The Queen of the Silver Dollar
Chapter 8: WHERE’S MY MONEY?!
My 93-year-old grandmother emerged from her colon cancer surgery almost as good as new, and ready to party once again. My poor wife. She dreaded dragging Grandma around from one bar to another, and now the old barfly was healthy enough to barhop on nearly a daily basis.
She and her two cats had moved in with us, occupying a bedroom in our house. Our dogs kept the felines prisoner in her bedroom, where they stank up a litter box, and scratched the closet doors to ribbons.
When Grandma wasn’t at a bar, she preferred to work crossword puzzles in her bedroom or watch the Syfy channel in the livingroom.
Her hearing aids were wearing out though, so she had to turn the TV volume way up, and this was getting annoying. So my wife took her to the ear doctor for an examination and a fitting for new hearing aids.
About a week later, at the bar, my grandma drunkenly confessed a secret to my wife. During the hearing exam, she was wearing headphones and was told to repeat all the words she heard. But when she heard something like “dog,” she would respond with something like “log,” to make it appear as if her hearing was worse than it really was.
My sly grandmother was trying to fool the examiner into prescribing super-powerful hearing aids. Which is not a good idea, according to audiologists. My worried wife called the ear doctor and ratted on Grandma. The doctor was appalled. “Oh no!” she said, “she could go completely deaf wearing strong hearing aids like that.” But it was too late. The order had already been sent in, and the devices were already being built.
Needless to say, Grandma was never pleased with her new hearing aids, and was always struggling to turn the volume down. And to rub salt in her wounds, she had to pay a pretty penny for them. $3,290. But the clever old miser had a trick up her sleeve. She bought them on credit, with a deal that promised her zero percent interest if she paid off the entire balance in 12 months.
Grandma had no intention of making any payments. She figured her cancer would return, and she’d be dead in 12 months. But she hadn’t counted on the fact that I had taken over her finances, and I wasn’t about to let her renege on this deal. I figured she’d be dead in 12 months also, and I wanted her to have a clean conscience when she entered whatever hereafter lies after here.
So every month when I counted out her allowance from her Social Security check, I deducted $275 for the hearing aid company.
I also deducted money for room and board. Yes, we required Grandma to pay for her keep. It was hard work taking care of this old biddy, and she was sending all of her money, or what was leftover after paying her bar bill, to her alcoholic son in northern California. I’ll just call him Foster Brooks, since the drunken bum might still be alive. Why give Uncle Foster all her money, we reasoned, when we were the ones busting our asses for her?
I’m also proud, and not one ounce ashamed to admit, that I defalcated her entire savings account of $1,545. I closed that damned account down, and set the money aside in my own account to pay for her final arrangements. That is, her upcoming and inevitable cremation.
We’d been nagging after Grandma to make arrangements with the local funeral home, but she kept putting it off. Even in her 90’s, she was scared to death of Death. It gave her the willies to even talk about it. Also, she liked the idea of leaving everyone holding the bag, upon her demise. Except Foster. She’d been carefully building her savings account, and had intended that Foster inherit the $1,545.
Meanwhile, out of the generosity of her heart, she expected us to pay for her cremation. But it was not to be, much to her chagrin.
She didn’t like us taking so much out of her Social Security check, or losing her savings account, but didn’t say so right away. She just did a slow burn. But a few months and a few meager allowances later, the shit hit the fan. I was casually passing through the livingroom while she was watching Star Trek LXXVII, or some damn thing, when she stopped me with a glare and a growl.
“Tippy!” she barked.
“Yes, grandma?” I meekly turned to her and answered. I remembered that tone of voice from childhood, and an instinctive fear kicked me in the stomach, reverting me to my younger days.
“WHERE’S MY MONEY?!”
It took me a second to regain my composure. I had to remind myself that I wasn’t a kid any longer, and that she posed no threat to me.
I cleared my throat. “Grandma, you have to pay off the hearing aid company within 12 months, or they’re going to charge you 22% interest, backdated to your first payment. So your money is going to the hearing aid company. And the money from your savings account is going to be used for your cremation,” I tried to explain with all the adult maturity and official gravity I could muster.
“I WANT MY MONEYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!” Grandma belligerently hollered.
I was flummoxed. “I-I’m sorry Grandma, but I-I can’t help you,” I stammered while beating a hasty retreat to my bedroom and escaping this monstrous 93-year-old, 99-pound woman.
My wife worked at home. She was a beautician, and we had a beauty shop attached to our house, where my wife gave inexpensive perms to little old ladies. In fact, that’s where my better half was at now, rolling curlers in someone’s hair, or whatever the hell beautician’s do. My grandma suddenly whipped the beauty shop door open and shouted, “WHERE’S MY MONEY?! I WANT MY MONEY!”
My wife tried to soothe her, “We’ll talk about this later, Grandma. I’m with a customer right now.”
To which Grandma retorted, “Fuck your customers! I WANT MY MONEY!”
Then she slammed the door shut and rushed to her bedroom, and slammed that door also.
This could not stand. A business cannot be run successfully with that kind of interruption. We had to take action.
So my wife called both my grandma’s daughter (my mother) and her son (drunk Uncle Foster), and asked if they would take her. But they both came up with all kinds of lame excuses as to why she couldn’t live with them. Truth is, they didn’t want her. They’d known her all their lives, and they remembered just how difficult she was to live with.
One of her sons, my Uncle Mike, was already dead from having drank too much while taking care of her, so he was no help. And another of her sons, my Uncle David, the one who never became an alcoholic, and my favorite uncle, was also long dead. So he was no help.
It was time for Plan B. My wife handed Grandma a phone book. She told her that she was very welcome to continue living with us, but if she did, she had to be pleasant to be around. On the other hand, if she preferred to live in a rest home, she could call around to all the rest homes in town and choose the one she liked best.
Grandma’s telephone investigation led to the discovery that if she lived in any rest home, they’d drain her meager checking account dry, and every month they’d confiscate her entire Social Security check. All she’d receive would be a measly allowance of about $30 a month. Which wouldn’t be much to send to Foster. Hell it would hardly be enough to afford more than a day or two a month of barhopping.
That ended the controversy. Grandma returned to her old, sweet self.
Except with me. She refused to talk to me after that, until her hearing aids were paid off, and I increased her allowance. Which took a year. But after that long era of silence ended, we became like old friends again.
This is the latest installation of my nine-part series, The Queen of the Silver Dollar. Come on back in a few days for the final installation, entitled, Chapter 9: Closing Time . Click here to read the last installation. Click here to start at the beginning.