Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Monday, 3 March 2014
I did my income taxes today. Actually, I didn't. All I did was print out a report from Quicken, sort my receipts, gather up things I know I'm going to need tomorrow (Tuesday) morning when I go see our accountant, who actually does all the work and usually charges just about what the refund (if any) will be.
I called my mom, 94, this afternoon, too, and we laughed about working on our taxes. It didn't used to be a laughing matter, though--not in our house. Mom did all our finances, and, oh, around mid-April or so, she would sequester herself in our parents' combination study-bedroom, close the door (lock it? I think so), and would emerge only to eat and to display a sour sort of face that we rarely saw on other occasions. Mom, of course, had no access to electronic calculators or computers or Quicken or Turbo Tax--all of which lay in the future. She did her additions/subtractions manually (pencil and paper)--or, later, on an old manual adding machine she "borrowed" from the high school where she taught. (Later, we bought such a device ourselves.)
Dad was her bodyguard. He would shush us three boys (Quiet! Your mother's doing the taxes today!) and, a safer way to go, would sometimes take us out for dinner (e.g., A&W Root Beer over in nearby Ravenna, Ohio) so that we would not rattle the nitroglycerin that was my mom during tax time. Mother was very rarely a physical threat to us--except in mid-April. And that month--the cruelest month (are taxes what Eliot meant?)--she shed all her child-centered, Gandhian beliefs and became, oh, Charles Bronson, Lee Marvin, and Richard Boone all rolled into one. (You chronologically challenged readers--i.e., young folks--will need to Google those names of the guys who often played the Vicious Heavies in the films and TV shows we watched.)
Eventually, it was all done, ready to mail. And that was the last we heard of it. Mom gradually returned to her normal, pacific self. And if there was a refund (with Mom, I'm betting that was a certainty), our parents used it to pay bills--or buy food--or help us boys with something. They never--not in the twenty-plus years I lived with them--never splurged on themselves--never went on a cruise, or winged off to Hawaii, or suddenly started wearing furs and diamonds. They were practical, loving people, who, because of their experiences in the Depression and World War II and the Korean War, knew about the fragility of all. They played it safe--were cautious.
In my early years an an income-earner (I got my first teaching job in the fall of 1966), I simply took the standard deduction and mailed the damn thing in, usually on April 14th. Or so. But then, gradually, life and taxes became more complicated: marriage, fatherhood, home-ownership, grad school, etc. And in April each year I began morphing into my mother.
But soon--tax-preparation moved beyond my (meager) math abilities. We sold houses, started getting income from our writing, went on school-related trips (many of those), had offices-in-home, and on and on and on. I went to H & R Block a few times, but I sometimes got blank looks on key questions. (That's worrisome.) So I looked for--and found--an accountant, a good one, whose wife is a teacher: He knew what we could do to ... streamline ... our tax situations.
But accountant or no, there remains that one day (or more) when mother's spirit hovers near me--sometimes enters me--and begins barking.
I didn't bark today, though. (I don't ever bark at Joyce: I learned decades ago that it has, let's say, counterproductive consequences.) I just groaned and sought sympathy (Joyce offered a few consoling words, a sad countenance, a dear hand on a sad shoulder--enough for me) and sorted and sorted and sorted.
And swore ... a little.
And was able--later, somehow, magically--to laugh when I called my mom.