“You got any money on you?” granny asked me with a hand on her hip, just before I left for work Friday morning. Granny’s voice and posture made me feel pimped; like a passerby who’d just been hoodwinked by a homeless person or robber. I’ve stopped giving her large quantities of money, because she ends up hiding it from “the people” and herself. Afterwards, she makes herself frantic and tears her room apart looking for the money, and then she blames the invisible people for stealing it.
“Granny, what do you need money for?”
“Just in case I have to go somewhere. I might have to run and need some cash. Gimme ten dollars.” She’s a pushy, demanding little thang.
“Ten dollars? You lost the money I gave you the other day. I’m not made of money ya know.”
“Nah, I didn’t lose it. They stole it. You know we’re not the only ones who live here.”
I was running late, so I didn’t have the time to remind her that “they” are not real. I gave her two dollars.
“Now granny, don’t lose this. You know how you do. Keep it in your busom, OK.” It’ll be impossible to lose money there, I think as I wrap the two single bills up in toilet paper and stuff them in granny’s bra. Don’t most old ladies keep money in their bra?
She has a home attendant, so I know she’s not going anywhere. But, having access to some money makes her feel independent and in control. Like an adult. When I first began hiding her money from her, I didn’t realize what that would do to her emotionally. One night, she sat on her shower chair in my bedroom and cried, saying “J, you can’t treat me like a lil’ kid by taking all my money. Who you think been taking care of this house for 29 years?”
“Granny, I’m not tryna treat you like a little kid. I just don’t want you to lose it and we need to keep ‘other people’ from messing with your money.” She really did look like a little child, sitting there crying in her PJs. That was the first time I realized what an adjustment she had to go through. I realized how much our roles had reversed, and how difficult it was for her to give control to someone else. How important it was for her to still feel like she’s a part of everything that’s going on. To still feel in control. From that day, I always made sure she had a little pocket change. She always loses it, but she usually recovers it several days later. She can no longer write checks, but we go over the bills together each month and she still asks me when everything is due.
Granny called me several hours later, after her home attendant left for the day. I’ve taped important phone numbers to her nightstand, because she often forgets them.
“J, I think I’ma go out.”
“Go out where?”
“Go out to do a few things. I need some new pantyhose.” Granny has many pairs of pantyhose. I’ve just hidden them because she loses those too.
“Granny, why don’t you wait till I come home and then we can run all our errands this weekend,” I say as if trying to bribe a misbehaving child. I try to sweet talk her, because she’s home alone and I’m afraid she’ll go out and get lost or disoriented. If I overreact, she’ll get pissed and go out just to spite me. But, then logic kicked in.
“Granny, you only have two dollars and no Metrocard. Where are you going with that?”
“Two dollars? That’s all you gave me this morning?” she asked, laughing.
“Yup, cus I know you lose stuff.”
“What? Don’t you that to me again! Well, I guess I’ll have to wait for you then.” Well, that worked out well.
“But, thank you for calling me and letting me know you were gonna go out. Don’t ever go out without calling me first. We have to let each other know where we are at all times granny.” I had to use some positive reenforcment so that she’ll call me whenever she gets the urge to leave the house.
When I returned home that evening, I asked granny where her money was?
“The money I put in your bra this morning.”
I did the bra check and the money was gone, gone, gone. How do you lose money that’s in your bra?
“They stole it. Those thieves. I told em God’s gonna get ’em for messin’ with me!” Granny’s always trying to sic God on somebody. As if God is her personal hit man.
“Uh huh granny. ‘They’ went in your bra and stole your money huh? What were ‘they’ doing in your bra granny?!”