I got a call from my mother this afternoon. Apparently father’s cousin (we’ll call him Bob) has been leaving messages on their answering machine occasionally for about 6 months now saying that he needs financial support. He’s in his early-to-mid 70s (as are my parents) and doesn’t have any other relatives – he never married, his parents are both long dead, and his brother died unexpectedly about 20 years ago. My parents haven’t seen him in the 20 years since his brother’s funeral – they send him a Christmas card every year, but other than that there’s been no contact.
My mother told me that they’ve ignored his phone messages, which to me seems kind of cold – he is family after all, but whatever. But apparently he left a message today saying that he was destitute but that he “found” some money on a Mastercard (which I take to mean he found some available credit that he didn’t know he had) and he had booked a flight to Boston (where my parents live) and got a reservation at the hotel, and when he got there he’d call them and they could pick him up. He left this is a message – he hasn’t actually talked to them (although not for lack of trying on his part – I guess he felt desperate). He also said something about Amazon owing him royalties on a book of his, which doesn’t make much sense. It’s not clear what he was expecting them to do once they picked him up – take care of him, I guess.
Anyway, my mom called him back, and didn’t get a hold of him, and left him a message saying “do not come to Boston, we can’t take care of you” or words to that effect. But she was panicked that he’d come anyway. As we were talking on the phone, Bob called again, so she hung up on me to take his call, and I guess was able to tell him in person not to come, and I guess he agreed. I’m wondering if this whole “flying to Boston” thing was a bluff in order to actually get my parents on the phone – if so, it sure worked.
My parents asked me what they should do, and I haven’t the foggiest. Even if they had the means to help him, which they really don’t, I don’t think they’d be interested in helping anyway. I’m kind of worried that he may try to hurt himself, but it also may be garden variety attention seeking. I suggested getting together with my father’s siblings (he’s one of five, and they’re all still alive) to see what everyone else thought – but I’m not even sure what the options are. Is there someone they can call where he lives (somewhere in Illinois) to kind of check in on him? I don’t think it’s a matter for the police, but maybe some kind of social service could do a well visit? Like I said, it’s not clear to me where his mind his – if he’s suicidal or just attention seeking – I don’t want to needlessly alarm anyone or butt in where I don’t belong, but it feels like I should do something. Any thoughts?