I’ve been taking care of my mother’s finances for well over two years now, since she moved from the house she lived in all her life to an assisted living home. It still astonishes me, sometimes, that managing her paperwork requires more time and effort than managing my own.
I wrote here about the sense of sadness and loss involved with something seemingly as straightforward as establishing a new bank account to make it easier for me to manage mom’s finances.
Loss accumulates and accelerates in one’s lifetime. Last January , we moved Mom to assisted living…today I wrote to the little local bank where Mom has done her banking, also since forever, to close out the account. They have no branches here in the Philly area, of course. And, if you will believe this, the bureaucrats who send my mom the black lung checks (my dad was a coal miner) will not do direct deposit, so I have to physically take the checks to a bank. So, getting rid of the P. O. box and the local bank account are just two more steps on the long road that is the end of “home” for me.
The bank mom always used was a branch of this bank, but called by us “The Corner Bank”. If you go to Google Maps and input “Pennsylvania 88 & Stoney Hill Rd, Greensboro, Greene, Pennsylvania 15338”, and then use Street View, and scan around till you locate the tiny structure on one corner of the crossroads, you will see how it got its name. Oh, for big things, mom and dad would drive to the main branch in Carmichaels, but, the corner bank was where most of our family’s banking was done.
After dad died, mom eventually won the right to black lung benefits, and began to receive two checks a month. These were duly taken to the corner bank and deposited. In later years this became something of a chore when driving was difficult or impossible for her, and she had to find someone to take her there or go deposit the checks for her. When I took over her finances, I determined I’d get them set up as direct deposit and end all that bank trip business.
But no. When I looked into it, I was assured that it Simply. Could. Not. Be. Done. Why? I do not know. There were many other battles I’ve had to fight in the last two years, and this was not one I felt like taking on. And so, twice a month, since January of 2008, I’ve been visiting with the tellers at my local PNC branch.
The branch I go to is located in one of those beautiful old stone bank buildings, the kind that lets you know you are really in a bank. The tellers are warm and personable, and I have chatted with them about the changing weather and the chances of the Phillies for the past two years. They have commiserated with me about the company that will not do direct deposit, inquired about my mother, helped me figure out how to get another bank card on the account for my brother (so he can buy things for my mother), and, gradually, it seems, become part of my life.
Then, a turning point: mid-March’s check arrived with a notice. Direct deposit is now available! An end to a tedious, repetitive chore and the chance to streamline one more part of my life!
I called the enclosed number to inquire. And let me tell you, it wasn’t easy. The first time through the voice mail maze, I was led to a recording that told me, basically, “no human is available at this voice mail box and we are now hanging up on you. bye bye!” Second time through I just kept punching zero till I got a human. Who gave me the voice mail of some other human who would, maybe, call me back. Well, she did, and of course there is a form, and they would send it to me, and they need this and that, and so on.
The form arrived in my mail last week. I looked at it…and I hesitated. I don’t know. If I sign up for direct deposit now, what reason will I have to go back to the branch and chat with the friendly tellers? The snow has finally melted and the Phillies are starting a new season.
I look at the form for direct deposit, and all I can think of is that one time in the grocery store with mom when I was about to go through the self-checkout lane. “Don’t do that!” she exclaimed, in alarm, like I was about to beat a child. “That’s taking a job from someone. Go through a lane with a person.”
The sensible thing to do is to fill out the form. I don’t suppose I’ll go so far as to put it through the shredder, but maybe, for the time being, I’ll just put it in the file cabinet. And go ask the tellers what they think about the Phils.