"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."

Unexpected $$$

By on August 24, 2020 in Columnist with 0 Comments

By Darlene Matule

As a writer, I have to admit some of my best ideas come from surprising sources. 

Like my husband…

My Facebook likes include pretty shoes, Norwegian travel ideas, and Blue Bloods tidbits.

Steve gets posts from Florida Crazies.

In mid-February, I made a casual comment, “Can’t believe I got our IRS refund already.”

“Great,” he answered. “When are they delivering that bright-red BMW you’ve been wanting?”

“This year’s check didn’t have enough zeros,” I whined.

“Better check again. I just read about a guy in Florida who got a refund of $198,000 when he was expecting $1,980.00. He cashed it right away — no problem.”

“How long did it take them to catch him after they figured the mistake?” I asked.


“Steve, don’t you remember what happened when my mother got her big check?”

We spent an entire afternoon remembering.

It was spring 1959. Our daughter, Michele, had just turned two — we’d moved into a brand new 1,535-square-foot brick house. 

My phone rang.

“Darlene, you have to come over! Right now!” my mother yelled.

“Mother,” I said, “You live a mile and a half away. I just put Michele down for her nap. You know I don’t have a car. I’ll have to wait until Steve gets home from work. Where’s Daddy?”

“Why, he’s right here. But we’re scared to leave the house. You have to come!” 

What did she expect me to do? Wake Michele up? Push a crying, squirming baby in the piece of junk they called a stroller (no safety features in 1959) up the street? For heaven’s sake, they had an almost new Buick parked in their driveway.

“Well, you can either drive here,” I said. “Or wait until after five.”

Ten minutes later, I looked out my kitchen window. Saw my mother run up our sidewalk, onto my porch, and, without knocking, rush into my dining room, and throw her suitcase-sized handbag into the middle of the table.

“Look!” she shouted.

“Look at what? Your junk? Come on, Mother, sit down and tell me what this is all about.”

I wanted to ask, “Is there a bomb in there or what?” But knew my mother wouldn’t recognize sarcasm if it hit her in the face.

She unzipped the black monstrosity she called a purse and dumped everything out. Used Kleenexes. A bill from Washington Water Power. A bottle of Miracle Grow for African violets. Etc., etc., etc.

By the time Daddy joined us — he was walking at a normal pace — she was waving what looked like a check back and forth as if she were waving a flag on the Fourth of July.

“See this?” she demanded.

I looked. Saw a check from Lincoln Savings and Loan. Made out to Marie and Odin Barnes. In the amount of $26,048.99.

That got my attention.

Questions popped out of my mother’s mouth as if it were Pandora’s Box.

“Should we hurry over to the Old National Bank? Get it cashed before they change their mind? 

“If I get it cashed, should it be in $100 bills? Fifties?

 “Do I need to hide the cash? In a coffee can in a hole in the backyard?”

She paused. “No, I’ll just stash it in the freezer. Under a flank steak.”

I rolled my eyes.

“Now, Marie…” Daddy said.

My mother ignored my father. “Maybe we should get a new car. New furniture. Move closer to Darlene.”

“Maybe we should put it in a savings account,” Daddy said. 

“STOP!” I interjected. “I can’t imagine why they sent this to you. You got the money for the apartment you sold six months ago. Nobody owes you anything.

“For heaven’s sake. It’s $10,000 more than we just paid for this brand new, three-bedroom, two-bathroom house.

“We’re going downtown. There’s something fishy about this.”

The V.P. at Lincoln Savings and Loan thanked us profusely. 

“So sorry. This check was an automated accounting error. I apologize. These new-fangled gadgets are giving us fits. We knew the check was generated. No idea it got mailed.”

The bank was very nice. They sent my mother home with not just one, but two Gifts of the Month — an aqua plastic portable radio and a 3X 12 DIAL-A-MATIC adding machine.

Years later, when my mother was in her 80s, when shopping at the mall, she found a pair of earrings. Earrings that cost $299.

I gasped. “Mother, you can’t afford them!”

“Well,” she huffed, “I would have…”

I waited for what I knew was coming. I’d heard this complaint a hundred times.

“But you don’t care. You made me give that big check back.” 

I rolled my eyes. One more time.

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