Communion Of Dreams


“Closure.” I’ve never liked that term.
September 7, 2011, 1:53 pm
Filed under: Alzheimer's

Ever. I’ve lost family and friends, gone through breakups and breakdowns, been hurt and been healed. And the idea of “closure” – that something is now done and in the past, makes little sense to me. We are a conglomeration of the experiences we’ve been through, how we’ve reacted, what we’ve learned. In some very real sense, we are the scars we carry, and we should be proud of that. My good lady wife of 24 years agrees with me on all of this.

But something happened this weekend which carried with it something of the notion of closure. It was just a manilla envelope which came in the mail. From the attorney of Martha Sr’s estate.

* * * * * * *

From the introduction to the ‘month’ of April:

Martha Sr and her husband Hurst had moved into their home in the early 1950s, and had raised their family there. It is a classic 1880s historic home, and still retains a lot of the original character. She loved it, and naturally it contained a wealth of memories for her. This was the primary reason why Martha Jr and I moved into the home to care for her as she started to become frail – she couldn’t stand the thought of leaving it.

But she was also worried about what would happen to the home after her death, and on multiple occasions told Martha Jr that she wanted her to have it – her two other living children were well established in their own homes, one of them (Martha Jr’s sister) out in California. I think that she was worried that when the time came to divide up her estate, the house would just be sold and the proceeds split among the siblings. So, she changed her will to specify that Martha Jr should receive half ownership of the house right off the top, the rest of her estate then divided in three parts.

But this was a somewhat dicey move, since she was already exhibiting some signs of the effects of Alzheimer’s. Still, the long-time family attorney went along with her wishes, and made the changes.

Then over the last several years of her life, she would repeatedly ask what was going to happen to the house, and kept suggesting that she should “talk to the attorney” to make sure that Martha Jr inherited it. It was something of a fixation for her, almost to the end. We were able to tell her that the arrangements had already been made, and that put her at ease – until the next time the matter came up.

After her passing, in order that none of the other siblings felt that we had manipulated Martha Sr into making this change, we re-jiggered the allocation of the estate so that things worked out to an equitable split, while still respecting Martha Sr’s wishes that Martha Jr wound up with the house.

* * * * * * *

You’ve probably already figured out what the letter was. It was the deed to the house. Most of Martha Sr’s estate had long since been distributed – but since the value of the house amounted to most of Martha Jr’s ‘share’, and there were some legal matters which needed to be resolved (a property line dispute which we’ve now settled by buying the strip of land in question) before it could be released, we’ve been just going along on the assumption that eventually we’d actually have legal ownership of the house.

Not a big deal. Not really.

Except . . .

Well, except having a place I can call my own has always been hugely important to me. It’s a psychological quirk of mine, tied up with having been orphaned at the start of adolescence. I very literally lost my home. The aunt and uncle who took my sister and I in, God love ’em, told us to always think of their home as ours and did everything they could to make that a reality. But it still wasn’t ‘my’ home.

As noted above, my wife Martha and I sold our home here in town in order to move in with Martha Sr. For the last decade I’ve always felt like I was living in a place not my own. And while I never really expected it to happen, there were things which could have happened which would have forced us to move out with little warning. That kind of uncertainty has always weighed on me. It would be a little too much like losing my first home suddenly.

But now it is over. Just as we’ve finished getting Her Final Year published and are starting to get it out into the world.

Yeah, “closure.” I guess that’s about as good a term as possible for what I’m feeling.

Jim D.

(Cross posted from the HFY blog.)

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