(Although I’ve officially re-categorized these posts under the heading “Lost Loon Lodge” Jan comes back to haunt this post.)
Bud hasn’t really asked for anything more than companionship and then only “if we have the time” during these difficult and lonely times. So when Rich was talking to him a couple weeks ago and asked him again if there was anything we could do to help and Bud allowed as how he could use a little help with the taxes, Rich cheerfully said that I (that would be me, Vicki) would be happy to do them. WHAT???? First of all, the eccentricities of their finances match the rest of life up there and second of all, I just finished organizing stuff for two businesses, three houses and a FAFSA. Enough is enough.
I called Bud back to try and scope out this situation in advance of last weekend’s trip. Bud said he thought they were pretty simple but he wasn’t certain because momma always did them and besides, he didn’t know how to file now that she has died. I said that it would be the same because she had been alive for some part of the year.
B: Really? Doesn’t it have to be more than half of the year or something?
Me: No. Any part of the year.
B: Well, what about being blind?
Me: (totally confused) What??
B: Well, you can’t be dead and still get a deduction for being blind, can you? Your momma took the deduction for being blind.
Me: (This was news to me. She did have macular degeneration but I was unaware that she had officially met some criteria for being blind. My guess? She decided she was blind enough.) Well, Bud, it will work the same. Whatever deductions you qualify for are good because she was alive for part of the year. Get all the paperwork together and we’ll sort it out.
Over the weekend I gathered up my courage and asked if he had the tax stuff together for me to look at. Yup, he had it right over there. There it was. Well, there was some of it. The social security statements, the meager teacher’s pension statements and a tax form related to the house. I asked it that was all of it and he said no, he had the forms they sent you to fill out right there somewhere.
Where were those forms? They came in the mail in January…he gave them to momma…they were right there on the desk. Dammit. He knew he saw them. Dammit, where did they go? Dammit…
At that point Bud started tearing through both desks and piles and piles of papers, mail, old letters muttering and cursing. He has been taking great care to stay organized with the influx of paperwork that comes with death and I think he found this particularly upsetting that he couldn’t find these. He remembered handing my mother those forms when they came in the mail and he remembered seeing all of the 1099 income slips tucked inside the federal and state booklets.
All the while Bud was rummaging my mother’s cat, Robert, sat perched on the the cloth bag that holds the box with my mother’s ashes until her memorial service when they will be scattered upon Lake Superior. This is Robert’s new, best seat in the house and now he was up there watching Bud and his piles of paper through slitty cat eyes.
Finally I said, “Listen, Bud. Don’t worry about it. I can pick those forms up. Do you have a copy of your taxes from a recent year so I can see how she did them?” Bud went to a file cabinet and triumphantly pulled out forms dated 2004. I said, “Perfect. Let me see those.”
There was the booklet with instructions and forms. There were the 1099s from Social Security and pensions. There was a form about an IRA withdrawal. And there was a xerox copy of this letter, written in my mother’s handwriting:
Sirs or Madams,
It is clear to me that we are excluded from the onerous job of filing income taxes, a 59 year annual nuisance. We’re simply too ancient, too decrepit, too penniless, too tired and too blind to play the income tax game any longer; therefore, we will no longer be filing in April or any other time. Please do not bother us again, unless, of course, you owe us a refund in which case you can please send it along at your earliest convenience. Otherwise, this will be our final farewell to you.
Sincerely, Janet and Eugene (preparer)
I reread this several times and then I handed it to Bud and asked if he wrote that. Bud read it several times and said, “Well, I’ll be damned. I’ve never seen this.”
I allowed as to how, in all likelihood, my mother had deep-sixed the 2005 forms sometime in February before she got sick and Bud asked, “Well, now what are you going to do?” And Robert continued to eyeball me from atop that box.