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Social Security Confusion

Social_security_cardMy mother has been getting the run-around about claiming my father’s monthly Social Security check now that he is gone. We understand that the system is plagued with fraud and that she might need to prove her identity (and even show proof of their 50-year marriage). We understand that sometimes systems as large as this one can get backed up. Yet we were baffled as to what exactly was standing in the way of what certainly must be a run-of-the-mill request.

Yesterday, my mother announced that she had finally gotten to the bottom of the problem. It seems that she has been having trouble because she worked and has her own Social Security account. She has to file extra paperwork to claim my father’s benefits instead of her own (which is her right according to the law).

This doesn’t seem so shocking in and of itself, except that neither a funeral director nor a savvy financial planner knew about this rule. And a call to Social Security didn’t reveal this answer, so Mom had to go to the Social Security office herself to investigate in person. And, she still can’t get it resolved until she has a phone appointment with Social Security – in 3 weeks.

I don’t know why I have been surprised and upset by this. I should know better than to expect a system as large as Social Security to run smoothly. Yet, I keep feeling as if my grieving mother should not have to put up with such shenanigans. I feel as if she should be treated with respect, dignity, and maybe even a little sympathy. I feel as if our system should recognize that we have all been through a terribly stressful and traumatic event and should treat us all with a little humanity.

Leave a comment: what financial transitions have surprised you and your transitioning family?

Post written by Kay.

 

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“Have you had THE conversation?”

No, not that conversation. THAT conversation – the one about end-of-life wishes. According to The Conversation Project, “60% of people say that making sure their family is not burdened by tough decisions is ‘extremely important'”, yet “56% have not communicated their end-of-life wishes.”  To be sure, it is a tough conversation to have.

My dad had the conversation with my mom and each of his kids many times. When he passed away suddenly last month, we all understood so very clearly what decisions he wanted us to make on his behalf. We did not bicker, complain, or feel the need to argue a case – we just signed the paperwork and said our sad goodbyes.

Now that Dad is gone, we are grieving, but we are not left second-guessing our decisions. We honored Dad’s wishes. We loved him and we owed him nothing less than that.

If you have not had this important conversation with your family, it is never too late to start. You can find a conversation starter kit here. And please talk to us! Leave a comment or send an email (kaysandwichfamily at outlook dot com) and let us know how your conversations are coming along.

 

 

Becoming less black and white – the daughter’s perspective

I had a minor soul-jolting moment with my 11-year-old son, R, last night. We were snuggled together on the couch, watching a documentary on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He turned his big brown eyes up to me and asked, “Mommy, why would anyone do that to someone else?” Then he followed that up with, “I mean, I know why someone would do that, but why?!”

What I saw in the depths of his eyes at that moment was his realization that the world does not run according to any rules, nor our desires or interests, not even our own personal moral codes.

R has been struggling with his grief over losing my father, H, only a month ago. He had always been very close to “Pop-Pop,” and his death has been a great blow. We can see that he is grappling with handling his grief not as a child would – raw and fast – but as more of the adult he is becoming. He doesn’t want to cry in front of us, no matter how many times we tell him it’s okay to do so, and he doesn’t want to admit how much he is hurting.

We are proud of R and the young man he is becoming. Still, it is hard to look at him and know that his world is so much less black and white now, that he is seeing so many more shades of gray instead. So much like a man and so much less like a child.

Leave a comment: have you dealt with grieving (and growing) children?

Post written by Kay.

Give, give, give, give some more, and then take a little – the daughter’s perspective

Living with someone is hard. Marriage is the prime example of this, of course, but every close-living relationship has its challenges. Living next door to my parents was hard. Losing my dad less than a month ago and, now, living next door to only my mom is hard too.

wooden hug

But mostly, it is hard in really good way, at least for me (and I suspect we all feel this way). It is making me into a better person. I find myself being so much more forgiving, more entertained by life’s antics (rather than so frustrated by them), so much more willing to just take a breath and enjoy being in the company of my wonderful family.

I know we all feel like we have to give 90% of the time, which is just another way our living situation reminds me of marriage. And, like marriage, it is work that is absolutely worth it, work that pays off in dividends that can never be tallied.

My mom is a wonderful person and she has always been a great mom. Her challenge now is to continue to be a great mom and mother-in-law and grandmother 100% of the time, because we are right next door. At the same time, she is grieving the loss of her husband of 50 years. Our living arrangement means that Mom doesn’t have to give up her lifestyle, doesn’t have to pack up and move anywhere, and doesn’t have to drive two hours when she wants to cuddle with our kids. But it also means that she doesn’t have any time away from us (she can escape whenever she wants to go visit one of my siblings, but that is probably not quite the same as taking a grand vacation in Europe).

We have all gained and lost by making this choice to live as a Sandwich Family. Choices are like that, generally.

Talk to us – leave a comment to tell us what you have gained or lost in the generations of your family life.

Wish I could have been there – the daughter’s perspective

The 2014 Aging in America Conference just wrapped up. Wish I could have been there! The 2015 conference will be held in Chicago. Maybe Mom and I will be able to attend.

Post by Kay.

Eulogy for Dad – the daughter’s perspective

My dad passed away last week after a brief illness. With Mom’s permission, I am posting the eulogy I wrote for him. I miss you and love you, Dad!

H was a quiet and private man. Actually, he probably would not want us to make a fuss over him today, except that he would have wanted this outpouring of support not for his own sake, but for MaryRob.

Over the past few days, his family has been remembering H with fondness for his  intelligence and caring and forthright personality. He was an avid reader (his favorite book was “Pride and Prejudice,” and he tried to get everyone around him to read it, too!), nature enthusiast, and student of famous quotations, such as “beauty is only skin-deep, but ugly goes straight to the bone.” He set an example by admitting to his own weaknesses, and pointedly taught his children to embrace their weaknesses, too, believing it to be one of the most important aspects of human nature. H always insisted his children be their best and most unique selves, and he supported their choices fiercely. Most important of all, he loved his family, and always made choices to put them ahead of everything else in life.

H delighted in surprising those around him with his sense of humor. He loved watching Bugs Bunny cartoons with his grandchildren, and often got to laughing just as hard as they did. He kept a file of hard copy “funnies” he had clipped over the years and would often duck out in the middle of a conversation, only to reappear with a “Garfield” or “Family Circle” or “Far Side” cartoon that perfectly punctuated the humor of a situation. In fact, upon discovering he was out of clean white t-shirts on the day of a particular wedding, he instead wore a Far Side t-shirt under his dress shirt!

H and MaryRob built two houses together and raised four wonderful kids.  He was a sweet man who loved to surprise MaryRob with gifts that required a lot of thought – a locket for their 30th anniversary, and on later anniversaries, a “grandchildren” charm bracelet to add the names of their five grandkids as they came along and then two more charm bracelets, as well. One bracelet reflected memories of the kids and the other remembered their lives together. One of the charms on that bracelet was a wheelbarrow charm, selected to represent the day early in their marriage when H accidentally dumped a load of cement on MaryRob, burying her up to her knees in concrete!

MaryRob says H would have asked for nothing more out of life than the great love he gave and received from his immediate and extended family.

Posted by Kay.

Second Sandwich Family – the mother’s perspective

It’s amazing what pops into your head just before you drift off to sleep: I suddenly realized this is not my first Sandwich Family!

For the first 10 years of my life, we lived with my grandmother. As a matter of fact, I am named for her, Mary, and for my grandfather, Rob. (This is an old southern custom, the combining of several family names for a child.)

Since my father worked in road construction around the state of Virginia, he was gone during the week and only came home on weekends. My grandmother was widowed so the combining of the two families just naturally happened. Both my mother and grandmother worked but I never had a babysitter. If mother or grandmother was not available, one of my aunts was more than willing to help out. I’m not even sure if anyone even knew the term “babysitter.”

What triggered this entry was thinking about my grandmother and how soft she was to lean against. She was often the one in the middle of the backseat of our car on trips – me on one side and my brother on the other, softly cushioned on her ample frame, and usually sound asleep. (No car seats or seat belts back in the old days.) I can still remember how soft she was and how good she smelled – of talcum powder since there wasn’t any deodorant for women along with cold cream and Jergens lotion. Jergens, by the way, is still one of my favorite scents.

Now, I am the grandmother in my own Sandwich Family here in Ohio, living just across the garage from two of our five grandchildren. The boys often slip over for a visit.  At some point, we usually end up on the couch watching TV. Both of my hands are busy with back, foot and leg rubs.

Over the weekend the younger of the two knocked on the door and asked if he could have lunch with us. His mother later told us that he said he was going for lunch and that, if it was okay, he wouldn’t be back for awhile.

It surely is nice to have my second Sandwich Family.

Post written by MaryRob.

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