MEET THE JOHNSONS
By Timothy S. Barkley, Sr. March 2018.
The bell on the outside doorknob jangled, startling the attorney out of his reverie. It had been a long day, and there was another client appointment pending.
He straightened, stretched and strode to the waiting room. A middle-aged couple stood waiting there. He held out his hand, introducing himself. They reciprocated, “Albert Johnson, but you can call me Bertie.”
“Elizabeth Johnson, and please DON’T call me Liz or Beth. It’s ‘Elizabeth.’” The attorney inclined his head, smiling: “As you wish.”
“Thank you for seeing us so late.” This from Elizabeth, who returned the smile. “Our lives are so harried, we can hardly find time for anything outside the usual routine.”
“No problem at all,” the attorney affably assured her. “Let’s confer in the conference room, shall we.” He led the way down the hall.
After all were seated and had accepted refreshment according to their tastes, the attorney began. “Thank you for taking time to visit with me. I believe we were to be discussing your wills.”
Elizabeth nodded. “We need to update them. A lot has changed since we wrote them when the kids were little. My husband and I have both retired from the government. We’re grandparents now, and helping take care of my parents. Our son is living with us since his wife died. He brought his three young kids.”
“Sounds like you have a full plate,” commented the attorney. “Do your parents live with you?”
She shook her head. “Not yet,” she said, “but I’m an only child, and my parents never saved much or took out long-term care insurance. They’re running out of money in my dad’s 401(k), and we’re trying to figure out what to do when that well runs dry. Right now I spend about four days a week while my grandchildren are at school, cleaning house and running errands for them. They live in a rented apartment, so when the money runs out, they’ll probably have to move in with us. They’re pretty healthy, but getting frail. They’re in their nineties.”
The attorney cupped his chin in his hand and stroked his beard, considering. “So you are caring for your parents, providing a home for your son and grandchildren. That certainly is a lot to juggle. Anything else?”
“Well, our son isn’t working, because he’s on disability. He became depressed after his wife died in an accident – he was driving the car when it slid on ice and hit a tree – and he tried to take his own life with pills. Thank God it didn’t work, but the overdose messed up his mind. He’s usually OK, but sees a therapist and a psychiatrist every week to try to sort things out. So we’re kind of taking care of him and raising his kids, too.”
“Wow! That’s incredible!”
“That’s not all, though,” Elizabeth continued in a softer tone, glancing at Bertie out of the corner of her eye. “Bertie’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It’s in an early stage, and the new drugs are doing great, but I’m facing taking care of my parents, husband, son and grandchildren – all at the same time!”
The attorney sat speechless, looking at Elizabeth. He nodded, then ventured, “That’s nothing short of heroic.”
Elizabeth shrugged doggedly. “Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do. It’s hard, but if I take it one day at a time, and try not to worry about tomorrow’s problems, I can make it through OK.”
“You mentioned ‘the kids,’” commented the attorney. “Do you have other children who can help out?”
“Our daughter is in the Army. She’s a career officer, and has 6 years until she qualifies for a full pension. She offered to muster out at the end of her last tour of duty, but I told her to see it out. That’s the best thing for her. I’m sure that after she retires she’ll help out as much as she can.”
“That’s something to look forward to.”
“Maybe,” said Elizabeth, “but she’s a single mom with two young kids, so I’m not sure what to expect. We’ll just have to see.”
“It sounds like you need more than just wills – you need a care plan for everybody in your life!”
He ruminated a moment. “You’ve heard of the sandwich generation?” She shook her head.
“That’s when middle-aged folks are caring for their parents and children at the same time.” She nodded.
“Well, I guess you’re the club sandwich generation. Sort of like that huge sandwich from the old cartoon. You really do have a lot on your plate.”
To be continued . . .
Attorney Tim Barkley
The Tim Barkley Law Offices
One Park Avenue
P.O. Box 1136
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