Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Another dirty little secret of old age

It makes me want to cry. My parents aren't rich, but my dad has spent much of his retirement toiling on taxes. I've watched him hunch for hours over household receipts and IRS forms with his magnifying glass trying to be scrupulous and thorough. I've listened to my mom, who gets lonely during his tax-preoccupied periods, carp about his inefficiency and distractibility. I've seen them squabble when he dictates figures to her (his handwriting is warped by an old war wound) and she gets them wrong—in her majestic crystalline penmanship. I've heard him say he hasn't slept for days because of tax stress. Three thousand miles away, I feel his tax stress.

It's just pathetic. And it makes you want to yank it all away and do it yourself. But here's the thing: he actually WANTS to do his taxes, and he wants to do it in his overlaborious way. And if I took it away from him, I think he'd feel bereft. If only it were a little easier.

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