Friday, April 8, 2016

WANTED: Widow-Friendly Accountant



I wrote a blog a while ago about back-to-school and how most people don't understand how hard that time of year is for many widow(er)s.  It once again marks the passage of time, milestones with our kids that our spouses aren't here to see.

Nine years into this and I'm getting a little more used to back-to-school.

But filing taxes is something that always bites me in the ass.

I just returned from my appointment and nine years into it I really didn't think much of it.  Sure, I hate it. I mean, I left for this appointment right after I'd watched the idiots running for office on the news, only to write a check to future said idiots so they can probably piss it away.

Fun times.

I knew when I made the appointment that it was going to be painful.  I somehow walked in to to make the appointment when the only person available was a dry, humorless man who typed me into the schedule and had to back-track every time he entered in a number because he kept hitting the wrong button.

Doesn't instill a whole lot of confidence.

I could hear another woman in the office who sounded like she was actually having fun with her clients and I was too polite to say to the man who looked like he should be pictured in Wikipedia as the perfect example of an accountant, "Please put me on her schedule."

That would have been rude.  I hate being such a pleaser.

Anyway, nine years after the death of my husband you would think that I've already been through the worst with the whole tax thing.  As we've all experienced, there's nothing worse than that first year when you file as "married" for a few months and "widowed" for the rest of the year.

Personally, I think the government should use some of that pissed-away tax money to send us a condolence card when they see that.  But I digress.

So, I go into my appointment this morning thinking that the widowed worst is behind me when it comes to taxes.

Not so fast.

It wasn't like I forgot that we moved last year. I just didn't think much about it when it came to my widowness.  But the moment I brought out all of the paperwork involving our old house and he looked it over and said, "So, your husband only lived in that house for three years out of the twelve you were there" in order to figure out some sort of complicated algorithm to determine what I inherited...I felt like I was going to burst into tears right into his cheap coffee mug.

I held it together for the rest of the appointment.  I've since returned from a meandering drive trying to clear my head, but that was useless.  However, during that drive it occurred to me...why shouldn't I cry right in front of him?

For crying out loud (literally), I've just written a check to him and to the government; shouldn't that go toward an emotional outburst?

For that kind of money, I should have received a week at a spa/wine-tasting/yoga/dolphin-swimming resort.

I began to envision what I wish my tax appointment could be like.  I would walk into an office where the accountant has a kind face and a box of tissues on her desk.  There would be a comfortable couch where I could lay down as she typed away, a tabletop fountain, and spa-like music playing in the background.

As she goes through my taxes she would nod in understanding as I cry over all that's changed.  She would listen patiently as I explain how much my husband and I loved that house and how hard it is to think that he was only in it for three years before he died.  How different my taxes would be if he could be here because we would be two incomes instead of one.  How heartbreaking it is to see her check "single" on my tax information and then enter in information about my three kids who don't have a father.

There would be no time limit on the appointment.  She would allow me to sit there all day if I needed to and if it stretched to five o'clock she would bring me a glass of chilled Chardonnay.

My life wouldn't seem so black and white to her and, therefore, probably wouldn't to me as well.  She would understand that there is an important, heartbreaking, empowering history behind the forms she was sliding under my nose to sign.  And that would make the appointment a little more bearable.

I would pay extra for this service, but to find an accountant/grief counselor would certainly be worth the expense.

Instead I will write my black and white checks for the black and white form put together by the black and white man to be sent to a government that, apparently, only thinks in black and white and maybe go for another drive.

I wonder if I can deduct the mileage?

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

When a Kidney Calls



I got a call yesterday that I'd been waiting on for a long time.

They just didn't say what I'd hoped.

I was driving a car full of kids (and I do mean FULL) to the local indoor pool for a swim.  Since said kids were all spending the night at my house, I was doing what I could to tire them out.  My phone started ringing, which the Bluetooth in my car picked up, but unfortunately my phone was all the way in the back of the car, so I couldn't really see who was calling - just a phone number I didn't recognize.  I had that moment of indecision - should I pick up or not? - but worried it was one of the kids' moms I answered.

"Is this Catherine?"

"Yes."

"This is John from the Donor Alliance. Is this a good time?"

Again - moment of indecision.  Chances were they were calling to ask if I'd make a speech or something, but my gut wasn't so sure.

"I actually have kids in the car right now.  Can I call you right back?"

"Sure.  I'll be here for the next two hours."

After getting the kids settled in the pool area, I stepped out so I could watch them through the window.

"Donor Alliance, this is Ashley."

"Ashley - I'm returning John's call."

"John in PR or John in Aftercare?"

"Oh.  I don't know."  Yup.  Speech.

"One moment and I'll check with both."

Cue elevator music.

"Hi this is John in Aftercare."

My stomach flipped.  I'd written to Brad's organ donors twice, never hearing from any of them and part of me desperately wanted to.  The other part was worried about how emotional that might be; it could be the best thing that's ever happened to me, connecting me with a living piece of Brad.  Or it could send me spiraling back down a hole I've finally climbed out of.

But before I could really dwell on either scenario, John continued.

It seemed that I'd received a letter (for those of you who don't know, you have to correspond through the Donor Alliance until both parties agree to exchange personal information, protecting the privacy of both donors and recipients.) and John was calling to warn me before he sent it to me.

The letter was from the husband of one of Brad's kidney recipients; his wife had died from an illness unrelated to the transplant.  John just wanted to let me know before I found this letter in my mailbox.

After thanking him for his sensitivity, I ended the call.  I stood there, watching the kids play in the pool through through the window, and tried to process what I was feeling before I went in and tried to act human again.  And one word kept popping into my head.

I felt cheated.

I didn't realize it up until then, but I think a part of me expected all of the people who received Brad's organs to live forever.  They weren't supposed to die because he already did.  He gave them some perfectly healthy stuff and I think I was expecting them all to outlive me.  Or something.

I don't know.  Whatever has been going through my head since that call makes absolutely no sense.  But the quickest way I can sum it up is that I feel sad.  I feel like another part of him has died (which, technically it has).  I'm disappointed.  And, once again, I wish things could be different.

As I type this, it occurs to me that this isn't all bad news.  After all, this kidney recipient just passed last year.  Which means she had seven extra years she wouldn't have had without Brad.

In my mind, those years were filled with love, laughter, family, and friends.

Brad would have liked that.




Sunday, November 29, 2015

Losing It: A Widowed Mom's Thanksgiving Weekend

I lost it this weekend.

Big time.

You know the story:  Kid wants to go out for the night and needs a ride.  Mom says she's too tired because she's been running said kid all over the place the entire weekend.  Said kid starts to pout.  Mom starts crying and screaming, "I don't know if you realize this, but I'm doing this by myself" as she slams out of the room.

Okay.  Maybe you didn't know that story.  But you do now.

Ugh.  I wasn't pretty.  And it's not a new scene.  However, it happens a lot more in my head than it does in real life.

It's not my kid's fault.  Any of my kids.  And most parents - widowed or not - totally get this.  I'm tired.  I don't want to shuttle your ass anywhere else.  I already bought you new boots today.  Isn't that enough??

Kids are kids and we were all like that at one point in our lives.  Yes, they're selfish and it's our job to teach them to think of others so they'll grow up to be caring human beings someday. 

But maybe not by throwing a temper tantrum (me, not her) and slamming out of the room.

My argument was valid, though.  And let's face it - our family situation can be shitty sometimes.  But what usually  happens is that I acknowledge how hard it must be for the kids to not have a dad. 

Very rarely do they acknowledge how hard it must be for me to not have a partner in all of this.

Again, not their job.  I get it.  But as my daughter was begging me to basically spend two hours just driving her to the party and back last night, I couldn't help but bring up something I had been thinking about the entire weekend.

"You know, I'm the only one of your friends' parents who does everything.  If they're single, they're divorced which means they're driving their kids around every other weekend.  I am doing it all on my own, all of the time.  It's no one's fault - it is how it is.  But sometimes I just wish you'd remember that and cut me a little slack."

Of course, this wasn't said as calmly as I just typed it.  But my point was made by the fact that I hadn't even showered (at 4 PM), I had just spent the afternoon before getting her to lunch and the movies with her friends, and hosting several other kids the night before (for my other kids) at an epic sleepover that involved sleeping bags sliding down stairs and other Motrin-inducing moments.

I was done.

I know this wasn't my kids' fault.  I like for them to have fun.  What I miss - truly, truly from the bottom of my core - is someone in my life who will either say to the kids, "You know what?  You can stay home tonight.  Let's let Mom rest" or "Don't worry, honey.  I'll take care of it."

Is that too much to ask????

Don't answer that.