“So, the way I see it, we have three things that we want to accomplish in the meeting with the lawyer,” I said, by way of beginning my prep with Miss Cathy for the meeting with Cheryl Henderson later that afternoon. The day had finally arrived when all of the research, preparation and paper work would come together so that we could finally start the process of getting mom’s (legal) affairs in order.
“The first thing is to get the clock started on Medicare.”
“Medicare?” Miss Cathy queried,” Don’t you mean Medicaid?”
“Right, right”, I said dismissively, eager to get back to my larger point, “Medicare, “Medicaid-I just got them confused, you know what I’m talking about.” I started to continue to outline what the meeting was about but Miss Cathy was having none of it.
“Well, it’s important to say what you mean, I just wanted some clarification.” Sounding like the elementary substitute teacher that she was after she retired from thirty years working with the federal government.
“Okay, but you know what I meant, so can you do me a favor and let my mistake slide, I’ve got a lot of other things on my mind so can you not ‘nit pick’ every word.”
“Why is it that you get to question me but I don’t get to ask you anything?” she shot back, clearly not in a mood to be conciliatory.
“Jeesh, are you really going to start this now?” I thought to myself, “I could be back in New York right now doing something fabulous but I’m here like a good little secretary with my notebook and pen, doing my best Roz Russell impersonation trying to get you ready for a meeting with a lawyer about your “shit” (not mine) and you’re going to play “tit for tat” with me today? Really?”
But, as frustrated as I was she did have a point and I had to acknowledge it so what I said was, “you know what, you’re right, it doesn’t seem fair, you should get to question me as much as you want but we don’t have a whole lot of time before we need to leave and I’m just trying to get through this before we have to go. So, can you do me a favor and just let “one” slide and not correct me every time I say something out of turn when you know what I’m talking about.”
“I don’t like your tone.” She said.
“Okay, I’m out.” I said closing my book and putting my notes away,” I’m going to go take a shower and maybe we can start over again later.”
“Good, you do that,’ she said, “maybe that way you can take some time to get yourself together, it seems to me that you have a little attitude.”
“Jesus Christ”, I muttered under my breath (but loud enough to be heard) as I walked out of the living room.
Tony sat on the couch during this little exchange watching us morph into George and Martha from “Who’s afraid of Virginia Wolff’ without saying a word.
I took a shower and rinsed away any resentment that was building up in me and came back into the kitchen ready to move on. Miss Cathy was cooking breakfast and Tony was keeping her company.
“I want to talk to you when you get a minute”, I heard her say in my general direction, her back to me but I could tell by her tone and the way she kept her back to me that she was as hot as the skillet on the stove.
“Okay, shoot.” I said and sat down and listened as she told me how she felt disrespected and how angry she was. “I don’t like the way you talk to,” she said,” and I will be respected! Now before we go in there and change things you better make sure that you want to be here because you can always go some place else.”
“Wowsa!” was all I could think. Her telling me that 'I was unhappy' and 'could leave anytime' was turning into a recurring theme lately, but I chose to ignore that and focus on what was more important and that was the fact that she was upset and I’m the one that made her feel that way. I told her (quite sincerely) that I did respect her and the last thing I wanted was for her to get upset and for that I was truly sorry.
“You know, I’ve got to tell you something, I know I’ve told Tony and a few other people but maybe I never told you but I’m the one that chose to be here, nobody asked me too, not you, not Tony, no one-it was my idea and I haven’t regretted it for a one minute. There are a few things that I know for sure and I know that at the end of my life I will always remember making the decision to come stay with you as one of the best things I’ve ever decided to do in my life.”
I looked over at her and I could see that she heard me, that she needed to hear me say that.
“Well, okay,” she said and just like that the storm passed as quickly as it came.
“Do you want eggs to go with your scrapple?” she asked.
After breakfast we finally settled back down in the living room to discuss what she could expect in the meeting. I told her that it was important for her to give the lawyer the impression that what we were doing was ‘her’ idea and that she wasn’t being coerced or manipulated by Tony or me.
Part of the reason for prepping her was so that we could rehearse what she needed to say and tell her what the key points were and hopefully keep her from rambling off topic.
She seemed to understand what we were doing, especially after we stressed that all the preparations for long term care in a nursing home were for ‘down the road’ and that nothing that we talked about would change her life now (or for a long time hopefully).
Tony and I both knew that any talk about ‘nursing homes’ had the potential to get her agitated and upset and we wanted her to be calm for the meeting and to not act like we were conspiring to ship her off to a home and run away with her money. We talked for a good forty minutes or so; entertaining her questions and making her feel as comfortable as we could about everything. She seemed satisfied with what we’d discussed so we set out for the short drive to College Park, Md where the lawyer’s office was located.
Seems like every time I’ve been to Cheryl’s office I’ve always got someone else with me, first it was just me, checking out her seminar, then I came back for a consultation with Tony and now Miss Cathy was with us as the secretary ushered us into the now familiar conference room.
A few minutes after we were settled in our seats Cheryl Henderson, the lawyer walked in and introductions were made. Cheryl greeted Miss Cathy warmly and gave her a hug, and then she looked at me and said, ”Where’s my hug?”
I’m not much of hugger, especially in a business setting but ‘when in Rome’ ….
With everybody hugged and seated we could finally begin. The next hour or so pretty much revolved around Miss Cathy (as I thought it would). On one hand it made sense to prep mom beforehand so that she’d have an idea of what to expect and what to say but in the final analysis it really didn’t matter because her short term memory is so spotty that it’s a crap shoot whether she’ll remember what we discussed and rehearsed so you really just genuflect and hope for the best.
It’s not like she was being interrogated but Cheryl was pretty much focusing all her energy and conversation on Miss Cathy, she’d heard from Tony and me already and she knew what we wanted (on mom’s behalf); now she wanted to hear it from Miss Cathy herself.
I sat silently and tried to look supportive as Miss Cathy answered the questions asked, sometimes faltering but always charming and trying to please. I could see that at times the questioning was getting a little overwhelming but she didn’t complain or get irritated.
“Do you know why you are here?” Cheryl asked.
“Well”, Miss Cathy said hesitantly, then she sat up in her chair more confidently and answered, “I’m here to get my affairs in order.”
Next week, part IV