Extremely Bad Advice – How to Deal with Sentimentality

Stealing from Abby once again – ’cause I’m too lazy today to write a new question.

DEAR ABBY: My adult son passed away two years ago at a young age. We were very close while he was growing up. He married young, and I maintained a great relationship with both him and his wife. They gave me the most precious grandchildren any woman could ask for, and I am extremely active in their little lives.

My daughter-in-law has moved on. She met a nice young man, and they are planning to be married in the near future. Do you think I would be out of line to request to have my son’s ashes back home with me? We live near each other, I love her very much, and we still have a great relationship. I don’t want to damage it by asking this if it’s not appropriate.

I would pass his ashes on to his children when they grow up, of course, but for now, I’d love to have my son back home with me and his dad because she has started her new life. My husband is noncommittal about the subject. When I broach it, he says he “doesn’t want to talk about it.” I really have no one to ask or confide in about this. Your thoughts would be most appreciated. — STILL BROKENHEARTED IN NORTH CAROLINA

DEAR BROKENHEARTED,

Well, what can I say? I would say I’m sorry for your loss, but I’m not. I think “sorry for your loss” is about as meaningful as “the sky is really blue today”. If I was saddened by your loss, I’d tell you that, and perhaps that would do something. If I was interested in showing how much I care about you, I’d ask, “Oh, that must be hard. What do you miss most about him?” But, again, I don’t care, because your sorrow and misery really don’t affect me on the daily. Other than to provide fodder for my advice column, for which I will gladly say, “Next victim!”

Okay, here we go. The classic dilemma – who gets to keep the crispy bacon that used to be your son’s body? Because, let’s all agree, your “son” is no longer there any more, just like the dream I used to have of being an Abercrombie & Fitch model has blown off into the wind with that first hit of the mind-altering substance known on the street as Jif Extra Crunchy. Your son disappeared from the shell that held him the moment his cranial electro-activity ceased. What he left behind was the meatbag for DNA that did its job incredibly well by providing “the most precious grandchildren” [hold on – just threw up in my mouth a little].

And in order to do that, he had to procreate with his wife, your daughter-in-law (DIL). Who is now his widow. So, for that you should be grateful to her, not jealous.

What’s left is sentimentality. I get it. People have good memories of the past, and it’s hard to move on. It’s hard to imagine that your progeny wouldn’t love you as much as you loved him. How could he? You’re a mother, and everyone knows a “mother’s love knows no bounds”. He couldn’t reciprocate your devotion to him. And he proved this by not pulling an Oedipus and fucking you! He shagged the DIL, knocked her up a couple of times, gave her good memories, and now his burnt ends occupy a silver chalice on the mantle. Good for him and her.

But – you’re a selfish hag who has nothing left in her life, and you’re trying to fill your own void by commandeering what should be left to her in order to appease your own shortcomings. As evidenced by your question to me! Don’t do this. Would you be out of line? Absolutely. Don’t do it! Leave well enough alone. Your husband “doesn’t want to talk about it” not from an ethical or emotional perspective, but simply because you’re looney-tunes and he recognizes a bear trap when he sees it.

However, because I suspect you won’t take my advice above, being as reasonable as it is, I’m going to give you a bonus recommendation of some Extremely Bad Advice. This you’ll probably do with gusto. Have fun!

Step one: Offer to babysit the grandkids for a night. Give the DIL and her new guy a chance to go out and have fun.

Step two: Prepare for the switch. Get a plastic bag, about a gallon, clear (not white), full of ashes from your backyard barbecue pit. Take along a second, empty bag for holding.

Step three: Once the kids are in bed, make the transfer. Go full Indiana Jones. Play dramatic music, sweat profusely, look over your shoulder for booby-traps.

Step four: Revel in your glory. You now have your son’s actual remains, and she, the grandkids, and your husband are none the wiser. Dare I say they might view you as a hero for how magnanimously you deal with the situation? Visit a bar and order a glass of Chablis to celebrate. Send me the bill – I’ll gladly treat you for that job well done!

Extremely Bad Advice – Parental Finances

Dear SJ: I learned recently that my mother’s retirement funds are gone. She has been scammed by the home health agency she hired a few years ago. Apparently they got her to sign a financial power of attorney form, authorizing one of their company employees to make withdrawals from her accounts. They drained over $200,000 in just the past 6 months. The employee posted Instagram and Facebook pictures from her trips to Cancun and Ireland, which I’m certain were taken with Mom’s money. (When I confronted her, she said “Prove it”. Ugh!) Not only retirement – that was supposed to be my inheritance!

I asked a lawyer, and he said that the forms are legit. Police can’t do anything. Better Business Bureau doesn’t really care about these small businesses – they sent my mom a flyer called “How to Avoid Senior Catfishing” after all the money was gone. What should I do? FRUSTRATED WITH FINANCES

 

Dear FRUSTRATED,

All right, I’m going to do the hard work that nobody before you has cared enough to do. Frankly, I don’t really care about you or your crusty, “she-had-it-coming” mom, either, but I do get a bit of a chubby when thinking about people respecting my brain, so I keep doing it.

Here’s the deal: you’re the one at fault here. If your mom had 200k in liquid assets that this flimsy mooch could access at the stroke of a pen, that’s a big black mark on your abilities as a responsible child. I mean, what intelligent, forward-looking heir leaves an aging, senile, incontinent grandmother in charge of her own money? Old broads like that should have a debit card with like a hundred and fifty deposited every week, just enough for a half-dozen cups of coffee and a couple of bowls of “medicinal” marijuana down at the VA. Access to any more than that is just stupid. Why? Well, I think the fact that you’re asking me this question should be Prosecution’s Exhibit #1.

Anyway. Too late to get that back now. Money’s spent, tan’s faded, hangover’s dissipated, the Irish bartender has returned to folding towels instead of folding his lips over some sweet health care aide’s nips. Sucks to be you, because for 200 large you should have at least gotten to watch.

But – you want to get something for your efforts, don’t you? Warning: you’re gonna have to play the long game on this one.

First, you have to find a dirty insurance agent. One that will allow your mother to buy a huge policy on herself at such an advanced age. You’re gonna need about a half a million, to do 2 things.

You’re replacing the 200k that should have been your inheritance, and you’re covering her living costs while she stays with you over the next two years. Yes, this has to happen. Suck it up and deal with it.

You are probably going to have to second mortgage the house in order to make the premium payments while this is going on. Ask the agent if you can gross up the policy to cover this amount, too. If he’s as dirty as I think he is, he’ll be all over it, because, remember, more premium = more commission!

Then, all you have to do then is wait out those 2 years. That’s the usual length of a suicide exclusion. And when time’s up? Make sure you get a “terminal illness” rider early withdrawal approved by your doctor, who should also be on the take already. Then you can use that money to pay for some fake test results to convince her she’s got cancer, or liver disease, or some kind of “heavy metal poisoning” that’s gonna just leave her bedridden and shitting herself on the daily. Then all you have to do is offer her a chance to do the right thing, go out “on her terms”, and call the good doctor for one last ‘script.

And if she doesn’t? Remember, county medical examiners don’t really know how to distinguish “suffocated under a pillow” from “died peacefully while sleeping”, anyway. I’ve seen the handbook, they’re not that competent.

Hopefully some of my other readers take a lesson from your imbecility and start their financial planning a hell of a lot sooner. Best of luck, I hope never to hear from you again.

Writing Practice – 3/18/2018 – Concerning Happiness

Prompt: How far would you go to achieve your happiness?

I admit- this may be limiting me. But I won’t push past the boundaries of another’s satisfaction or happiness in life to achieve my own. If it requires me to leave a wake of destruction in my path to achieve that “happiness”, then I have the wrong idea of happiness or the wrong idea of the ideal.

I should not have to go to such great lengths, either. I should be able to find happiness wherever I am, whenever I am, without needing to search and seek and journey. I should be able to get to a level of happiness by my everyday interactions – by the things I am doing for myself, for my children, for my community, for my nation, for my world.

I should not need to look far. I am and should find happiness in the alarm clock – in the running shoes. In the dirty dishes, that transform themselves under my great care and safe tutelage into sparkling clean ones.

I should find happiness in a well-folded shirt. In an empty e-mail inbox. In a to-do list completely crossed off. In watching my son hit a double. In reading a story my daughter has written. In throwing crusts of bread, in throwing the whole piece out for the squirrels and the chipmunks and the sparrows and chickadees.

I should find happiness in the pen – in using it dry from my words on the push. I should find happiness win a well-covered page. I should find happiness in a well-read book. In a philosophical insight. In a historical lesson I can only now understand.

I should find happiness in ladybugs – in empty wine glasses – in watermelon rinds and runny noses on a winter’s morning. I should find happiness in a lit candle, burning to fend off to ward off to beat away the darkness of night.

I should find happiness in a hug from my mother. In a smile from my brother. In the touch of my lover. In the morning wind, in the stinging rain, in a subway car too full for me to squeeze in. I should find happiness in an evening newscast, and in laying my head on the pillow at night.

And – I should – So I Do.

Writing practice – 3/2/2018 – Vacation

Write about a family vacation…

Anticipation. Of fun, of laughter, of some danger. Of spending too much money on tourist traps. Of the inevitable arguments, about who is on who’s side, who touched what, who gets to sit in the good seat.

Planning. Of how to get there. Of what to do. Of where to go, where to stay, how much to pack. Be spontaneous or scheduled? Be open or structured? Be regular or non-traditional? Make memories either way, any way.

Packing. What will be on the first day? And the second? What do you put in your carry-on and what do you put in the bag that you pack on the back. Shirts, pants, shoes, belts. Toothpaste, shampoo. Phone charger. Charge cord.

Driving. Which route? And then, when we get into the car, do you put on the GPS immediately? Or do you try to wing it for a little while? Flinging it is just much more fun, because you don’t have to worry about rigid schedules, and you have the flexibility to deviate to that “world’s largest Golf Tee” exhibition when ever the mood strikes.

Driving. Driving. Driving. Stop at a rest stop, for a bathroom break. Clowns-out-of-a-Volkswagen first. Stumble up to the restrooms, evacuate bladders. Then approach the vending machines – find them “OUT OF ORDER”. Swear under your breath. Back to the car, hit the trunk and break open the packed snacks. Drive.

Drive. Drive. Play the “alphabet game”. Lose to the six-year-old who saw the sign for “Quincy’s Down-Home Restaurant” first and therefore got to R, then S, then T before anyone else was even close. An insurmountable lead, enough to take it all the way to the Z and earn the first traveling trophy of the trip.

Drive. Drive. Arrive. Tumble out of the van once again. Tumble into the condo, like cats exploring in their new environment. “Check out the bathrooms.” “Did you see that grill?” “Oooh, the view is spectacular!” “Hey, the neighbors have a license plate from Montana, that’s a hell of a drive.” Discover. Settle. Regroup. Smile. Hug. Huddle & plan for the next day. Unwind with a glass of wine and beer on the porch while the kids watch SNL reruns on the pull-out downstairs.

Smile. Hold hands. Stare at the moon. Enjoy family, for tomorrow it starts all over again, and wish this moment to last for as long as it can until the memory is indelibly etched into your mind, permanent, an artwork notable for it makes the whole world better for its existence.

Writing Practice 2/24/2018

Write about irritation…

You know how sometimes you get that little bit of raw spot on your butt because you’ve been wiping too hard, too long, right on that same spot?

You know how your little brother is always singing that same chorus, over and over, an dover and over again?

You know how your partner, whether you’re in a fully recognized, legal-status relationship or not, has those little quirks that just get under your skin and bother you? It’s not like it’s really offensive enough to throw you out of the relationship – not a deal breaker or anything – but it is something that just makes you say, “Oh, no, not this shit again?”

You know how your parents are getting on you to clean your room, even though you don’t see why it should be clean, you don’t mind it like that, it seems perfectly fine to you that there are clothes and books, and candy wrappers, and old tags from the shirts your grandmother bought you three months ago, and Monopoly money, and your viola, and your homework , and your best friend’s harmonica, and your sister’s glasses case, all on the floor, you don’t really mind it, it just takes a couple of steps, a little bit of extra concentration,and you’re good, you can lie down in the bed and read a book and you don’t even notice the extra socks and hangers and the old burned-out light bulb that’s there, and since it’s your room you don’t even know why they bother trying to understand or make you clean it up, because, sheesh, it’s not like they have to sleep there, anyway, they have their own space, dammit, they have enough to do to keep a job and hold down a place to live, and why are they wasting their time wondering about you anyway?

You know how your parents are always annoying you with their insistence they’re not going to move to a nursing home? That they’re totally fine and capable of taking care of themselves, except that in the past month there have been: (1) small fire in the kitchen, and (2) falls, one for each, and (3) instances of forgetting to put the trash out to the curb on Tuesday morning, and (4) examples of forgetting the neighbor’s names, and (5) calls from the library, to You, to ask you what the password is for logging on to their account so they can renew their books. Yeah, none of those things, by themselves, are bad enough, but on the whole they make a good case for Assisted Living, and while you know they’ve got the money for it, your sister out in Nebraska doesn’t want to see them go, she’s just beside herself with worry, and yet you can’t help but fear it’s less about the care (or lack thereof) they’ll receive, and it’s more about the $$$ in her eyes, trying to angle for that inheritance to help pay off her own law school debt (currently in applied as she awaits Tommy and Angelina’s graduation, she absolutely must be their mom, they just can’t get on without her).

So, yeah, that’s a bit irritating, don’t you think?