C H R I S T M A S T I D E

A Merry Christmas
Cleone’s favorite holiday song was Joy To The World directed by the Philharmonic Orchestra and sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. She’d begin playing it as a daybreak reveille on December 12th and continued through the morning of her birthday, December 27th. We were reminded of the fifteen day musical salute while driving Elizabeth’s mother back to Arkansas in November 1990.
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“How come I don’t remember this tradition, Mom?”

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“You’re never home for the holidays more than a day or two, Elizabeth Ann. Besides, your daddy and I only began it after you left home.”

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During those long gone 30 years, Elizabeth’s father died and Cleone remarried several times. As a southern lady born and bred in Montgomery, Alabama, she was raised to believe a woman’s life wasn’t complete without a man in hand. Her current husband, Bill, was confined to a nursing home, diagnosed with violent hysterical dementia. He hadn’t recognized her (or anyone) for six months and never would again, but that didn’t stop Cleone from visiting him daily, ignoring his foul-mouthed curses and dodging food flung in her direction.

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We promised to stay with her through Thanksgiving, but those plans changed after she asked me to sort through stacks of personal papers to determine if any needed keeping.

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The first item of interest I came across was Bill’s membership in a local white supremacist group. He kept propaganda, recruitment paraphernalia and a loaded .38 in his desk drawer next to a box of hollow point bullets. I immediately disposed of everything burnable and buried the gun in his asparagus garden. Other discoveries were as serious.
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“Mom,” I tiptoed, “it says here Bill used your Certificates of Deposit and savings as collateral to purchase this house.”
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“He promised they’d be safe until the house is paid off.”
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“You’re 83 and he’s older. The mortgage is for 30 years.”
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“I guess.”
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“Who pays the mortgage?”
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“It’s automatically deducted from my social security check each month.”
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“You have your own direct deposit checking account?”
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“Yes. Mine pays the car loan, utilities, and property taxes, too.”
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Why isn’t it all deducted from his account?”
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“He pays the insurance, charge cards, grocery account, and incidentals.” I hesitated just long enough for her to ask, “Why?”
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“Well, what’s important is, I can tell you how to fix what I’ve found, so there’s nothing for you to get upset about. Since you have his health proxy and financial power of attorney — over his very sizable bank accounts, I must say — it’s merely a matter of shuffling funds.”
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“Meaning?”
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“You have the authority to write checks.”
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By then both Cleone and Elizabeth were eager for details and had pulled chairs up to the table where I was working.
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“Mom, your name isn’t on the mortgage, deed to the house, or car title. If Bill should suddenly die, the house and car go directly to his son. His Will leaves his savings and all his belongings to his son. The executor to his estate is his son. His life insurance policy names only his son.”
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“What about me?” Cleone asked, matter-of-factly.
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“He made no provisions for you, Mom.”
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“Do you think his son knows any of this?”
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“According to these letters, he does.”
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I let that sink in between mother and daughter while I ran some figures and finalized a plan.
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(more…)

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THE ABOVE EXCERPT IS FROM:
Seriously, Mom, you didn’t know?
by Marguerite Quantaine © Copyright 2019

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10 thoughts on “C H R I S T M A S T I D E

  1. Mary Anne

    What wonderful memories to have. That you could and did make her final days happy and secure must be a blessing for you both. You are truly remarkable. I’m just wondering if the gun was ever found in that asparagus patch. I can just imagine someone gathering some spears and pulling up that .38 in the process!

    Reply
    1. margueritequantaine Post author

      It will certainly make the weeder wonder won’t it, Maf? Although, I recall finding a gun buried in the back yard of our NY home and wondering if it was used in a crime. It was very rusty and the fellow I took it to in an attempt to discover the answer said it disintegrated in the solution used to remove the rust. That was 40 years and 1300 mile ago — and yet I never quite believed him. Thank you for dropping by and chiming in.

      Reply
    1. margueritequantaine Post author

      We concur, Mercedes. I keep journals so that all was recorded with accompanying photos 28+ years ago, but this is the first time I sat down and wrote the essay. It brought us a tremendous amount of peace then and still serves to provide comfort during the holiday season.

      Reply
    1. margueritequantaine Post author

      Thank you, Linda. It still makes us well us after all these years. Just the memory of the sight of our handiwork in her name for the benefit of others, without expectation of return. That was Cleone.

      Reply

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