminal diagnosis. Still don’t. Not that it matters anymore. Sometimes people just die from the multiple complications of old age.

I thought she would last at least a couple months. She’s pretty resilient. But Friday she took a “turn for the worse,” as hospice put it. I asked, hours or days? Hours, the hospice nurse said.

E and I got to the care facility as quickly as we could. I called my brother Jim – it would take him another couple three hours to get there from the coast.

Mom went so quickly and quietly that we hardly noticed. Eventually we thought to ask a nurse to check on her.

Tuesday was a good day. My aunt Vi, Mom’s sister, was in town overnight to catch a morning flight to Minneapolis. I brought Vi to see Mom. It was a couple days before her birthday, so I brought a multi-colored display of roses and a colorful balloon. Vi brought a hand-crocheted throw and a blouse, and cards from Mom’s friends in Astoria.

Mom was relatively alert, if not always coherent. She was happy to see Vi and seemed to genuinely appreciate the gifts and cards and flowers. It was the last time for Vi to see her baby sister and give her a big hug.

My mother was a difficult woman. I think she harbored a lot of anger that life did not turn out exactly as she fantasized it would. But now it’s all over. I pray she is at peace, at last.

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