adaption, dying well, elder care, family caregiving, ingenuity, literary, Lynn Byk, Mister B, op-ed, winter

The Pinch

Lynn Byk, Author
Mister B:  Living with a 98-Year-Old Rocket Scientist

Mister B had been vying for the certificate of blindness since he’d turned 96, seven years prior. His January hobby was to study and search the IRS Publication 17 each year, and he’d done his own taxes until age 100.

When Joe saw that his taxes were getting adjusted by the taxing authorities two years in a row, he decided this meant that he was no longer capable of understanding how to report them.

Last month, at 103-years of age, my father-in-law finally received a certificate of blindness from his eye doctor. It was in answer to another of his badgering requests so that he could file it with his 2020 taxes.

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Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

I fished out this portion of our joint memoir for whomever reads this blog. You can tell that he is not only going blind at this juncture, but deaf as well.

We’ve had a fun spin this morning getting all the things done on Mister B’s list. He turns suddenly to applaud our execution of a morning to-do list, “Wow! You solved all my problems in an hour and we still have time for books!” I turn the wheels towards the library looking at the wide empty soccer park of stark, winter grass and note, “Where are the geese, Mr. B?”

“The heat?”

“No, the GEESE.”

“Where’s the beef? Oh, you’re trying to be funny.”

“No, the GEESE! In the park!” I flutter my arms and point.

“A treat? You don’t have to overreact like that.”

In the library, he forgets that he’s already picked up the federal tax forms, so he makes his way over to pick up a couple more.

On the way home, he taps his tax documents and spouts, “Hey, I think we should get a deduction for my blindness. Can you look into that for me?”

“You aren’t exactly blind, Mr. B. You’ve been reading for the last hour.”

“Well, I know,” he admits, “but there has to be some sort of stepped up percentage, some standard you can find out about, and you know I am blind in the one eye and I have this mascular deterioration too.”

I about lose it with the “mascular deterioration” and am pursing my lips, trying to hide my amusement, when he says, “You know, if I could get another $1,200 off my taxes, you and me could go out to Ted’s Montana Grill!” He wraps his hand in the crook of my elbow and snuggles up.

“Now you’re thinking, Mr. B., but really, you’ve already made my day.”

This week’s events prove there’s nothing more sure than death and taxes as the wheels of life moved ’round us.

My dear man breathed his final breath–to our complete shock. We were not ready to let go. Undulating lost feelings, an empty house, and reflections that he won’t be needing the bananas, oxygen, and pills this week were felt among currents moving side-by-side in streams of wonder recognizing the Lord’s compassion for him and for us as things occurred, and arching overall was a desperate hope of glory.

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Photo by Sohel Patel on Pexels.com

Mister B, Joe, had managed to pick out every corner of every walnut shell in his New England basket. He’d managed to rock a rut in the new carpet.  He’d managed to entertain his hospice caregivers for nine months with stories. He’d outlived all of his siblings and far-flung relatives. We’d managed to capture his DNA and confirm all the suspicions about his Baltic sea coastal father’s origin and the soul of his Polish mama with a Norwegian slice of pie.

Then, he simply disappeared.  We saw no vapor, no shudder, heard no heave. He was breathing deeply in sleep, he took six shallow breaths, and suddenly he breathed no more.

The day after, wandering through the hall, I peered into his empty bedroom. “Where are you, Mister B?”

A while later, as my husband and I clomped up the stairs bringing tax boxes from the basement–for our ongoing life, I saw Mister B’s script from his doctor lying on top. Damn.  He’ll not get this last pleasure! The irony of it,  although his tax deduction came through, finally. I muse, my chest tightens, and I stomp on the top step because Joe can’t enjoy this poetry having simultaneously shaken hands with death.

In fact, the only time I ever knew Joe to stomp his own foot was the night before he died.  The pain in his chest was “biting” he said.  “Biting” just like his mother’s description of her lung cancer to him the last time he saw her. Throwing out his groans through the house, his howls, his stomps, and finally, his whimpers broke our hearts.  We called the hospice repeatedly and received directions for morphine. And, finally, he slept snoring roundly.

The thing is, so many beautiful things occur between birth, taxes, and death.

Joe’s fortitude happened.

“Old age isn’t for the faint of heart,” he’d say. Indefatigable, Mister B found patience for the long hours of silence which deafness handed to him, meekness at his failing strength to stand and walk.  Interest in the many varieties of soup he downed when his esophagus stopped working. “Why is this happening?  Why can’t the doctor fix it? What kind of credentials makes her a doctor?” Then, acceptance.

His humor shined with polish.

When he needed a handy cherry-red walker near the end, he often grinned grasping the handles toot-tooting like a childish train engineer. He mostly kept his own counsel and his own secrets. Only what benefited his audience escaped his lips.  He’d launch into some political opinion, then, “Why do I care? It won’t matter to me. The world is your oyster now.” And, “thank you”, “I’m so lucky”, and “I appreciate ya” up to his last night. Sometimes he’d list the accolades of his doting valet of a son to me. “I couldn’t have done any better,” he’d say. Other times he’d wonder if my husband cared that he was dating me or that I had two husbands.

Wonder happened.

He was still curious about things he thought he saw or heard, and those conversations could become sheer fantasy of reason or extreme frustrations trying to explain to him that his experience was not logical.

He started uumming over his food and singing.

Patience and humility happened.

His itching and face cancers reminded me of the misery of Job covered in boils. We’d slather Mister B’s head and torso with medicated cream.

Sacred respect happened.

He stopped mocking our dinner prayers and bowed his head every evening, closing his eyes, respectfully. I ached to know it was more than that, but I never will this side of the resurrection. Many times he thought he had to get up to go to work.  It was only right that he should work and share the household burden. Maybe he could get some kind of job…

If you’re one who’s feeling the pinch of a parent’s age and what that might mean, if you’re curious about how a family could learn to love again, and if you’d at least like to consider the value of caring for your elderly parent, I hope you’ll pick up our memoir, MISTER B: LIVING WITH A 98-YEAR-OLD ROCKET SCIENTIST.  I was a most resistant upwardly mobile child, and I was wooed.

It does take two.  Both sides had to budge. Both sides had to be open to learn respect. He led the way by deferring to us, “You kids take this over.  Why do I need it?  I’ve lived my life.” Or, “You decide. I trust you.”

My husband says his father had become someone he’d never known prior to these final years. Tears have rolled wetting his face many times this week. “Thank you, Dad, for loving me, for teaching me how to live this life.” These were his last intimate words to his father.

But if it’s true that the amount of tears shed relates to the amount of love you hold in your heart for one who’s passed, it’s also true that living in the wonder of Mister B’s company, I became a vastly different person during these past six and a half years.

My takeaways:

  1. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  (Galatians 6:9)
  2. All of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. (1 Peter 3:8)
  3. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in every circumstance, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  Do not extinguish the Spirit. (1 Thessalonians 5: 17-19)
  4. Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. (Exodus 20:12)
  5. Math, accuracy, and facts are intrinsic to a good long life. You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. (Deuteronomy 25:15)

Mister B stacked 1

breath of joy, greeting cards, Kathy Joy, literary, Taxes, Money, Law, winter

Poetry Tax

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Photo by Mateusz Dach on Pexels.com
By Kathy Joy
Author of Breath of Joy Gift Books

If I were stranded on a remote island in the middle of the deep blue sea and given only two choices on which to survive – words or numbers – I’d choose words.

Words can paint poetry.

Words sail over an aching heart, whispering strength.

Words bolster up the discouraged; they call armies into battle.

Words inside of prayers have the power to storm the very gates of heaven.

Words form apologies, mend fences, bring loved ones back into the fold.

Words, words, words.

I’ll call my little dot in the sea The Island of Poems.

Numbers?

Yeah, not so much.

Unless, of course, you are a numbers person. If you’re a numbers person, then you would be in your zen, surrounded by facts and figures, numbers and percentages.

That island is called The Island of Numbers.

I think you Island of Numbers dwellers are amazing and a little bit mysterious. Because, why you’d want to crunch numbers all day – particularly, somebody else’s numbers – is beyond my scope of imagination.

But I’m so glad you belong on that island, because we, the taxpayers, need you.

We need you to rescue us from our fear of numbers.

And our fear of the Unknown.

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This past year, a new thing was launched–a thing called the Internet Sales Tax, and honestly, it’s got me a little wigged out. Consumers don’t think they need poetry and books the way they need technology, clothing and appliances. When authors and poets make so little on a book as it is, I find it intimidating to navigate the calculations and reports that might be required to justify what I already know to be a valid, consumable necessity.

It feels counter-intuitive, like showing up for battle unarmed.

We authors may as well call it the Poetry Tax.

There was a time, way back, when I warmed up to numbers as potential allies; friends, even.

It was in college, during a class in Math 101. The professor said it this way: “A math equation is beautiful, in the same way, a poem is beautiful.”

He had me at poetry. I leaned forward. I started taking notes.

All because of his many references to words, I passed that course and lived to tell about it. I remember in my notebook, I started lining up numbers in stanzas, or sometimes in free verse. The affinity to words actually helped me form an alliance with a required math course.

Numbers aren’t so scary when they flow like a well-metered poem.

In my book, Breath of Joy! Winter Whispers, there’s an entire page devoted to tax preparation:

“When the holiday table morphs into the dreaded paper melee of annual accounting…and an advisor singing the music that paying higher taxes is not all bad, for retirement payouts are based on them.”

My editor was so jazzed about putting a positive spin on tax season.

Taxes and tax preparation, in my estimation, have forevermore been a necessary evil in the throes of winter.

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But she was relentless. “We need this phase of wintertime,” she insisted. “It’s part of the season.”

Turns out, she was right. Readers often point out this page as “a refreshing look at a gloomy task”, and “a reminder to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s”, a reference to Matthew 22:21.

However, as I approach my own season of retirement, I’m beginning to see at least one of the benefits of gathering in all the papers, the receipts, the records.

Accuracy will ensure my future; integrity will protect me and also my children.

It’s not always about the amount of the return, or the date it hits your bank account, or how you might spend the proceeds.

It’s really about the annual passage from a messy pile of papers to a tidy result that’s beautiful – like a poem.

Please visit the link to see my newly-launched book, “Breath of Joy! Winter Whispers in the greeting card version. Or, check out the hardcover coffee table book version here.

This blog, Coffee with Kathy, was reprinted by permission of the author. We appreciate Kathy Joy’s support of www.booksforbondinghearts.com/shop, timely gifts for all seasons.

Faith, Soothing Rain, Taxes, Money, Law, Tonya Jewel Blessing, winter

A Clear Conscience

By Tonya Jewel Blessing  
christonyablessing@gmail.com

My recent novel, The Melody of the Mulberries, set in Appalachia in the late 1920s, includes a continued racial and legal dilemma from the first story in the Big Creek series. At that time, and until the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision of Loving v. Virginia, it was against the law for people of different skin colors to marry. The characters in my story are forced to make the difficult decision of obeying or disobeying the law.Interracial Marriage Date Map by State

I won’t give away what happens in The Melody of the Mulberries, but the situation addressed certainly gives food for thought, and it runs into another issue that is often difficult to obey.

PAYING TAXES

I often have a bad attitude about income taxes. A couple of years ago, I prepared the information, sent it off to the accountant, and then received a coupon of sorts which I mailed to the I.R.S. with the additional taxes owed.

I then realized when reviewing the income tax return that I’d made a mistake.

To correct the mistake meant paying additional tax preparation fees and also additional money owed to the government.

In all honesty, I waffled back and forth for a couple days about correcting the information. I am not sure what that says about my character but since the amount was trivial it didn’t seem worth my effort, the efforts of our ministry bookkeeper, or the efforts of our already extremely busy accountant.

THEN, during my personal time with God, I read Romans 13.

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Photo by Artem on Pexels.com

“Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them and give respect and honor to those who are in authority.” (Romans 13:7 NLT)

The passage begins by discussing the importance of submitting to governing authorities. Authority comes from God, and that those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.

Romans 13:2 goes a step further in saying that those who rebel against authority are rebelling against what God instituted. Romans 13:4 (NLT) states, “The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course, you should be afraid for they have the power to punish you.”

As I continued my study in Romans, the following verse gave clear direction about my tax dilemma, “Pay your taxes, too…” (Romans 13:6 NLT). I sent the corrected information to the accountant, and the return was amended, and additional money paid.

For the record, I don’t believe in blind obedience. I don’t believe in following an institution that doesn’t follow God, but I do believe God puts people in all types of authority (family, church, communities, politics), and, as a Christian, I am mandated by God to recognize authority, pray for those in authority and to be respectful and honoring of those in leadership.

As a gentle reminder, it is very important to file taxes on time!

https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/what-are-the-benefits-of-filing-and-paying-my-taxes-on-time-irs-options-can-help

 Internal Revenue Service reminds taxpayers about the importance of timely filing and paying their taxes, and that there are several options available to help people having trouble paying.

For those who need it, here is a list of Free Tax Preparation Software.

Taxpayers should file on time, even if they can’t pay the full amount due. Then, they should pay the rest as soon as they can. Remember, the sooner paid, the less owed.

Benefits

  • Avoid added interest and penalties.
  • Avoid losing future refunds. Part or all of any refund is first used to pay any back taxes owed.
  • Safeguard credit. If the IRS files a tax lien against a taxpayer, it could affect credit scores and make it harder to get a loan.

a) When is it okay to break the law?

b) In the times in which we live, what circumstances might we face where that decision would need to be made?

c) If we suffer for obeying authorities, will the Lord show Himself faithful to us?

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New, 2019! Book Two, The Melody of the Mulberries sends sixteen-year-old Coral Ashby in search of a Charleston prisoner. Charlie is being held for crimes committed against her family. Her family is not happy about this adventure, and Ernest is faced with dilemmas of the heart and duty.