Baruch Hashem, my husband and I are getting up in years, and although I can’t say that I relish the worry lines and extra poundage I’ve accrued, overall I’d say that it is definitely a cause for celebration and thanksgiving.
Seven of our ten children, baruch Hashem, live nearby in the Holyland, and arguably that bracha deserves a robust rendition of Hallel in and of itself. Add to that our kids’ growing families, ka’h, and I truly feel beyond blessed in virtually every way possible.
In fact the only less-than-perfect aspects of our life these days is that, on the flip side, three of our daughters and their beautiful families live thousands of miles away… and to a lesser degree, our financial security is a concern as retirement age looms.
We do our best to daven, cajole, beg, (whatever it takes!) our U.S. kids to make aliyah and join us in the holiest place on Earth, and in the meantime we suffice with visits to and from both sides of the ocean. Technological advances such as WhatsApp and Skype make the separation infinitely easier in the interim.
As far as an alternate source of income for our old age, b’ezrat Hashem, we are fortunate that Bituach Leumi provides financial and other assistance to Israel’s aged population. And as citizens of the United States who spent many years gainfully employed in the alter heim, paid annual taxes to the IRS, and contributed to Social Security throughout that time, we are likewise entitled to collect Social Security benefits when the time comes.
However, as many a U.S. citizen residing abroad can attest, claiming said benefits may involve a fair amount of jumping through hoops! Proof positive that “There’s no such thing as a free lunch!”
After studying the pros and cons of applying for Social Security benefits at the various approved ages, my husband decided which age made the most sense for himself personally, and then initiated contact with the agency and formally filed a request. He was told that his request had been registered, but that it would most likely take several months until he would receive a return call, and that he should feel free to follow-up periodically.
Sure enough, that information was reiterated a number of times over the next few months, until one fine day when the Social Security agent set up an appointment with him for a phone conversation to iron out the details and set his request in motion. He was instructed to have all his paperwork and documentation available and to keep the long-awaited date and time clear for the scheduled phone meeting.
The big day finally arrived, and my husband set off to work, but made sure to be prepared and available at the prescribed hour. I, too, kept my eye on the clock in anticipation. Suddenly, I received a harried message from my better half: When is our date of marriage???
For all of you readers who think that my husband committed the ultimate offense and forgot the date of our wedding anniversary AND that his issues with Social Security would therefore pale in comparison to his issues with me, allow me to clarify. He actually did remember both the Hebrew and secular date of our chuppah; however the secular date when we officially registered our marriage with the state of New York only took place a few months later. And neither of us could recall that (to us) inconsequential date!
I dropped everything I was doing and scrambled to find our official Certificate of Marriage. But, try as I might, rifling through our most important documents again and again, it was nowhere to be found.
Finally, in desperation, I recalled a certain eerily-similar Murphy’s Law scenario in which the elusive document was instead my fourth son’s inoculation record. I had easily found the records of the nine children who did not need them, but that crucial record had seemingly vanished into thin air. As a last resort, I physically removed the heavy drawer of the filing cabinet holding our documents. Sure enough, the missing vaccine record had slipped behind the drawer!
With nothing to lose except a few minutes of heavy lifting, I tried pulling the drawer out as far as I could to peek behind it. Ouch! I may have pulled it out a tad too far; the heavy drawer landed squarely on my foot!
The good news, however, was that once again the elusive document had fallen out of its secure spot in the filing cabinet, and was now easy to retrieve. The bad news, other than my aching foot, was that by the time I found it and contacted my husband, his scheduled conversation with the Social Security Administration representative was already over.
No worries! Baruch Hashem, the agent had been pleasant and accommodating, and had instructed my husband to message him directly with our wedding date and one other piece of missing information. Baruch Hashem, he was true to his word, and about a month later, the first direct deposit from the Social Security Administration was made to our bank account in the U.S. And, as promised, the amount transferred was retroactive to the date that my husband officially qualified for benefits!
In the ensuing months a much-appreciated gift from Uncle Sam has likewise been deposited into our account on the fifteenth of every month. So, baruch Hashem, “All’s well that ends well” yet again. My bruised foot is thankfully good as new, and our once sorely-depleted bank account is, baruch Hashem, recovering nicely as well, to provide a much-appreciated security blanket for our golden years.
Now if only we can convince our three final hold-outs to make aliyah!