A friend of mom’s from her church helped her tremendously during the last few years of her life. She would drive her to buy groceries and back and forth to church, help her take her pets to the vet, and frequently helped my sister and I manage mom’s finances. Here is an email she sent me a couple of days after my birthday in 2010:

There has been a change of plan. We need to know how much money Kathy has left. She will need about $300 transferred to her debit card account for incidentals and storage fees and housing fees and pet food.

She is going to have to stay at our transitional housing shelter, Palmetto House, until the end of the year or so or until she finds a job – unless you have a better idea. Her social security won’t start until almost the first of December. I will send you further instructions about payment for Palmetto House, which is $70 per week and $120 for the first week. Her pets will have to go to an animal shelter temporarily as well.

I have applied online for Kathy to get food stamps – I will keep you posted on that application’s progress.

Please confirm Kathy’s cell phone is on a plan and that the bill comes directly to you (or that you access it online). I don’t think she has seen any bills for the cell phone. Also, please confirm if she has BellSouth/AT&T for her landline or if she has a BrightHouse bundle (phone, internet and cable)?

If you have any ideas about what Kathy’s immediate future please speak up. She is scheduled to completely move out of the River Club Condo on Thursday – I can’t see her affording to stay there any longer.

[name redacted]

I replied to her about forty-five minutes later, at 9:01 PM:

Hey [name redacted],

(1) My mom has $560.67 in the account I use to pay her bills and $75.03 in the account to which she has access (the one to which the UCF debit card is connected). So that means she has — to the best of my knowledge and as far as I know — exactly $635.70.

(2) I transferred $225.00 from the account I use to pay her bills into the account to which she has access through her UCF debit card so there is now approximately $300 in that account.

(3) It is very sad to hear that her Social Security won’t begin until December, but it is not a surprise at all. (I repeatedly expressed to her that it was very unlikely that the government would prove to be stupendously efficient about dispensing Social Security when it is tremendously inefficient about almost everything else.) Unfortunately I do not have a better idea. I have said for over TWO YEARS now that it was going to come to this and that there was no way I was going to be able to do anything to help. Unless my uncle or sister has some way to help her, I do not even understand how she is going to be able to afford Palmetto House without getting a job. I absolutely do not have $70/week that I could send her — at least not right now, and with a baby coming in about 45 days, it’s not likely that I’m going to have *extra* money for the rest of 2010.

(4) My mom’s cell phone is with T-Mobile and it is definitely *NOT* on any plan; the bills are definitely *NOT* coming to me and I do *NOT* access her account online to make payments. I pay her cell phone bill when she mails me a copy of it. According to my records the last time her T-Mobile bill was paid was on March 23rd. It’s a miracle that they have not yet disconnected her service! I have to assume that she has a stack of bills in her apartment somewhere and / or that she has simply been throwing them in the trash.

(5) She does *NOT* have BellSouth/AT&T for her landline. She *DOES* have a Brighthouse bundle for her home phone, internet, and cable. (The last payment for that was made on May 24 for $150.)

I called her tonight at about 7 o’clock Pacific time (10 pm Eastern) but she said she was asleep so I told her I would call tomorrow. She didn’t sound nervous, upset, or anxious at all, but I don’t know if that was because you hadn’t had a chance to discuss any of this with her yet, or that she was just too asleep to function coherently, or if she just is no longer able to function period.

I really don’t have any ideas about what can be done. I wish I did.

Please keep me posted, and thank you again for all your help.

She replied to me about an hour after that, at 10:07 PM:

Thank you David,
She is aware of everything. She was there with me at the Social Security office and I repeatedly explained her situation to her. She completely understands, what is going to happen but doesn’t understand why it is happening to her. She is scared about her future.

There are no easy answers for your mom. I don’t think she is fit to live alone. I really wish she could be someone’s boarder. She thinks she doesn’t have cable but can get reception or TV channels just because she unplugged a wire. She doesn’t know how she has her land line. Bills are a concept that seems to be above her head, I have asked about them but it is like they don’t exist (like she doesn’t get them in the mail).

I don’t know if she can hold down a job. I have used the motivation of keeping her pets to get her out beating the bushes for any kind of job. I am also worried about your mom losing her stuff in storage. She is worried about keeping her pets. Her pets are of vital importance to her (more than keeping a roof over her head). Her attachment to them worries me.

When she lost her job in Gainesville, she suffered an emotional break. Her self-esteem and confidence are gone. It is like she believes she lost a part of herself when she lost that job. Not being able to get a job is like a self-fulling prophecy about her self worth and worthiness to have or get a job. Her view of reality is almost like that of a child.

I wish I had better information to pass on. I am hoping Palmetto House will be willing to take her in and give her a chance. I have also asked the church for prayer, housing, pet sitting, storage and any other kind of assistance possible.

I think I may need to talk to her brother, but I don’t think she wants that.

I will give you further update tomorrow.

[name redacted]

* My mother spelled her name Kathie and she always got upset when people spelled it Cathy or Kathy.