Erwin had paid the bills all of his life, carefully recording business expenses in a faded green ledger book.
But one day he had to pay a bill and refused to write the check. “Not today,” he said. “It messes things up.”
He pulled his checkbook out of his shirt pocket, where he stored it every morning when he dressed, and pointed to the page where he had already written in dates.
Jim studied the checkbook. “I don’t understand this.”
Erwin shook his head. “It’s clear as can be. Right here.” He pointed to an entry. “See the date? That’s what I’m doing.”
Jim had trusted his father’s financial judgment forever but this was something new. He glanced at his mother, who shrugged, and he turned back to his father.
“Well, we need to pay this bill today, Dad. What should we do?”
Erwin pushed the checkbook back into his pocket. “We can’t.”
Jim knew the teenager who had just mowed their grass waited outside for his payment. He considered options and pulled out his wallet to pay the young man.
But the bigger issue remained. “Dad, could I look at your ledger book?”
The look revealed pages of numbers carefully written in but scattered across columns like autumn leaves, with no pattern. How would his father get his taxes done? Pay his bills?
What was past-due?
Erwin’s eyebrows lifted. “Sure, if you want.”
As Jim asked questions, Erwin became more and more vague to answer. Finally, he pushed the checkbook to Jim.
“You take it. I can’t do it anymore.”
Jim ran his own business, interacted with his own family including young grandchildren, and tried to find time for an occasional golf game.
But he knew this had to be folded into his life.
It was that season for Jim.