It's Not About the Money
Me: You look nice… Did you go someplace today Mom?
Mom: Yes (smiling)... I went for a walk (happy face).
Me: With whom?
Mom: By myself, to the top of the street.
Me: Geez Mom… Did you use your walker?
Mom: No, I only needed my cane.
Me: That’s not a good idea Mom.
Mom: I was fine... a little wobbly, but fine.
I should probably be slapping my 92-year-old mother on the back, exclaiming atta girl! and admiring her audacious attitude, but I’m not. I’m processing the walk-event to understand why she would embark on such a dangerous mission alone? On a scale of 1 to 10, Mom’s ambulatory ability is a soft 4. Unsatisfied, I press:
Me: I don’t understand Mom… Just the other day, you were telling me how you’d come to a place where you didn’t feel you needed to leave your apartment that much.
Mom: You were at work, and I just wanted to get out while the weather’s still ok, and while I still can. I may not have many opportunities left.
Ahhhh...so this isn’t about me being a neglectful daughter at all. It’s about Mom contemplating her mortality… possibly processing pain over the loss of her annual southern sojourn… a last stab at independence. Maybe.
The next day, the sun is shining and I think Mom might enjoy a proper walk. Quietly entering her apartment through the back door, I see her speaking with the FedEx guy who throws me a pleading, WTF look, and then and I see the manila folder in Mom’s hands.
Months of questionable activities on Mom’s part suddenly make perfect sense, and I’m terrified.
Within the manila envelope is $5,000 in hundred dollar bills, meticulously attached with surgical tape (so as not to rip the bills) to multiple pages of a Coastal Living Magazine (surely the Maldivian recipients will appreciate her clever use of this particular publication). For her efforts, Mom will receive her sweepstakes winnings of $500,000 later that night.
After an hour with the police, multiple forms of “evidence”, and a visit from Elder Services, Mom finally understands that she’s been diabolically duped. Turns out, her treacherous teeter to the top of the street had actually been a clandestine quest for a cab that she didn’t want me to see from my kitchen window.
After an initial phase of shock and awe -for both of us - I don my empathy hat and can tell that in addition to being embarrassed, Mom is deeply hurt. The scam had furnished her with a “new friend” in Connecticut, with whom she “gabbed for hours”. Loneliness had been a huge factor in her participation in the scam.
Mom also found purpose in her underground activities, her end-goal being to donate all $500,000 in winnings to her multiple beloved charities. If she could do nothing else at the end of her life, she could leave a legacy of giving.
With Mom’s hand abilities and sight waning, she’s unable to do her “crafting” these days, and finds less and less enjoyment in reading or watching TV. Despite requiring a magnifying glass to complete the paperwork necessary to carry out her subversive activities, scamming broke the boredom of her otherwise mundane days. Her participation involved communication with others, brain power, organization, and a little crafty creativity. (Taping $100 bills into magazines with surgical tape?)
Despite a college education and a head holding most of her original marbles, Mom is still a very Golden Senior in need of companionship, activity, and flexing of her intellectual muscle. Unfortunately, this hurtful hustle offered all of it, plus the promise of plenty more.
Mom’s involvement in this caper highlighted what’s missing in her life, but I can’t be the only source to provide it. I can, however, help her find fulfillment through senior “play dates”, paid companionship, and weekly trips to the Council On Aging. All of these are doable and will certainly be more cost effective, and with far greater returns, than succumbing to the scumbags and seedy scammers of the world.