Even odder behavior surfaced in Dad’s 60s. He was easily distracted and he lost his enthusiasm for “the business”, barely making enough money to survive. He lost tools, jackets and workers.
“I don’t have to save for retirement – I’ll work until I die!”
He did find unique ways to make money.
It was in his 70s his dementia and I collided. It is when our dance with Lewy began for real.
By 2006 it was clear something was going on in his brain. Dad was almost 80, I was 50.
Dad was quite healthy. He was born with a congenital heart defect, Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome, a heart rhythm disorder that causes a rapid heart beat from time to time. He had glaucoma, but other than that he was in excellent physical health. Dad was still strong, but suffered from dizziness, and could not climb on any more scaffolds to do ceiling work.
My three sisters and I consulted regularly, what to do? Was this just aging, or was there something seriously wrong with him? It came to a head one day when he called me to meet him for lunch.
I Can’t Figure This Out
He was still driving (more on that saga later.) His office, two rooms rented in the bottom of an old building in Northeast Minneapolis, was only a few miles from where I worked. We met at a sandwich shop nearby. As we stood in line he looked at me, handed me his checkbook and said “I can’t figure this out any more. Can you help?”
Wow. This was a big step for my dad. He was always a very private person when it came to finances. Us kids never had any idea how much money he made, and as he aged he kept his financial dealings away from my mother.
I knew they were having financial struggles, but I had no idea what was happening.
Piles of Bills
He asked me to help him, and being the task-orientated administrative daughter, I plunged right in.
I went to his office, set out a basket, and had him place bills and other mail in the basket.
I dug and found out he had five bank accounts, all with very minimum money. He had multiple credit cards and would take out cash from an ATM on those credit cards. Then his payments would be late, he would get large late fees on top of the ridiculously high interest rates. He couldn’t make the payments, and within a month I realized he owed over $8,000 in outstanding bills.
Their income consisted of his social security, which he gave my mother to pay the household bills, her very minimal social security, and his “work”, which consisted of the crystal repair business, selling mini-donuts out of a van and making wooden signs for people (which he often gave away).
I was horrified. What to do? How would they get out of this mess?