The judge reduced our tickets from $257 (each) to $65. At that rate, the city didn’t make any money, and the cop would have done society more good had he sought to enlist our cooperation with a warning rather than to beat us into submission with a fine.

Peggy’s mother lives, so after 15 days in Mississippi, Peggy came home. When she flew down on the 6th, everyone anticipated Mom dying within days. This meant, at worst, two last minute plane fares. Then Mom was moved into hospice, and was taken off her fourteen prescription meds. Not surprisingly, she rallied (or at least she didn’t die), and Peggy predicted a lengthy demise. This meant that we were up to three airline tickets. The more I thought about spending nearly a grand to go to anyone’s funeral, much less the funeral of someone I wasn’t close to, the more I resisted. Of course, I told myself all the right things: “You are not going to bury the dead, but to support the living.” “Family means more than money.” “Peggy’s mother will only die once.” “You can afford it.” “You are an unloving cheapskate.”

I could see that all of these thoughts except the last one were good thoughts, yet I resisted, so, after a few days of feeling down on myself, I began to ask why I was making such a big deal out of a thousand dollars. For a while, all I could think of was that I was cheap, but this didn’t give me any insight. Then one night, I awakened from sleep feeling anxious and with the following sentence running through my head, “Money is all that stands between you and the wolf.” This isn’t entirely true, since Peggy has her nursing skills, and I could work as a handyman if not as a teacher. But occupational skills are dependent upon many factors (such as health); and Peggy is tired of nursing; and I really don’t want to do either of the jobs I could do. The fact that the stock market has taken such a downturn that there have been single days on which our various accounts have posted losses in the thousands of dollars hasn’t boosted my benevolence quotient either.

With greater understanding came greater resistance, and I told myself that I would simply have to be strong in refusing to go because I would be acting for the good of both of us, even if Peggy didn’t see it that way. “Well, but what if she says she will never forgive you?” I asked myself, and concluded that, if she felt that strongly, I would go rather than run the risk that she meant it.

Peggy came home with a $3,000 check that her father gave her for our airfares. “Of course, I can’t cash this,” she said, and I assured her that I knew someone who could—something she would have known when she accepted it.

I used to wonder how I could survive without my parents, but, now that they’re gone, I’m just glad to be on the other side of the experience. If Mom were a dog, we would euthanize her and call it an act of mercy, but, since she’s a human, her suffering and the suffering of her loved ones must be prolonged.