Thursday, November 15, 2012


When my Grandma L died, my Uncle L (not the same L name) was the only family member in the same town, so he was expected to handle things.  My father might have traveled the 800 plus miles to do his bit, but he had had a heart attack and been rushed to the hospital several hours before Uncle L called with the news. It was one of those freaky coincidence things that only my mother thought had meaning.

One of the things that Uncle Lonny got to do was determine what she meant to go to whom.  That was complicated by the fact that she had, over the years, written many holographic wills, but none of them witnessed and, of course, no lawyer written or registered versions.

Uncle L included about three of them with the letter he sent with his proposed distribution list.  I found more later when I inherited several boxes of her correspondence when my Aunt D died. They all focused on how much she LOVED her children with ALL MY HEART and how she wanted them to HAVE EVERYTHING.  They all included instructions on how they were supposed to take care of each other, and other homilies, because they were now the only way for her love to reach them.  

I don't think she actually said that it would STAB HER HEART if they didn't froth with love in her name, but after reading a few of them I started to assume that it was implied.  I also started thinking a few other cynical things.  

I'm sure it says something about my outlook, but I'm reading these things, and it looks like she would write them at the drop of an excuse (such as taking a car  trip out of town, which might be the last car trip she ever took and if so she would never see her darlings again) and then she'd leave them sitting around for her young, then teenaged, then grown children to find.  Call me crazy, but damn if they didn't start sounding like a way to brag about how loving and generous she was, what with giving her darlings EVERYTHING and ACHING over thoughts of them going on without her generous self to look after them and leave them wills and things.

And just as I was getting to be embarrassed at how dismissive I was being of what may have been genuine emotion, it dawns on be that this is the world's cheapest way to be generous.  She's giving EVERYTHING and mountains of lover and exclamation marks and CAPITALS and underlines and squiggly underlines and shes doing it for the price of a couple of pieces of paper and a little ink.  OK, to be fair, some of them ran four pages.

So, yes, I'm still sometimes a little guilty about it, but mostly I've decided that it was a racket.  She did it to feel good.  She may have hoped that her kids would feel good, too, but she was not all that good at gauging how someone was really going to react to something she decided to do or say.  Maybe that was why she was always watching closely whenever she decided to go on about caring for you so much or how WONDERFUL it would be to do something she was wanting to do with you.  She was always watching expectantly for your reaction and you knew that there was always one reaction that she wanted from you and it was never the reaction that you were actually having.

Which reminds me that I need to get a will written.  That's an actual will, with a lawyer involved and actual property listed and stuff.  Not having one, or not having one that's up to date is not a kindness to those left behind.  Oh, and different locations have different rules for what makes a holographic will legal.  You need to check that before you decide to write your own.  

Grandma did care about her kids and grandkids and other relatives.  And I have to remember that I probably wouldn't be half so likely to be cynical about something she had done if I hadn't been raised with a constant litany of complaints about her from my Dad.  
He felt that it was important for children to know their relatives, and she lived nearly across the street.  So we saw her a lot.  But he also felt that we should be warned about her lack of judgment and . . . . well, I'll leave it at that for now.  When I had kids I also warned them about her lack of judgment.  I told them that if they were alone with her, they were probably the most responsible person in the room.  So if she suggested doing something, they should think hard about whether I would want them to do it or not and to tell her no, Mother doesn't let us do that.

I don't think it ever came up.  They're good kids.  They deserve to have a proper will when the time comes.  And I'm not going to ask the lawyer to add how much I love them.  I'll mention that from time to time while I'm actually here.

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