My tax return is late. Horrendously so. And so the later it gets the more I want to put it off. My desk is a mountain of papers and receipts. Looking through the bank statements that I have printed off the computer I am seeing entries that remind me of a year ago. In my head I have trouble trying to recall whether my father was alive before or after the end of the financial year. And does it matter? I have my father’s deceased estate stuff to consider too. I have a file of his papers where he made notations in a demented way on bills. Squiggly question marks near amounts owing. PAID writ-large with a flourish beneath it. Success at the post office. Everything paid through the post office. The old person’s only way to pay.
I imagine him in the queue, socks to his knees, pants too high. He is an impatient man and the queue bothers him. Waiting has never been easy for him. Like Blackboard in Mr squiggle. Muttering beneath his breath Hurry up. Not that he has other errands to run on a shopping day. This is the big one. The paying of bills. Finally at the counter, he softens because he needs the assistant’s help. He could easily be screwed. But they know him. He has been coming since the post office became the place where old people pay their bills. When they no longer sent cheques.
He forgets to pay the HBF bill and the health insurance is unpaid. This means that when my mother ends up in hospital because of a turn (she simply sank to the floor like a puppet with its strings cut in the very same Post Office) and she is asked whether she has private insurance and she answers yes and they divert her to the private hospital, she is turned around again because they are Not Financial. When I attempt to sort this fiasco out, over the phone, the insurance company will not tell me how much they owe because of privacy concerns. When I tell the I am a day away, down South on holidays, they are unmoved. I just want to pay their bill with my credit card over the phone but they cannot release the information I need.
My father is driving to the wrong hospital to visit my mother. He is eating pan-fried fish with sliced banana for dinner. The neighbours are looking in on him. He is still in the garden till the sun is going down.
My mother yo-yos between the hospitals till her insurance is sorted out. The private hospital won’t take her if she’s not insured and the public hospital wants her to go to the private hospital if she has insurance as she claims to have. Daddy’s been a member for fifty years, she says.
I hate the insurance company and tell them so when they inquire at the end of our heated phone conversation as to how well they have helped me today. They promise to pass on my complaint but I never hear from them. I hate you, do you hear me. Hate you.
Back in the city, I realise it is time to be their nominee and take in the form to prove I am their enduring power of attorney. Child becomes Parent.
While my mother is in the hospital the neighbours begin a roster system whereby the evening meals are delivered to my father. He is eating well and loves the attention. Evey afternoon he drives to see her. On one of these occasions he rams another car in the hospital car park but ignores it. A bystander sees the white Subaru Forrester crawl away and takes his number down. He gives it to the owner of the damaged car. Later Dad gets a summons about the accident and it becomes clear that he no longer even has a current licence. It too has been unpaid.
Sometimes he stood in the queue and then when he neared the front of it he turned around and walked out.
Now I am doing his tax. In the blue folder with all its pockets I push out the rectangles of paper with his handwriting on them and replace them with my own headings. I notice the poor spelling. The new labels make more sense to me. The last folder has a pocket I label Death. In it I put his funeral bill and wonder if he can tax deduct it. I think of the more expensive Enviro coffin we got him, knowing he was a believer in recycling. But a tax deduction; now that would really please him.