“I didn’t want to wake up. I was having a much better time asleep. And that’s really sad. It was almost like a reverse nightmare, like when you wake up from a nightmare you’re so relieved. I woke up into a nightmare.” ― Ned Vizzini,
Now, I’ve always been one to be able to sleep deeply, once I get to sleep. Sometimes I can’t free my mind enough to get to sleep, and that’s a problem. Once I do get to sleep, I just turn my subconscious loose to heal all of the weird events of the day. It’s true, sometimes unresolved issues from years ago will work their way into my REM time. For the most part, though, I stay in the now. There are times when I wake up and remember dreams with extraordinary clarity. I don’t know why that’s occasionally and not all of the time. I’m not one of those Astral Projection folks, but I do think the brain is probably more powerful than we give it credit for. I guess my interpretation is that without all of the sensory overload we get when we’re awake, that the sleeping brain has the ability to think harder on our issues. I know that many times when I’m being called to wake up, I’m not done resolving something in my dream state. Wanting to finish the dream before returning to reality is how I relate to Vizzini’s quote. It is not necessarily that my world is a nightmare. Even though, right now, it would be hard to tell the difference.
Let me set the time for this retelling of my story. It is Monday, February 24, 2015. We are in week four of our dual confinement, with Mom in Mountain View and me in the Union County jail. I presume that Mom is having a much easier time of it than I am. She does have her own private shower and doesn’t have to buy her showers shoes from the commissary. Twelve dollars for a pair of flip flops? Spa prices prevail here at the Beasley Street Spa. I just wish I could work more on my tan while I’m here. Three hours a week in the yard is really driving home the meaning of the word incarcerated.
I have arranged to participate in a conference call with Mountain View on Tuesday, February 24th. The phone card costs me $42 for 60 minutes, but they assure me it will work on the outside if I have any credit left.
I call into Mountain View at the appointed time and am greeted with the friendly voices of the Mountain View staff. My brother Jackson is joined into the call and we shout hellos to each other. In attendance are Mom’s Doctor, Dietitian, and Nurse. Suzanne, the director, leads the “Wellness Meeting” and has each of the participants report on Mom’s progress. The Doctor reports that Mom is sleeping better, and her cognition has improved, but she is still very confused at times. The Doctor’s assessment is that Mom should stay put, at least for another thirty days to see what, if any, improvement develops. The Dietitian reports that Mom has a good appetite and that their only concern is that she is refusing to take her meals in the cafeteria with the rest of the guests. Mom is physically able to make the walk to the cafeteria, she just chooses to isolate herself from everyone else. The Nurse reports that their biggest concern with Mom’s well being is her bad tooth. I find out that Mountain View had scheduled an appointment with Mom’s personal Dentist for the previous Friday to have the tooth extracted. At the appointed time, Mom refused to go. “Wild horses” would not have been able to drag her to the appointment.
Jackson and I are asked if we have any questions before Suzanne releases the other folks back to their regular jobs. I jump in and ask how we can force Mom to get the tooth taken care of. Suzanne replies that they plan on bringing Mom into the meeting after we’ve gotten all other discussions out of the way so that Jackson and I can confront Mom directly. Since the Doctor was still in the room, I threw out the suggestion that a little anti-anxiety medication might be in order before the next Dentist appointment. The Doctor agreed, but reminded me that they would have to work closely with the Dentist to make sure not to over medicate. We all agreed, and Jackson and I were left alone with Suzanne on the phone.
Suzanne started off by asking if we had had any discussion with our aunt Edna in the last day or so. We both reply, no. Suzanne goes on to report that Edna had brought some papers to the main desk the night before, and had asked for a couple of folks to come to Mom’s room to witness Mom’s signature on a document.
“What document?”, I ask.
“A paper authorizing a locksmith to change the lock on some property your Mom has”, was Suzanne’s reply.
“What did you all do?”, I ask.
“We told her we NEVER get involved in providing witnesses or signatures or anything of that nature.”, Suzanne replied.
“What did she do then?”, I ask.
“Well, that’s what I need to talk to you all about”, Suzanne replies, “your aunt just started hollering that we were ‘abusing’ your Mom, and that we were making your Mom do things she didn’t want to do, and wouldn’t even help her out with some simple legal things”. “Your aunt was actually crying and yelling in a loud voice all the way back to your Mom’s room that she was going to get a lawyer and sue all of us.”
“Holy crap”, I reply, “I am so sorry, what did you all do?”
“Well, she left a few minutes later, and the night nurse went down to check on your Mom, to see if she was ok”, Suzanne continued, “and your Mom seemed mildly upset, but nothing like your aunt.”
“I am so sorry, that whole bunch is ‘volatile'”, I reply. “You’re not going to kick Mom out are you?”, I ask.
“No, no, nothing like that, we just might need to restrict your aunt’s visits”, Suzanne replies.
“Well, thanks”, I say, “again, I apologize”.
“That’s ok”, she says, “I just wanted you all to be aware of what’s happened before we call your Mom in.”
“Thanks again”, I say, “I’m real sorry she acted out that way”.
I hear Suzanne tell someone to go get Mrs. Morris and bring her to the conference room. Jackson and I chit chat for about a minute and a half before the courier comes back and announces that Mrs. Morris can’t come right now because, “she’s talking to her lawyer”. I can imagine that Jackson and Suzanne’s jaws have dropped as far as mine at the news. We clarify that Mom’s lawyer is on site, and not on the phone, before Suzanne excuses herself to “go find out what’s going on”. We say our goodbyes and I return to my cell to ponder the most recent developments. In case I haven’t said it before, let me shout it to the rooftops now, it’s impossible to predict crazy.
My evening visit with Mulva is focused around an email from Suzanne at Mountain View. Suzanne had talked to Mom’s lawyer and it turns out that the lawyer was not there to sue Mountain View. Good news, for Mountain View. The lawyer did divulge that she was there to review some “family” matters and that she, the lawyer, would be contacting everyone in the next few days with more information. Mulva and I kicked around the endless possibilities of what the “family” matters would be that the lawyer was going to try to resolve after one conversation with Mom, but, maybe I am to critical.
My morning visit with Mulva on Wednesday, February 25th, is spent discussing an email sent from Mom’s new attorney, Helga Heidleberg, Esq. Ms. Heidleberg is an associate at the firm of Wiley, Cheatum and Howe, with offices in Asheville, Hendersonville, and Charlotte. From Mulva’s Google search, Mulva was able to determine that the firm covers Western North Carolina, offering services specializing in estate planning and elder law. Cynical me is saying that the elder law gets you into where the real money is, estate planning, but that’s just me being cynical, I guess. The email invites me to call at my convenience, and lists numbers at a variety of offices. I tell Mulva I will follow up this afternoon after I put more time on my phone card, and we go on to discuss our lives until the visit is over.
Let me just say here and now, that I know it’s not easy for Mulva to drive the forty or so miles back and forth twice a day to visit a sorry son of gun such as myself. I hope that constantly carrying the “postcards from the edge”, which is what we have cryptically labeled emails from my family, does not overshadow the fact that Mulva and I have our own issues to discuss. We need to work on Mulva and Bud, and then add in Bud Jr, and Melody before tackling the problems of the rest of the world. Right now, the Lite’s need some breathing room. I guess this is probably true in every family that has an elder that is slipping off into oblivion and unable to care for themselves. All focus goes on the elder because we figure the rest of us have enough time left to sort it out. I guess that’s true, I sure hope that’s true.
I queue up in line for the phone, and to my utter amazement, get Ms. Heidleberg on my first call. I introduce myself and ask if she is representing my Mom, and if so, in what matter. You see, Bud’s not only watched a lot of court TV, he’s been the star in some of them. Ms. Heidleberg sounds nice enough, and she tells me that she is in the preliminary stages of a relationship with my Mom. I ask how she came to find my Mom, expecting to expose some sort of ambulance chaser that went from room to room in retirement villages. I was totally unprepared for the kick in the crotch that followed. Seems my aunt Edna and my sister Charlotte had called the firm seeking help for an abused elder. Preliminary questions and responses dictated an immediate meeting to address everyone’s concerns. A meeting was scheduled for that same day at 1PM. When Ms. Heidleberg asked where my Mom was, since she was the client, Edna and Charlotte hemmed and hawed and said Mom had gotten sick and couldn’t come. Ms. Heidleberg explained to Edna and Charlotte that she could not be hired on behalf of someone else unless they had her Power of Attorney. Apparently the wheels fell off of the cart at that point. Edna and Charlotte called Mom on her cell and got Mom to agree to meet with Ms. Heidleberg later in the day. Ms. Heidleberg was the mystery lawyer Mom was meeting with during the “wellness meeting”.
I think my first response was “Jesus H. Christ”. I asked the attorney if Mom looked abused, or if she looked like she wasn’t being cared for properly. Ms. Heidleberg replied that Mom, looked fine, and seemed to have a very good command of her faculties for a person of her age. I took the opportunity to tell Ms. Heidleberg of Mom’s training with the elderly and how skillful Mom was in cheating the traditional tests given for dementia. I asked again if Mom looked like she wasn’t being cared for properly, and Ms. Heidleberg replied no, in fact that she knew Mountain View to be one of the finest facilities for the elderly in the area.
I think my next response was, “then what’s the problem?” Ms. Heidleberg then went on to relate that there was concern that Mom was being treated unfairly and that people were just running roughshod all over her in pursuit of their own gains. When I asked if Mom felt like she was being treated unfairly, Ms. Heidleberg responded that Mom had some concerns about some things. Well, my ears are getting red hot, and that’s never a good sign. It is particularly not a good condition to be experiencing in my current situation. I decide the only way I can release the heat is to direct it at the young attorney, and I let her have the History of Charlotte with both barrels.
I explained that when Mom had originally gotten sick and told Charlotte that she thought she was having a stroke, Mom asked Charlotte is she could come spend the night with her. I then related that Charlotte begged off because it was Charlotte’s Sabbath, and that Charlotte told Mom that if she thought she was having a stroke Mom should call an ambulance. I told the young barrister tales of Charlotte’s many years of success while living in her mother’s basement. I told the attorney of Charlotte’s many accomplishments, like being determined to be permanently brain damaged by the State of North Carolina and being awarded a disability. I related our most recent battles to keep Mom’s condo safe and secure and to protect the heirlooms that Mom wanted to pass down. At this point, Ms. Heidleberg interrupted to say that the condo was one of the burning issues. I caught my breath and asked if Mom was concerned about her condo, and Ms. Heidleberg said, no, that Mom was just upset because her children were fighting over her things. Ms. Heidleberg related that Mom had started crying when she talked about how sad it made her that she had worked all of her life to leave something behind, and now her children were fighting like wild dogs over their inheritance.
Well, this elicited the second, “Jesus H. Christ”. I spent the balance on my phone card explaining to Ms. Heidleberg that Jackson and I had gone to extraordinary measures to protect Mom’s valuables, from carrying her most prized possessions to Mountain View, to changing the locks on the condo to ensure that the other valuables wouldn’t walk off. I recounted my efforts in protecting Mom’s bank cards and bank accounts. Ms. Heidleberg interrupted again to say that Mom was also concerned that she felt like she didn’t have control over her own money, and that depressed her because she didn’t ever want to “get to that state”. In rebuttal, I pointed out that I had left Mom with a hundred dollars in cash, a debit card, and the ability to open a “bank account” with the office at Mountain View. I pointed out that Mom was not getting dressed in the mornings, and had expressed no desire to anyone that she wanted to go anywhere, even on the little day trips that Mountain View offered.
The line behind me was getting rather restless and I knew that just because I had enough money to hog the phone, it wasn’t the prudent thing to do. I summarized my conversation to Ms. Heidleberg by saying, “If Mom is your client, your duty is to her. That means you have to protect her from predators. Predators that have been living virtually rent free for decades, that now want to move into Mom’s condo for free. Predators that are used to getting four to five hundred dollars a month in cash for making a couple of grocery trips, that are now missing that income. Predators that are ready to take possession of everything Mom owns, even though Mom is very much alive”. I ended with, “I trust you will live up to your fiduciary duty”.
To her credit, Ms. Heidleberg took it all in and said that if she and Mom did indeed sign an agreement, that she would look out for her client’s best interests. I responded, “that’s all I want”, and we hung up. The line behind me gave me a look of “what the hell, dude?”, but at least I didn’t feel like I was going to get shanked in the shower. I said something like, “lawyers, right?”, and most everyone grunted in acknowledgement.
I fashioned the following email for Mulva to send to Jackson after her next visit:
I called the attorney and she says that basically Mom wants to update directives, will, etc. but from what I was told, not much will change except the order of people. For example, Mulva dropped to bottom of health care directive with Maggie at top followed by Edna. The lawyer made it sound like Mom was very complimentary of what we had done for her and that she was planning on living out her days at Mountain View.
Bet mom wasn’t under oath for the “stay at Mountain View” part. Me still at back up POA, you know I don’t add so well these days. You’re still on the hook then.
There is much to learn from our Twisted Sister but it would be a dance on the dark side.
The next is from Maggie, Jackson’s daughter:
Just thought I’d give you a heads up….Tina went to see mima yesterday and she told her that she had given charlotte permission to hire a locksmith to change the locks. And she told her that it was charlotte’s condo….so who knows what is going on. Just wanted you to know.
So the walls have been breached, so’s to speak. My response to Maggie reveals the bitterness I feel about the activities of the “coven”:
It might be time to let Charlotte manage moms care – thanks for the heads up
Mulva brings Maggie’s response on her next visit:
I hear ya. Well I went by a little while ago and she was talking about not wanting the condo to be empty and that she thought charlotte should move in and she can still go back if she wants or move back to empty apartment. So who knows?
No one knows, which is kind of the point, no one competent is making decisions. At least decisions that aren’t been reversed by those that have been declared legally incompetent. As painful as calling your Momma from jail is, I had to do it. It was awkward, it was humbling and generally “not fun”. The email I had Mulva send to Jackson and Maggie summarized the conversation pretty well:
Crisis possibly averted. Mom’s going to tell Charlotte to cool her jets until mom has had time to determine her needs at Mountain View. Mom kind of woke up when I asked her if Charlotte was going to inherit before mom died. I asked if I could get the same deal.
Mulva brought in two emails on her next visit, the first is from Maggie:
Well today she was back to letting her move in. Rollercoaster!
The next is from Jackson:
Mom called yesterday and was worried that she didn’t have enough cash to pay her upcoming dentist appointment on Monday – I told her that was why we left her a credit card – she could run out of cash or checks, but she’d never run out of credit card. She seemed to understand – but we may need to reinforce. The credit card is safer than a check book. She has stated that she was ok there- of course this was while they were bringing back her laundry and asking if they could put it up for her. At this point Charlotte seems to be the biggest problem, as always I guess.
The next few days are quiet and Mulva and I had some time to work on “us” during her visits. There are a billion other places that I would rather be, but, all things considered, this may be the best for me right now. Running off to Asheville half cocked every time someone in the Crazy Coven did something insane would not be good for my sobriety, and that has to be my primary focus. Got to keep my eyes, on the prize.
About a week after my conversation with Mom’s attorney, Mulva brings in an email from Mom’s attorney, Helga Heidleberg. I had explained to Ms. Heidelberg in our phone conversation that I really needed for her to outline our phone conversation in detail, and also to explain the terms of her proposed relationship. The attorney did a pretty good job of getting in all of the pertinent details in this email:
We were first contacted by your sister, who called on your mother’s behalf. Your mother was going to meet with me at our office in Asheville on Tuesday. However, she wasn’t feeling well so your sister and aunt came and briefly called your mother while at our office. I explained to them that your mother was my client and that I would have to meet with her alone in-person, and my legal assistant contacted your mother directly to set up yesterday’s appointment at Mountain View. Your aunt and sister only relayed some of your mother’s concerns and were not making specific requests about who should be your mother’s agent and in what order. They mostly discussed access to the condo, the mailbox key and garbage key, spending money for your mother, etc. When I met with your mother, she was very clear that she wanted you to continue on as her agent but did echo the matters that you and I discussed yesterday (access to some spending money, some sort of regular accounting process, etc.).
I also discussed fees with your mother yesterday. I charge on an hourly basis of $240 per hour and our paralegals (who are used to perform services whenever possible) charge between $90 per hour and $130 per hour depending on experience. I explained to your mother than I anticipate her final bill will be no more than $1,000. You are welcome to go ahead and pay an advance deposit if you’d like. However, I do not require it. I usually bill for estate planning matters after the drafting is done and the documents are finalized and signed.
Thank you and please let me know if you have any additional questions.
Helga H. Heidleberg, Attorney
It never hurts to “have it in writing” as they say. Now I have written confirmation that my aunt and sister contacted a lawyer under the guise of protecting Mom from the abuse of denying my aunt and sister access to the garbage key. There was no attempt to take Mom to the attorney appointment, in fact, Mom had not chosen to change out of her pajamas that day. Mom was completely unawares of the appointment, it was just my sister bending the laws of society to fit her desires. For what it was worth, I now have a written record of it.
Jackson sends word via Mulva that Mom had gone off on a jag in his daily phone call about not having any money. Seems that Mom thinks that the worst thing that can happen to a person is to have someone else looking out for their finances. Mom seems to think that having someone pay her bills for her is an indication of her helplessness, and she “never wanted to lose control of my money to where I couldn’t even buy a bag of candy if I wanted to”. Jackson directed Mom to the five twenties in her purse, and asked her if she still had her debit card. Mom was not convinced that she could buy a bag of candy for a hundred dollars, apparently, and kept pressing the issue. I told Mulva to tell Jackson that I would open an account with Mountain View and that Mom could withdraw whatever amount of money, she, or anyone else thought was appropriate. I fashioned the following email for Mulva to send to Mountain View:
I talked to the lawyer and it sounds like some updates, nothing major. It also sounds like she’s happy at Mountain View, so if we can keep the other crazies happy, it will be smooth sailing.
She did mention that she wanted quick access to cash, so maybe we should setup her “commissary” account. She still has her debit card if she goes out to lunch, or THE DENTIST. :~)
Speaking of money, when do I receive this month’s bill?
Thanks for all of your help,
Mulva brought Suzanne’s response on her next visit:
That sounds like good news all the way around.
I will ask Laura, our member services coordinator to open a trust account for your mother. You, your mother, or any other family members may deposit and withdraw funds during business hours Monday through Friday.
Paul, our accounting director, mailed statements yesterday so you should be getting a bill in the next few days. If you don’t have it by mid-week next week let me know and I can scan you a copy.
The only thing we have yet to cover is rescheduling the dental appointment. I will try to catch up with your mother today about this.
I ask Mulva to send Suzanne an email clarifying that “anybody in the world is free to make deposits into Mom’s commissary account, but that only Mom could make withdrawals.” Suzanne responds back that she has got the message and that they will setup the account accordingly. Mountain View has been nothing but professional and helpful with a very difficult situation.
We are coming to the end of our joint first month of incarceration, er, rehabilitation. The month of February is about to close. There is snow on the ground, and I don’t miss having to perform my custodial duties in the cold and snow. I do miss the opportunity to do them if I wanted to. In the words of Tony Baretta, “Don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time.”