Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Balancing Act

I’m handling Mom’s checkbook now, it seems. From the looks of it, I should have been doing it a long time ago . . . An inability to manage a checkbook must be another result of aging, because my grandma’s was atrocious.
I like math. It makes sense to me and I love the way there are a hundred different paths that can be taken to get to the same place. So, I’ve kind of turned out to be the income tax/bill handling/bank account person in the family.
Checking accounts are a funny thing. When I opened my first, I thought that I had officially graduated to being “an adult.” I didn’t view this as a good thing; it was a rite of passage, but into drudgery and monotony, I thought. I have no basis for that perception, but that’s what I thought. Maybe Mom shared that outlook, because she was over 60, I think, before she got one. Mom, though, is just rebellious by nature.
I never thought I was particular about my checkbook. I balance it, yes, and to the penny. But, the entries aren’t even, the handwriting is bad, I have to use White-Out on some things, the running balance is written in pencil in case I need to erase, etc. I don’t think that’s particular.
Mom doesn’t like math. I’ve noticed that’s a common trait with medical professionals. I used to work in a payroll office and would occasionally need to explain paychecks to our nursing staff - not fun. Some personality traits just contrast with others - highly mechanical people often have poor people skills, techies often buck authority and, I’ve noticed, medical professionals often don’t like figures. Mom’s so bad that just discussing her income tax return frustrates her. “I don’t want to talk about this anymore. It makes me nervous . . .” (She’s more than willing to milk that “nervous” thing, though. You just never know what to believe.)
Mom gets monthly retirement payments from three different places. Despite having been retired over ten years, she doesn’t know which deposits go into her checking account and which go to her savings. And she doesn’t know when they are deposited. When I asked, she hotly instructed me to, “just look a few months back!” As if I hadn’t already done that. Unsuccessfully.
Apparently, the State leaves its retirees guessing as to when their retirement benefits will arrive, because there is no rhyme or reason to her deposit dates.
So, I waited for her statement, which just came; I looked at it last night. Mom had missed 5 deposits, yet she and Sarge both think it’s crazy to bother balancing a checkbook . . .
I can’t imagine having any idea of whether or not I could cover my checks if I didn’t balance it. How do people do that?

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