It wasn’t long after that that I convinced the rest of the family that it was time to take you in for evaluation for dementia. You had left plenty of evidence lying around to support my case—empty express mail envelopes that probably had contained cash, withdrawal slips for large amounts of cash that had vanished, mysterious notes about conversations with people we didn’t know, laced with terms like “handling fee,” “tax payments,” and the names of various luxury cars, canceled checks to random strangers… In the span of five days, you had written checks totaling over $4,500 to people we did not know, and neither did you.
“Why don’t you take away his checkbook?” I asked Mother.
“I can’t. He likes to use it at the store.”
“Tell him to use credit cards.”
“But he’ll be upset.”
“Give him a fake checkbook.”
She finally took away your checkbook, but, as I said, you could still convince her to write checks to strangers.
Your last hurrah came after you lost your license, which was suspended in December, 2013. I came over one day around 4:45, and you were frantically demanding that Mother drive you to the Fulton Post Office. She was refusing, saying that she did not like to drive at rush hour, even on local roads. “Then I’ll drive myself!” you said.
Now, at this point, not only did you have a suspended license, you had already driven on it, gotten into an accident, and received a ticket that carried a potential fine of $1000 and a year in jail. I was busily trying to find you an attorney to handle that. I was not going to let you try to drive again.
“You get in a car, and I’ll report it stolen,” I told you. You glared at me. Then I said, “What do you need to send at the Post Office so urgently? They’re going to close in a few minutes.”
“It’s none of your business,” you told me. “I need something postmarked today.”
I pointed to the clock. “It’s unlikely, but give it to me, and I’ll mail it for you.”
You grabbed car keys.
“Edwin,” Mother said, “why don’t you give your letter to Steven and let him mail it for you?”
“Because I don’t trust him!” you exclaimed.
I would have been hurt. I should have been. But, of course, any letter you gave me was going to go right into the shredder, so… fair enough.
So I agreed to drive you to the Post Office. On the way there, you confessed that you were sending a $1200 check to Texas, as a “handling fee” for the millions you had won in Joe’s Discount Australian-Uzbekistan Sweepstakes. I said, “You know it’s another scam.” You said, “I’m writing an expose,” and I said, “You know that’s a lie.” At which point you made that triple-shushing sound you made when you wanted a conversation ended, and you were trying to pretend you were not a tin-plated dictator. (When you weren’t pretending, you just screamed, “Shut your damned mouth!“)
We got to the Post Office. It was 5:05. A poor USPS employee was still visible behind the counter, though all the windows and doors were closed and locked. You banged on the glass and demanded that he “Open this damned door!” He was nicer to you than you deserved, but he did not open the door. He pointed to the “Out of Town” mail slot. You accepted that you would not be getting a postmark with that day’s date. I was about to say that the post office on my way home would postmark after 5 PM, but you jammed the letter in the slot.
Fortunately, Mother had already stopped payment on the check before we got home; but on the way home I told you I was ashamed of you.
“It’s my money,” you said.
“No, it’s not. It’s Mother’s money too. And you’re going to leave her with nothing. You have no right to do that. Worse, you’re making an ass of yourself in front of police officers, store clerks and postal employees. And that makes me ashamed of you.”
We didn’t say much else as we drove up to the house, but I do believe that that was the last time you sent money to scammers.
It was a long battle. We lost a lot. Money. Patience. Respect. And I gained a healthy hatred for people who prey on the elderly.
I hope that, if your consciousness still exists somewhere in the cloud storage of the universe, it’s now free of the flaws that allowed you to become victim to those sub-human predators. And I hope you feel no guilt over everything that happened, because it wasn’t you that was doing it, it was a disease. It was a disease that used your stubbornness to allow it to persist, used your intellect to cloak its presence, and used your insecurity to feed its growth. But it wasn’t you.
I asked you on that last drive from the Post Office, “Why do you need this money? Why are you so desperate to get millions of dollars?” You just said you wanted to pay off all of my debts, and Charles’s, and Susan’s. That would have been nice, but it wasn’t your job. You had done your job. I only wish you had realized it. All the imagined millions that they promised you would not have added up to the value of that.