Monday, May 18, 2015

years of wondering

The incident has haunted me all these years.  I’m still not sure who, if anybody else, knows about it other than the principals involved.  At the time this incident occurred I was in 6th grade and was at a loss  for what to do.  I, of course, had never experienced anything like this before, nor did I know of anyone who had ever been in the same situation. So I suffered through this on my own with only my 6th grade knowledge and intellect to rely on.  

Looking back on this long ago incident, I’m having trouble recalling the name of my 6th grade teacher.  I think perhaps I was so traumatized by this that I blocked out as much as I could as a way of dealing with it.  So I’m asking for help from any St. Peter Claver class of 62 alumni out there who remember the name of that layperson who taught our 6th grade class.  She wasn’t a nun like the rest of the faculty at that time.  It would be nice to put a name on the other participant beside myself in this seminal event of my life.

This crisis in my young life began innocently enough with a homework assignment.  I always prided myself on doing all the homework that the teacher assigned.  My attitude was “bring it on. There is nothing I can’t handle. Pile it on and watch me as I make a mockery of your piddling assignments.”  Despite that arrogance, I was a good student and a good boy.  I would never deliberately cause any one any trouble.  Showing any kind of disrespect to an adult, especially a teacher, was a sure way to head down the path to perdition, to damnation and hell. So I was totally unprepared for the reaction I got when I handed in that day’s homework.

As homework assignments go , it wasn’t anything unusual.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  A simple bit of the typical spelling homework that was a frequent visitor to the homework pile. I barely noticed it sitting on the dining room table where I always sat to do my homework under the watchful eye of my mother and the synchronized glare of my 2 older sisters, who wold have loved to catch me in a mistake so they could rain down abuse on my tender psyche.  Big sisters are like that.  Especially when they are dealing with whom they considered to be a Momma’s boy and the holder of the title “favorite.”  But I made no mistakes that night, and having finished the spelling assignment, which I always put at the bottom of the pile because it was usually easy and even then I was already aware of the need to finish strong so as to build confidence going into the next school day.  

I know you are wondering what could be so traumatic about all this that I have carried it around with me all theses years, haunting me with the uncertainty that comes from not knowing where it all went sideways.  Let us review the assignment so everyone understands why I am still bedeviled by this simple little exercise in spelling and vocabulary.  As was the habit of that particular teacher (she always gave the same type of assignment whether the subject was math or English), she provided us with ten words that we were to learn--that is, memorize-- how to spell and then use the word in a sentence that would demonstrate that we now understood the meaning of the word.  Simple enough so that even the dullards, if there were any, would have a reasonable chance at success if they could understand what to do.

We got this same type of spelling homework all the time. I always found it to be ridiculously easy, even boring at times, but I still put forth the effort necessary to get it right and learn those new vocabulary words.  I’ve always been a good speller and my vocabulary is certainly (not bragging, just stating what is evident in my writing) above 
average.  That may well be because of my sixth grade teacher (what was her name again?) and her insistence that we learn 10 new words each week (I shot for 10 per day).  But much of my vocabulary and the willingness to use it, comes from inside me.  I just love the language and being able to use it.  I’e been known to carry dictionary in my pocket for those times when I am bored need a new word to explain that boredom. So, to get back on track here--I did the assignment, handed it in the next morning, and waited until the following day to get it back after it had been reviewed and graded.

The procedure was always the same: she (the teacher naturally) would walk up and down the aisles between our desks and hand each student his or her paper back with an appropriate comment about the quality of the work. Routine.  Of course, as she approached my desk, I sat up straighter than usual, expecting a breathless string of praise for the outstanding work I had done.  But wait.  There must be some mistake.  She didn’t stop at my desk to lavish praise on me or give me a pat on the back with an accompanying  “well done” issuing from her astounded mouth.  She passed me by without so much as a hint that she knew I was alive and sitting in her classroom.
Nor did she return my paper to me. I was in a state of shock that such an egregious
lapse in the homework routine would land on me, tainting me with a psychedelic splash of color on my back that spelled “wise ass.”  

As the day continued without any hint that anything unusual had happened, I got deeper and deeper into the realization that I was about to get hammered with an unprecedented scolding, maybe even a visit from the FBI (Foolish Boy Interrogators) after the school day ended.  I could just hear her saying as the kids walked out of the classroom after the day’s learning had been completed, “Robert, you stay.”  My mind raced through as many of the reasons I did what I did and came up short of a reasonable explanation.  She probably assumed I got help from an unknown accomplice, since in her experience, no 6th grader could pull off such a stunt alone.
I was certain that my transgression would soon be the scandal that brought shame to stay for a long visit in my family’s house, and caused 2nd glances of disdain at the back of our pastor for his allowing such a rapacious seeker of glory to attend his school.

But nothing happened.  No one said a word.  No one made a move to clear up the confusion I felt.  Mrs. _______ ( I still haven’t remembered her name) never breathed even a sigh of exasperation in my direction for the remainder of the school year to indicate that she knew anything unusual had happened in her classroom.  My paper, being the only evidence that something untoward had occurred, has been lost in the curls of time.  I still don’t know what she believed about me and the infamous spelling homework that I so diligently worked on until I got it just right. Not knowing if she was astounded by my effort, or perhaps unable to believe that I was that intelligent and clever on my own, or if she kept my spelling homework to show as evidence of her superior talent as a teacher, is still driving me crazy after all this time.  Why have I been tortured like this for simply being intelligent enough, bold enough, unconventional enough, and creative enough as a 6th grader to take those 10 spelling words she gave us to learn, memorize, and use in a sentence to show we understand the word’s meaning, and use them all in one sentence that actually made sense.  That’ s correct.  Ten words, one sentence.  I wish I had the list of words to show how it worked out. You’ll have to take my word (or words) for it.  And, yes, I am still bummed out over this.  I feel I was cheated out of a moment’s glory that might ave changed the course of my life.  Ever since that day when I went unrecognized for doing something unique and surprising, I have often been reluctant to take that step into the unusual.  How many opportunities have gone untried because I feared the indifference or the lack of recognition that might occur? How much more tentative am I when faced with a creative decision? How different would I be as an artist and a writer if only Mrs. Whatshername had acknowledged my creation?  We’ll never know and I will remain perplexed and saddened and wondering who I really am.  All because of ten words.



Saturday, May 09, 2015

down and dirty

It's Springtime and a young man's (and an old man's) fancy turns to love....of getting down and dirty in the garden. I just love this time of year when the ground has gotten warm enough to handle without gloves and fear of frost bite, the perennials are poking up out of their winter hideaways, the breezes that ruffle the new buds on the trees are more warm than cold, and the daylight lasts a bit longer each day so we can enjoy Mother Nature's gifts right up to the spectacular sunsets she paints on the western horizon.

Today I finally got outside and dug some dirt. I have a modest little area where I can plant some flowers and do a little bit of landscaping here at our new condo. We are not supposed to change the public areas of the condo grounds, but every one modifies their own immediate front yards to give the buildings a bit of color and interest. That's all I intend to do, make my own immediate surroundings look pretty.
I used to have a huge yard to maintain and satisfy my gardening jones, so it is quite difficult to scale back any landscaping plans. But that's a challenge I will accept and be happy to meet. The truth is, the yard at our old house was getting way too big for me to handle on my own anymore, and I admit I do miss it, but now I think I will have just enough planting and trimming and cutting and watering to keep me interested and in the game without the aching back that usually goes with all those gardening chores.
So here's to Spring, that annual renewal of acquaintance with my fingernail scrub brush.

Monday, April 20, 2015

no one is perfect



It's a wonder that I've lasted this long. And that our two children managed to reach adulthood without being malnourished because their mother hates to cook and will do almost anything to avoid that odious (and in her case, odorous) chore. It's also been beneficial that I enjoy cooking and am even a pretty good cook, if I do say so myself. So I think it's fair to say that I may have saved the lives of those two children by cooking as often as my schedule allowed. 
Everyone has something, some chore or responsibility that they would rather not have to do. But they do it anyway despite sometimes having an intense dislike, or even abhorrence, for that task. Mary, my dear sweet, loving, and otherwise nurturing Mary, would rather clean the bathrooms in a men's locker room after a pissing contest. And she'd be smiling the whole time if that meant she wouldn't have to put a meal together instead. 
Our family lore is rife with stories about Mary's cooking or, should I say her attempts to do so.  
There was the time the recipe called for separating the eggs, so she put the white ones in one bowl and the brown ones in another. Then there was the time she meant to drain the spaghetti by dumping it down the drain with the water it was cooked in. Both kids still complain about the summer sausage with ketchup sandwiches she put in their school lunches.  Whenever family or friends get together for a meal, Mary surprises no one by bringing the bag of chips. If it's a really special occasion, she'll bring two bags. And if it is a superduper extra special get together, the two bags will be different.

At our old house, we went so far as to build an addition on the house so that she could get out of the house without having to pass through the kitchen. That, I think, saved her unknown amounts of angst and made her life, and consequently, ours, much happier. 
Yes, we do eat out a lot when neither of us feels like cooking. Or we get something and bring it home. But even then, Mary's fetish like avoidance of anything cooking related comes into play. Take today as an illustration of that fetish. I told her I would run out to Culvers for a couple of hamburgers for supper. She said to be sure they put everything on them. I replied that we could put our own ketchup and mustard on them, no big deal. She said, no way, I'm not cooking tonight.
You have to admit that anyone who equates opening a can or spreading mustard on a sandwich, with cooking, would have a serious problem if some genius hadn't invented the can opener and the butter knife.

best laid plans



I certainly didn't plan on my day going south as it did. I was going to spend most of the day in my workshop. Finally. I realized the other day that I haven't produced any new work at all for the past year. I found a couple of bowls on the display shelf that were the last objects I turned last Spring before all the hoopla involved in selling a house, buying a condo, and moving took over our lives and any time I might have spent on creative endeavors. So I promised myself a day in my version of a man cave to jump back into it with both feet.
That was before the dog started acting weird. Sonny seemed to be favoring his left leg and whining in pain any time he tried to get comfortable in his bed. And he even snapped at me when I tried to put his leash on to take him outside. That was very uncharacteristic of such a gentle and well mannered pup. So something was obviously wrong in doggie land.

The prospects of finding a vet on a Saturday morning who wasn't booked up, and even overbooked, didn't appear to be likely, but we lucked out when the good folks at the Mukwonago Animal Hospital said bring him in and we will make room for him. And they did.
I only waited a few minutes after getting Sonny and myself into the waiting room before the vet took us into an examination room. Sonny allowed the Dr. to do whatever he felt was necessary to figure out what the problem was.  Did I mention how trusting and cooperative Sonny can be? After doing some blood panels on him, the Dr. found that Sonny had a strong positive reaction to a certain tick borne disease that is very rare around here but quite common down south where Sonny came from. So a round of antibiotics was in order. The vet speculated that Sonny's aching hind quarters were due to a possible soft tissue injury, like a sprain, or possibly a side effect of the infection in his body.

After a couple hours at home the poor dog started puking all over the kitchen. A reaction to the antibiotic? We won't know what caused the dog to make such a mess until we get another dose or two of medicine in him. In the meantime he just looks so miserable. I wish there was something I could do relieve his suffering, but unfortunately my healing powers are insufficient in this case. 

To add to the stress of the day, Mary has been more in bed than out, battling a dose of the flu or some other exotic malady that has laid her low for the past couple days. I know she was hurting because she didn't go with me to the vet. Any other time and she would have taken over and made certain that everything possible was being done for her loved ones. That she was willing to allow me to take over this morning tells me that she either trusts me, or she was way too sick to help. 

So my plans to get a taste of my workshop went the way of the Dodo. Instead, I messed around the kitchen (I didn't want to leave Sonny unattended) and eventually ended up making 4 dozen chocolate chip cookies. I got my creative jones back. What I think I will do is put those cookies in those two bowls I finished last year to help make the transition back to the right side of my brain.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Sonny vs me



I know my feelings are irrational. How can a grown man, seemingly intelligent and well balanced most of the time, be jealous of a dog? I mean, the critter has only been here in MY house for three full days. And in those three days he has managed to seduce my wife with his overabundant cuteness and has usurped my number two position in MY household. We all agree that SWMBO (She Who Must Be Obeyed) is in charge regardless of what you might think or wish for. I'm ok with that. It's worked to well for us for nearly 46 years, so I only have to protect my #2 spot in the household hierarchy. I've never had a problem maintaining that position through a succession of several dogs and a haughty cat (is that redundant?) The other dogs that have enjoyed my hospitality during their stay (some long, some short) with us never even engaged in the competition for #2. They were either too stupid to realize they had the opportunity, or just didn't care, being content to wallow away their lives as moochers at the family trough.  But this one is different. I knew he was special the minute I laid eyes on him. He was different than the other dogs he was penned with, wanting only to observe the doggie doings, remaining above the fray. I figured he was just a bit shy, or maybe preferred hanging out in the corner so he wouldn't have to participate in the mayhem of a dozen dogs of various sizes and shapes all barking and carrying on, trying to get the attention of would be adopters. I believe it was a calculated plan on his part to wait for just the right person to come along that he felt reasonably sure that he could handle in a battle for position in a nice comfy home. And then he saw me and put his plan into action.
That plan is an insidious breech of the human/canine interaction we are all so familiar with and expect. Man= master. Dog= pet. Master says jump and the dog immediately starts to jump without asking "how high." Master says go out and "do your job" and the dog squats in the usual place and kills some more grass. Master feeds the dog a wholesome diet of kibble with an occasional enhancer such as a bite or two of some actual meat. The dog wolfs down whatever is put in his food dish quickly so he doesn't have to taste whatever the master thinks is good for him. It has always been such: the master feeds, waters, provides shelter, and commands. The dog in return gets a nice cozy place to ply his trade (being a pet), enough "food" to keep him alive, and enough training to satisfy the master's sense of superiority.
Sonny, as you all know by now, is the new kid on the block. It would be helpful to understand him and his motives if you think of him as more Sonny Corleone than Sonny Bono. I think it was his plan all along to be super cute and obedient and quiet so as to ingratiate himself with SWMBO and undermine my position. And it's working. Every time she passes him she can't resist reaching down to pet his ears and coo lovingly at him. That used to be me getting that attention. She would pass by me and pat me on the head and coo "I love you." Now when she passes by me she lowers her shoulder to nudge me out of her way, mumbling something about old men and their bad habits. And now he has delivered what I'm sure he considers the coup d grace to my position; when she gets near enough to pet him, he rolls over onto his back, raises his legs up into the air revealing his underside in an act of pure submissiveness, so that she can give him a "belly rub." All he has to do is play the cute card and she babbles sweet words like love, cute, adorable, precious, and special, with a lot of "good boy" finding its way into the conversation. 
I don't have any "cute" cards to play, unless you consider short gray stubble on both head and face cute. If I want a belly rub, I have to do something extraordinary to get her to even consider the prospect. And then all I get are vague promises about some time in the future, if she feels like it. Whenever I roll onto my back exposing my belly and sometimes other "decorations" her reaction is to cover me up quickly lest I traumatize the peeping toms staring in our window. But, cute as he is , there is one thing (or should I say two things) that he can't match in this contest. When I'm on my back begging for a belly rub, I can toss in a couple of extras for her to rub. He doesn't have those anymore. So, Sonny boy, the score in this little contest you thought would be so easy to win starts out in my favor, 2 to nothing. I think I got you beat, cute or not.  The moral of this little story? When starting a contest be sure you have the right ammo.

Monday, April 13, 2015

there really is a DOG

Lately I've been feeling like that dyslexic agnostic insomniac who stays awake all night wondering if there really is a DOG. Well, as it turns out, all my doubting and worrying was for naught. There really was a dog for me (us) after all. He was just sitting there patiently waiting for us to find him at the dog rescue sight in an industrial park not far from downtown Mukwonago. Sonny was his name there, and Sonny it still is now that we fell in love with him the second we laid eyes on him. 

He is a one year old terrier mix (Jack Russell and Rat Terrier would be my guess) with a little bit of Beagle stirred into the mix. So far he seems to exhibit atypical terrier behavior--I haven't heard him bark or make any kind of sound yet, he hasn't jumped up on me or tried to hump the table leg, he is very laid back and has made himself right at home. He answers to his name when you talk to him, although he seems to do so just to be polite and not appear ungrateful for our taking him into our home and feeding him, providing a nice comfy bed to lounge on, and all the doting praise we lavish on his cute little ass. 
As cute as he is , and as calm and laid back as The Dude in the Big Labowski (I wanted to name him Dude), the real reason I connected with him was the eerily mirroring of our health circumstances over the past year. Some kind of trauma or illness that no Vet was able to diagnose caused him to lose a lot of weight, leaving him looking emaciated, starved and not likely to survive until his next birthday. The people who rescued him say he was acting depressed and uninterested, lethargic and weak, but was beginning to show improvement lately. I, too, had such a year. No doctor, and I saw a lot of them, was able to come up with a plausible explanation for my loss of 32 pounds over the past 9-10 months. Losing nearly 20% of my body weight should have been considered life-threatening. But no one knew what to do about it. I was looking like a refugee from a zombie movie. I was weak and lethargic and depressed, too. But now we both are on special diets that are supposed to help us gain back those lost pounds and muscle. We are both getting stronger. And we are both gaining back an interest in living awhile longer. 
Maybe there really is a DOG that put us together. I look at Sonny and I am inspired by that little dog's toughness. We have a lot of similarities and by seeing him survive and improve, I know that I, too, can do it. But I promise not to hump the table leg no matter how well I'm feeling.

much ado



It didn't cost much, but that isn't why we bought it. It was just a thing that would add a little bit of convenience to the TV room. But no one told me it would be such a problem installing it. They never warn you about the difficulty you can expect when you naively buy something you have
every reason to believe will be a snap to set up. 
If you're a carpenter you know the old adage: 
Measure twice, cut once. If you're not a carpenter, the meaning will be the same no matter what your line of work: prepare properly and every thing will turn out properly. So as I prepared to drill the first hole, I hesitated for a second and then, just to be sure, I measured once more. Now you're expecting me to say I almost screwed up, but, no, I had measured the position of the hole properly and was right on.
Hole? Why was I going to drill a hole? You know those wires that come out of electrical appliances with the three pronged plug-in thingy at the end? I figured that it would look neater if that plug-in thingy coming out of the back of the little new microwave we decided we needed when we saw it in the store, would be out of sight so as not to look messy on the shelf it sits on. To accomplish this neat look, I determined that what I really needed was two holes. 
You see, the new little microwave sits on a shelf that is raised 4" from the top of the counter. That 4" is hollow space that the plug (that's the abbreviated version of plug-in thingy) must pass through to complete the installation of our new little microwave. Two holes means twice the preparation; measuring 4 times to cut, or in this case, drill, twice. Now this is getting complicated. 
Luckily I have easy access to the underside of the counter where the second hole would be located.
The little refrigerator that occupies the space is easily removed, allowing me to take its place.
So I was all set. Then the fun began. What I failed to realize was that the support of the shelf that the microwave would sit on was a 2x4 that,of course, sat right where the hole would be drilled. In moving the location of the hole to accommodate that 2x4 I broke the "measure twice, cut once" rule in favor of expediency. I assumed I could guess closely enough to get away with it. Such arrogance is rarely rewarded.
It will usually drive you deeper into the hole you've dug for yourself. The hole I drilled was to the side of the 2x4. The wrong side. The hole drilled from the underside was on the other side of the 2x4. They did not line up, which made feeding the wire through them an irritating and frustrating task. I spent an inordinate amount of time getting that wire in place. For some reason the gods of DIY were out to get me. By the time I finished pulling that wire I had jammed myself into that space under the counter in contortions that would do the Rubberbandman proud. And to top it off, the wire was too short to reach the outlet. An extension cord fixed that, but it was another instance mismeasurement. 
I manage to turn a simple plug-in into a 40 minute ordeal fueled by ineptitude. One thing learned, I will never buy another microwave.

to be or not

To be, or not to be: that is the question: 
Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to sufferThe slings and arrows of outrageous lack,Or to take arms against the house’s shortage of pets,And by opposing end the outcasted dogs denial.To die: to sleep; will no more dogs will crossThe threshold of this esteemed domicile.And by sleep we say twill mend the heartache and theThousand natural shocks that flesh is heir toWhen no dog companion has breeched the redoubt. To die, to sleep; to sleep perchance to dream. Ay, there’s the rub. For in that sleep what dreams may come of Puppies grown to stalwart companions, of unfathomed Love granted us as we shuffle off this mortal coil, mustGive us pause. Though we reason endlessly andEmotionally, both yea and nay, we have yet to defeat The stabbing thrusts of doubt. The question asked of usAnd Hamlet remains unanswered: to be or not to be a pet owner; that is the question. (with apologies to Wm Shakespeare)


We have been arguing (In a nice way) for the past month or so whether we should add a dog to our household. We’ve gone so far as to contact breeders of Goldendoodles, our first choice of canine companionship, and visited the Humane Society to look for likely candidates, but have so far come up still unsure if this is the right thing to do. The arguments go something like this: 

AMe: “A dog is a huge responsibility”
Her: “They’re so cute.”
Me: “it will have to be trained.”
Her: “They’re so cute.”
Me: “ They have to be fed and exercised.”
Her: “Aren’t they cute?”
Me: “ And don’t forget the mess they can make in the house.”
Her: “There’s a really cute one.”
Me: “Who’s going t clean up all the dog shit in the yard.”
Her: “ Cute, cute, cute.”
nd etc.,etc.,etc. So it goes.

easter questions




I have always been confused about the role that the rodent, known as the Easter Bunny, plays during the Easter season. Who invented this creature? What is his purpose? What is the correlation between that mythical rodent and chicken eggs that have been colored? Is the Easter Bunny benign or is that a disguise to hide a sinister charlatan bent on doing no good? Or is he (she) just a warm and fuzzy icon who wants all his worshipers to be overfed on eggs and chocolate?
These questions have haunted me ever since my first Easter as a child old enough to ask those questions. Being born and raised in the Catholic Church and attending Catholic grade school, I was well indoctrinated by the nuns, who ruled my small world and were the final authority on all things holy, in the religious significance of Easter. So it was thoroughly confusing when the existence of a rabbit, who scattered (now we would say littered. Back then ecologists and environmentalists hadn't yet come into vogue) colored eggs and chocolate candy around the house and yard, suddenly appeared on the scene.

Don't get me wrong. I loved the chocolate candy and the jelly beans that were everywhere at that time. I willingly participated in the pagan ritual of dying eggs. I was as eager to grab my share, and more, of the goodies that abounded. I just couldn't figure out where all this largess came from. The notion that some bunny was behind all this hooha seemed preposterous.

I know there is precedent for holiday icons and mascots. Just look at Christmas. There is an abundance of Christmas traditions that on the surface seem silly. The difference between those Christmas traditions and the Easter incongruities is that all those Christmas traditions can be traced directly back to early Christian beliefs and activities that evolved into the Christmas we all know and love.


Not so much Easter. I have no idea where that Easter Bunny, as a symbol at the center of our Easter celebration, originated. None of it makes sense. Somehow the Easter season turned into a free-for-all of bunnies, colored chicken eggs( with the life cooked out of them), and little baskets stuffed with teeth rotting candies. I simply cannot reconcile all that nonsense with any Christian belief dating back to Christianity's earliest days. Easter has become the most secular of religious holy days. I'd be wiling to bet that if you stopped 10 people at random on the street that not one would be able to tell you what the religious significance of Easter is. Somehow that depresses me even in my state of lapsed Catholicism.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

senior eating





We just finished lunch at one of our favorite restaurants. We like the place because it caters to the geriatric demographic of which we are intrenched members. Hard to admit, but the gray hair and beard are a dead give away. This is the kind of restaurant that on Fryday, when it has its all you can eat fish fry, the line to get a table stretches out the door and causes walker pile ups at the curb and cane fights in the parking lot. And that's at 4:00 PM, the usual dinner hour for an aged clientele. By 6:00 PM the place is nearly deserted. The only ones left are the youngsters who haven't quite gotten the scedule ingrained into their DNA yet. 
We've been coming here for ages, even before we qualified for the senior discount and have the system down pat. But, of course, none of that matters right now because we were there for lunch. 
The most important attribute a restaurant such as this can have, and this is essential to the continued success of any restaurant, but especially to one that caters to seniors who know the value of a buck, is portion size. There has to be enough left over on your plate so that you can take home enough for lunch the next day. And you always have to have a way to smuggle the little jelly and sugar packets out of there so you'll have enough to last you until your next visit. 
There is one problem that arises all too frequently however. The clientel being seniors means there are a miltitude of senior moments that can thwart the best of plans. The only way you'll have lunch tomorrow is if you remember to take your doggy bag along with you when you leave the restaurant. 
Looks like we'll be eating peanut butter and jelly tomorrow.

Monday, March 30, 2015

trust



Awhile back Mary and I met with an estate planning attorney to get a new trust established to deal with the consequences of our inevitable demise. The meeting ran smoothly and most of our questions were answered, so all that’s left is the paperwork.
But it all seems so trivial. Here we are, deciding what to do with all the “stuff” we’ve accumulated over the past 45 years. Stuff that has meaning and value, both fiscal and emotional to us, but except for rare instances, means squat to our heirs. By designating certain objects to go to particular individuals, we are hoping that they will cherish and appreciate them as we did and add them to the continuum of family heirlooms. At the same time I know that styles change, taste and sophistication change, and our valued stuff becomes their trash. In trying to do right by them, we will have burdened them with the task of disposal of all our treasures that they don’t want and probably won’t need.
I think a better way to do this is to let them take whatever they want and agree on and sell the rest or donate what might be useful to others. Selling as much as possible puts more money in the kitty to be divided among them and relieves them of the burden of accepting and getting rid of stuff they don’t want. Of course, all this conjecturing assumes that Mary and I are going to drop dead at the same time, and real soon, before we have the chance to use all those assets by living too long.
What I hope we can pass on to our children and grandchildren, that will mean more than all that stuff, is our value system and sense of respect for others. The intangibles that we leave them with, our living example of how to conduct a good life, are our most prized possessions. How can we put that into a trust?