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November 28, 2015

Elderly Mothers and Money

If you can believe it, in all her 96 years, Mom has never been a accosted by a panhandler.

She has been mugged. A couple of times, I think. Once, after getting $3,000 (a ridiculous sum) out of an ATM in Washington, D.C., a man grabbed her purse, jerked it off her arm, knocking her to the ground, and ran. She’s also seen people on the street playing music for money, or just with their hand out and she often gives them a little. But to actually be asked for money, never.

We were emerging from Wal-Mart (of course), and loading our groceries into the back of the CRV, when a fat woman in a decrepit, banged-up, black car pulled up beside us. She started the usual spiel, “I’m not from here, I’m from Houston, and I don’t have enough money to get a chicken for Thanksgiving for my family. You look like a kind lady . . . .” etc, etc, etc.

A friend who happened to be passing heard the interchange, leaned over to me and said, “Be careful. She’s one of those panhandlers.” All of us, or I thought all of us, have been hit up by people like that, begging for money during the holidays. It’s pretty much a given that it is a scam, although I’m sure they can use the money. Sometimes we haul out a couple of dollars and hand them over. It’s Christmas, after all, it’s the season of giving, it’s only sharing a little of the abundance of what

Cash in hand

Cash in hand

we have, and so on.

Mom pulled out her wallet. I heard the woman gasp at the money she saw there. Mom has been stockpiling cash to go to Florida, especially now that she knows her ‘little red card’ can get her cash as well as groceries. I grabbed Mom by the arm as she pulled out a $5.

“It’s only five dollars,” the woman panhandler assured me, grabbing for the money. She knew I would protect Mom and her cash. She started in on the litany of “God bless you,”  “You are such a good, kind Christian woman,” and, of course, “Could you spare a little more?”

Then the woman’s avaricious little eyes lighted on the jars of jelly in the back of my car. “Is that home-made jelly? Figs or Peach?” she asked. “Are they for sale?” I wanted to ask what the heck she planned to do, use my mother’s money to buy the jelly. I told her they were for family and hustled Mom into the car.

Jelly jars

Jelly jars

Back in the car, Mom sat stunned. I saw the wheels turning in her head. “I really should have discussed it with her,” she said.

I looked at her in amazement. “Why?”

“Well, to find out what her philosophy of life is. What she thinks. Why she does it.”

It was my turn to sit stunned. “I don’t think she was into philosophizing,” I said. “And beside, she was holding up traffic.”

Protection from panhandlers

Protection from panhandlers

I started to give Mom a lecture on keeping her money safe, then just shrugged. She takes plenty good care of it most of the time. Hopefully, Al will keep the panhandlers away from her. Since he looks like one himself, it’s not likely the vultures will land anywhere near him, so she should be safe.

And there’s always her ‘little red card’ to get more money if she needs it.

About Caroline Castillo Crimm
Retired Professor Emeritus from Sam Houston State University, interested in writing novels and speaking about topics such as the history of Latin American. Would like to share the AMAZING world of the 18th century in Northern New Spain, that's Spanish Texas and Mexico!

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