All my life I have wondered how to get rich. Yes, I know that one of the proven ways is to work really hard and then to save and invest as much of your money as you can, but . . . that’s so hard!
But I recently discovered a foolproof way to be fabulously wealthy without the tiniest lick of effort. And now I will share the secret.
I have written before about my mother’s battle with dementia. Since the last time I wrote about her travails, she has had another mild stroke. Now, instead of being able to maintain a good conversation (albeit one without the benefit of any short term memory) her thought process has been scrambled a bit so that now she has difficulty distinguishing between reality and imagination.
On my most recent visit I gamely started out with the old “let me tell you about your grandchildren” routine. This one is coming home from a summer internship in a couple of weeks and will start a job, that one has moved to a new apartment and the other one is going back for more school. This is not routine for her, mind you, because it is always new information. On this particular visit the family updates worked for a little while – about two cycles worth. It was, however, clear that she had other things on her mind.
She explained that she had been tired from all the work she had been doing that day. Counting all the money was tiring because there were so many hundred dollar bills to deal with. She then expressed concerns about whether plans would be in place to make sure all the grandchildren were treated equally.
I knew that she had done no work and had counted no money. I gamely tried to get back on with our normal visiting routine. But Mom was not having any of this today and after asking me what I had eaten for dinner (a hamburger and some fries on the drive up) she made it clear that I would need more than that in my trust fund.
First I joked that a trust fund made of french fries was not all bad, which got a chuckle out of her. But I decided that it was time for me to give up. I plunged right into her world to see where it would take us.
It took us to a large family business. Our family business. I am apparently running it, with the aid of my sister. Mom was delighted that all of her grandchildren had chosen to work there.
She was impressed with the furniture in the boardroom where we sat (which was actually a dining room in the memory care facility where she lives) and asked if I would have to give that to anyone at some point. (No Mom, it is ours to keep).
I wondered just what this company did and asked if she knew how it all started. Unfortunately, she got a confused look on her face and said that she could not remember. “That’s alright, I will have someone look into that” was my response.
She asked where I was staying and I told her that I had just driven up for the day. “Remember, we moved the main office to Indianapolis a few years ago.”
“Oh yes” she said, faking quite nicely. I told her that my sister was running the branch operation in Lafayette because she lived nearby. Mom seemed happy with the arrangement.
She then observed how nice it was that we had found small subsidiary businesses for each of the grandchildren to run. “Yes,” I replied, “they have all been doing a great job with them and everything is running quite nicely.”
She kept insisting that planning would be necessary to insure that the rest of the family will be taken care of so that the business will continue if something were to happen to me. “We are all set there Mom, we have worked with several lawyers and all the documents have been finished and signed. Everyone will be fine.” It seemed like such a load off her mind.
When it came time for me to leave, she asked how she was getting home. “How did you get here?” I asked. After telling me that she drove here, I suggested that if she drove here she could surely drive home. We have passed the point of danger in a conversation like this because she has no earthly idea where that home might be or any memory of it.
After she expressed some concern that she might not be able to find her way back (it was because she was so tired, understand) I told her that we would take care of it and have one of the employees come and pick her up in one of the company cars and take her on home. “Just like Driving Miss Daisy” I smiled, as she chuckled.
I wheeled her out of the dining room and parked her in the large central activity room where several other residents were watching an old cowboy movie. My mother loves old cowboy movies. I asked her if she could wait here for a few minutes until her ride came and she said that was fine.
Of course, the moment I walked out of sight all of this was undoubtedly forgotten, probably even that I had been there. As I punched in the code to disarm the alarm so that I could leave I realized that most of my worldly wealth was being left behind too. I would have no choice but to drive home in the Honda Civic that my daughter left me when she got my car for her summer out of state.
What a pleasant and enjoyable stretch of time for both of us. Several successful businesses, employees to take care of our personal needs, trust funds with plenty of cash (and french fries) and even hundred dollar bills for her to count. There was no need to remember pesky details – like the fact that she was a retired nurse with a small house and with nothing remotely resembling a trust fund.
But for just a little while I was a really rich man without a care in the world. I have never gotten so much with so little effort. The funny thing was that even though all of my newfound wealth had evaporated completely, I still felt rich on the drive home.