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The Letterbox Overfloweth Editorial Responses
These are just some of the many responses we received from our Editorial of 06/20/13 - The Letterbox Overfloweth

I work around elders daily; however, this is a personal story.

My dad, like Henry, was 20 years older than my mom. When he became ill and then bedfast, Mom was at the height of her career. The physician finally said if there wasn’t someone home to supervise his care, he would have to go to a nursing home.

I ended my career in private health care administration and moved home to care for him full time while Mom worked and my daughter attended junior high. After a year of caring for him 24 hours a day, taking care of and repairing the house, preparing meals, doing laundry and making sure homework was done, I was exhausted. The next time I took him for a doctor’s visit, I asked the nurse what to do. She had the physician write a script for home health. This was 1991 and Medicare had a few different rules back then. I was thrilled, but my mother was not. She felt that if I was there anyway, we didn’t need a stranger in our home taking care of Dad. I finally won her over and a home health aide was dispatched.

During the next year and a half, we had many wonderful, loving and hardworking aides coming to our home. We also had “Shirley.” Shirley was great; she also seemed to be winning my mother over and for that I was grateful. Eventually, Dad passed and then, 10 days later, my mom’s sister unexpectedly passed. This threw my mother into a great depression. My maternal grandmother was also greatly affected by the deaths and needed to move in with us. Shirley had never “moved on.” She offered to help Mom get home health for my grandmother.

My birthday arrived on the one year anniversary of Dad’s death. I wanted a quiet celebration with just family, but Mom insisted that Shirley and her boyfriend come. Shirley was almost 60 and her boyfriend was about my age—32 at the time. Red flags were going up everywhere! I wasn’t happy about my birthday being invaded by people I regarded as strangers – but I was less happy when mother announced over birthday cake that she would be retiring after 40 years. She was taking her profit sharing and investing in a business with Shirley.

I protested, but to no avail. The grooming of my mom was complete. When she received her $250,000 in profit sharing, instead of rolling it over, she handed it over to Shirley and her boyfriend. It was all Mom had besides the house and eventually, they got that, too. They told her the money was being used to purchase a lakeside convenience store that would give her an income for the rest of her life. There was very little being sold out of that store during the day. Mother kept going down there like she was a shop owner, but no one came into the store to buy things. She said there was a smell – it smelled awful and it made her cough. But she kept going.

One evening, I was at home with my daughter when I got a call from the hospital where Mom had been admitted. When I arrived at Mother’s room, there was a physician and an FBI agent. Mother’s blood tests had revealed toxicity associated with methamphetamine. They asked me where this “store” was. When I went to get into her purse to get the address, I found a pistol that I had never seen before! I gave it over to the agent, who took down the information and dispatched a team to the store. Apparently, there was nothing being sold out front in the store, but Mother’s money bought the place and financed a large and complex meth making and distribution operation. All involved were arrested, convicted and imprisoned, including Shirley, her two adult children, and her boyfriend. But Mother almost lost her life. I was beside myself at that point. As an only child, I had no one to turn to. Dad and my aunt were gone. My grandmother had passed away during that time and Shirley had isolated Mom from not only her church friends and community, but also from me and my daughter, her last living close relatives.

My mom has a college education and was only in her mid-50s when this happened. But her double whammy of grief had prepared her especially for the likes of this con artist. When mom lost our family home and acreage, I made her move to the new town where I lived and into senior apartments. Four years later, the IRS came knocking about the taxes on the money from the profit sharing and the sale of the house. I was able to negotiate that down to a few thousand dollars, which I paid off monthly for years.

Three years ago (2010), Mom – who lives in a lovely senior apartment complex and has a thriving life with friends and hobbies – called and asked me to come over. I am married now and my husband went with me. She handed me a letter from our state income tax division. They wanted the taxes (plus penalties and fees) for the tax Mother did not pay when she got her profit sharing out in 1996: $30,000.

It finally got to me—feeling responsible for the person who did this to my mother coming into our lives and how this was seemingly never going to end. My husband had heard the story and, although I didn’t blame Mom for being duped, she blamed me for not being able to save our family home from creditors or get her money back. My husband told my mom that it was time she stopped. He told her that he was going to take care of this one last thing and if anything ever came of it again, she would have to take care of it herself ; 14 years was long enough for me to be responsible for something I did not do.

We got an attorney and paid him $1,000 to file for abatement and it was over in a matter of days. You don’t have to be considered elderly or uneducated for this to happen to you – all you have to be is grieving.

K. D.


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