Oh, what a beautiful mourning

While I wouldn’t call my parents morbid individuals, they seem to enjoy reminding me regularly about their mortality — and have since I was a kid. Back then, they wanted my brother and me to know they had modified their will such that should both of them be killed, our Aunt Diann and Uncle Jerry would be granted legal guardianship. This was disturbing less because I couldn’t stand to think about losing my parents and more because the prospect of living with Uncle Jer — a (let’s call him) boisterous man who liked teasing my brother and me — gave me the shivers. My parents probably thought that my mom’s two brothers were too old. (She was a late-in-life baby.) My dad’s other siblings were also out: Uncle Chuck was a drunk and his wife was an unstable religious nut; our favorite aunt, Julie, was single at the time and as it would turn out, not much longer for this world — juvenile diabetes killed her while she was in her mid-30s. Diann and Jerry, being comparatively stable and with two kids of their own, were the most logical choice, but that didn’t stop my brother and me from begging my parents to change their minds.

It wasn’t long after my 18th birthday that my parents once again changed their will, removing the legal guardian clauses and letting me and my brother know that we were considered old enough to be treated as adults. Periodically, they were sure to tell me whenever they had changed some aspect — sold some property, made me executor, whatever — even though what I was supposed to do with the information was never clear.

For the past 15 years or so, my dad has enjoyed giving my mom a nice piece of jewelry for Christmas/her birthday/their anniversary (despite her protestations “not to make a big deal of it this year”). And every time he does this, he tells me that I should wish that they’d hurry up and die so I can inherit it. I know (at least, I think) he’s joking; either that, or he’s reminding me in a pretty disturbing way that I’m still in their good graces.

Then again, all of their death talk could be their way of trying to spare the anguish I’ll feel someday when they’re not around. Or maybe it stems from growing up in a town where the local radio station’s news anchors read obituaries during the evening news, punctuated by ads for the McHatton-Sadler Funeral Home and the bizarrely named Miller’s Merry Manor nursing home (their commercials tried to invoke its pastoral location by describing how residents could watch deer nibbling the tender grass).

2 Responses to “Oh, what a beautiful mourning”

  1. Janet says:

    Visit Janet

    One of my dad’s favorite words, apparently, and not to be funny, is “predecease”. He uses it at least once in nearly every conversation with Andy and me anymore.

    I’m reading Maria Montessori’s The Absorbent Mind, in which she notes that “the child, unlike the adult, is not on his way to death. He is on his way to life.” She is interested in the child, but I got to pondering the adult at that point. Perhaps your parents are more up-front about it than many of us, but we all need to think about the future.

  2. Editrix says:

    Visit Editrix

    Very true — and the Terri Schiavo case has certainly made a lot of people reexamine their ideas about end-of-life issues and create (or in the case of my parents, revise) living wills.

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