Monday, August 08, 2011

My Own Family Reunion - Making Ends Meet For Grandma

After my "drinking buddy" uncle and I had left the wives and kids in order to talk, we got past talking about sports and instead began to talk about the financial situation for the local family members.

  • He talked about how his sister in law is being stressed by her daughter who is zapping her for money all of the time.  Despite being off on her own and living out of town to go to school - she is no longer in school and still looks to mom for support.  This despite being in her late 20's and having squandered her educational opportunities by hanging out and drug use.
  • He talked about his own children.  Both had kids in their teen-aged years, both dropped out of high school.  They have both elected to "shack up" with someone else because this was the ultimatum that was given to them lest they abide by the rules of his house. 
    • The daughter didnt' take care of her own car and the engine locked up due to lack of oil
    • Now she is always borrowing her mother's car - placing stress on him and her as they try to juggle the transportation obligations.
  • He talked about his own job.  Working at a recycling plant.  They call him "Pops".  At 52 years old and working around a lot of young people he is seen as the voice of reason and wisdom for the other young people.
    • He spoke about who he needed to set out to draw the lines of respect for the White plant manner who at times thinks that he can talk to him as if he was one of the young guys.
    • When he needed a pay raise to help ends meet - he called the manager into the office and spoke to him "man to man".   The fact that the manager knows his value as a key tempo setter for the young co-workers - he agreed to the $1 per hour raise to off-set the increasing cost of living
  • He showed me his asthma inhaler.   What was $15 per month a few years ago has jumped to $50 and is now $200.  It was hard to believe that that this little canister costs $200 per month.
The one group of people that he did not specifically talk about was my siblings.  
  • 5 Black males
  • All college graduates
  • All married
  • All gainfully employed
Our mother came from the very same environment yet - it appears- her departure to the North - along with some other values - made the difference.

When it came to the financing for her mother's care my mother said that she did not want to trouble her sons for money all of the time.  I told her that it was as much our responsibility to take care of her as it was her direct children.  It is a matter of communication.  We pitch in during the winter-time for the heating bill as this was the pattern that we all understood.  Up until about 2 years ago our suborn grand mother did not want natural gas coming into her house.  She feared the open flame in the natural gas stove of the people (White folks) who's houses she used to clean for so many years.   The old, inefficient base-board electric heaters drew an electrical bill for a small house that cost more than my house which is at least twice as large.   

Finally they took her for a visit to someone else's house as the work men came and installed the new forced air, natural gas heating and central air conditioning system.  She did not notice the difference.  Even still the heating bills are disproportionately high.  They probably need to add insulation to the attic. 

My job was to collect the information for dissemination to my siblings.  All of them have her bank account information and can deposit money directly into the account locally where they live.

My new strategy is to pay off the utility bills directly.  This frees up my uncle as he told me at times the money from his own struggling household is used to keep his mother in law's household going.  

The ideal situation is for my siblings to pay for the utilities, while those family members who are local providing direct care for our elderly matriarch.  For me it is a matter of awareness of the need and the reprioritization of my financial allocation.   There is no way that my grandmother should have a disconnection notice for her phone and electricity.  This is pure negligence.  

Grandma and Social Security

At no point in this saga did me of my siblings say "We need to advocate for a larger check from Social Security for my grandmother".   Though few of my siblings are as right of center as I am - they all realize that that particular stream is drying up and that this matter can be addressed via better communication and, most importantly, having those of us who have the resources to remove the financial stress off of those who are providing up close and personal care to do so.  We all have the common goal of taking care of our matriarch.

The unspoken story here as well is about the important of proper governance and development of one's children so that they have a greater chance of being net contributors to their parents long term care than they are dependents at a time of scarcity.  I am not taking anything away from my grandmother's direct children.  They have provided the financing and the in-home care as best as they could.  In this case the saga of their own children and their ability to stand on their own two feet (in their mid-twenties and beyond) versus the legacy of their past decisions being an anchor upon the extended family's ability to target the resources where they should be focused.

The family culture of competence in human resource development is the greatest "Intergenerational Wealth" that can be passed along.

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