Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Granny Sugar Refund Check

Even in death, she continues to vex my mother.

You may recall that back in September we bid farewell to Granny Sugar, my dad's mother. She was already on my mind last week when Mom called with some interesting news; every year since, well, I was born, Granny put a birthday card in the mail for me that managed to get to me right on my birthday unless it was on a Sunday. When Thursday came and no card arrived with her signature scrawl, I had a moment of sadness that a gesture so small could be so sorely missed.

Thinking of Granny Thursday made me call my Mom to ask about what we had been jokingly calling the "Granny Sugar Stimulus Package." To my surprise, my mom was crying when I called.

A week before, she had called me to tell me the interesting news. One of Dad's brothers had called to say that Granny's estate had been settled, and that she had had a little money put away. My uncle told mom he had thought for a little while as to what to do with the money, and what Granny would've wanted, and he had made a decision to divide the money 4 ways and give each of Granny's children a share. With Dad gone, my uncle wanted Mom to have his share.

She tried to talk him out of it; she told him she didn't feel right taking anything from Granny. But my uncle insisted that that's the way she would've wanted it.

"Your check is in the mail," my uncle said. And he added, with a sarcasm that my mother could just see coming behind a wry smile so like my father's, "I just wanted you to know that you are going to be receiving a huge amount of money."

My mom was guessing it would be $200 or $300, at the very most. I thought she was nuts; I figured the money was some found cash she kept under her mattress or in a cookie jar, and that the sum total of mom's inheritance would be around $50.

And here's the shocker, and the reason my mom was stunned to tears: Mom got a check in the mail on my birthday for $1500.

Which means somehow my Granny had put away $6000. That doesn't sound like much, but for a woman who spent her whole life living off a fixed income, a woman who, for years, was technically homeless and bounced around living with different relatives until she found a tiny shoebox apartment in a complex built specifically for the elderly, it boggles the mind.

I was overjoyed for my mom.

"Why are you upset? That's good news, isn't it? Dad and Granny would want you to be happy about it."

For Mom, it was and it wasn't. On the one hand, Mom could certainly use the money. On the other hand, it broke her heart to think of Granny, eating canned soup and store-brand yogurt every day for the last 2 decades of her life, squirreling small amounts of money away for a rainy day. She lived as frugally as anyone I've ever known and died having never really gone anywhere or done anything. I know you can't take it with you, but I really think if you've got it, you should enjoy it while you're here.

And it also made Mom feel guilty. She and Granny were not exactly friends, though they did love each other in a prickly sort of way. Mom feels as though she does not deserve that money. She feels like, despite my uncle's argument that she would have wanted that way, Granny would not have wanted a portion of her saved money to go to her.

Getting an "inheritance" does feel sort of icky. When Mom talks about how she wants to have a little money to leave us when she goes, she says it like that would make it all better when her time comes to leave us. It won't.

But in this instance, I think my mom should have fun with the money. Yes, the money came about because someone we love died, but Granny lived to be over 90 and put that little bit of money away for a reason. Maybe, just maybe, it was to remind us, just like her without-fail mailing of birthday cards, that she loved us and thought about us and wanted to make us smile on that one special day a year. Mom talks about wanting to divide it up between my sister and me, but I for one don't want it. My mom has given me a lot over the years (the free babysitting alone is priceless) and I want the tables turned. I want Mom to give to herself and go out and have a ball with her Granny Sugar Refund Check. If she so much as tries to buy me lunch at Taco Bell with the money, I think I will get mad at her for not just accepting this as the unexpected gift it is. (Also, Taco Bell...blech.)

Maybe we should help her out. If you were to unexpectedly get $1500 in the mail, how would you spend it?


Robert K. said...

My problem is that I've ALREADY spent it, so any check I get in the mail automatically belongs to Discover Platinum. ;)

Karen said...

Vegas, baby, Vegas!! :)