Thursday, January 21, 2010


One of the great things about the group of girlfriends with whom I go out with every Wednesday ("go out" as in "stay inside in a basement") is that most of us are within a few years of each other, so we have common life experiences like power surges, crushes on the men of LOST, and older parents.

So one week several months ago, when we were discussing great gifts to give our families for Christmas, two ideas came up that are completely representative of our stage of life:

1. Life Hammer, the Original Auto Emergency Escape Tool, which some of us gave to our children to be used should they find themselves trapped in their cars beneath water or engulfed in flames because you just never know.

2. The Making Things Easy for My Family Book, a basic "where you can find my important papers when I die" manual.

Do you detect a theme?

So I ordered the death book for my parents because I'm thoughtful like that.

They actually appreciated the gesture.

Tuesday (yes, it took weeks to get to it) I sat with them at their kitchen table and began the process of getting their things in order.

Not fun.

In fact, the whole experience was just ... trying.

For one thing, they have been married 68 years, so they ARE one person. But they are one person who argues with him/herself, if you know what I mean. Not a real argument like you might have in your 40s, 50s, or 70s, but one you would have in your 80s, which is kind of pointless because ... what was I going to say?

Yeah, like that.

So it went a little like this:

Me: Dad, I need all of your life insurance policies.

Dad pulls out about half a dozen yellowed, ancient policies. I mean, they were taken out in 1953 and matured in 1984 kind of ancient.

Me, putting policies in a pile: Dad, you're just going to have to take these to your company and find out what's what. What's the name of the company?

Dad: American Mutual National Co. (Fake name for blog, clever of me in case you would try to rip off my elderly parents with their 1953 policies.)

Mom: No. That is NOT the name. That is the old name. There's a new name.

Me: What is it?

Dad and Mom: [crickets]

Me: So where do you keep your important papers?

Dad: In a lock box.

Me: Where is that? (he answers)

Where is the key?

Dad: In the box.

Me: You keep the key IN the lock box?

Dad: No, well, yes. I keep it in the lock of the lock box, but it's not locked.

Mom: I want to be buried in my pink suit and just a little bit of bangs to cover my forehead.


Yeah, so that's how that went, for TWO hours.

At any rate, we got two pages filled in. That's better than what we had done last Monday, right?

Question: Do you know where your important "stuff" is? And more importantly, what suit do you wish to be buried in?


Mocha with Linda said...

Oh, I feel your pain! Fun times when parents are aging. Not! Hang in there!

I ought to get one of those books for me. It dawned on me one day that if something happened to me, my husband would have no clue where stuff is.

My grandmother always joked about her "burial gown."

Margaret said...

Yes I know where everything is because we keep it all in a safe box and we all know where it is at.

Catherine said...

My mother always had her burial suit picked out. As soon as she bought an outfit that she really liked, she'd announce that this was what she wanted to be buried in. And so it went... for nigh onto 35 years before her actual passing. My mother, the Uber-Plannner.

She'd have loved that planning manual you wrote about, by the way -- she'd made her own, actually, with all kinds of instructions. And, really, it did make things much easier for my stepfather when he was coping with the first stages of grief.

So, despite the awkwardness of getting your parents to put those things in order, it's really a good idea.


SusanD said...

Yes, all our important "stuff" is in the safe. Seriously? I don't want to be buried in a suit. I'd rather be buried in a dress, with a fork in my hand. But that's a future post. :) Blessings, SusanD

skoots1mom said...

i'm in trouble...i gave away ALL my suits!

Melanie @ This Ain't New York said...

Sounds to me like your mom has her priorities straight. A pink suit and a little bit of bangs are perfect choices. Too sweet.

Merrie said...

This time of life is very trying! We had to force my daddy to give information. This is after he almost bled to death and we had to put them in the nursing home. None of us knew where anything was.
We finally got my brother as power of attorney and he has the pertinent information.
Hopefully, they have changed their funeral instructions. Years ago, after daddy had a stroke, they wanted all the girls (daughters, dil, granddaughters, etc.) to wear WHITE dresses and carry a white rose and "dance" down to their coffin and place the rose on top - individually, by age, ... can I say YUCK 3X's? We were all horrified!
That part of their wishes will NOT be carried out - by any of the female population in our family!

Nel said...

I can feel your pain. But believe me it is worth doing. My mom and dad had nothing together. We lost Dad in 98 and Mom knew nothing. It was hard. So as much as I hate to admit it, I am getting things ready for my daughter. And my hubby is getting his stuff together so I know about it. We have only been married 3 years, but he is considerably older than I am. Being prepared, doesn't make it come any faster. Good Luck!
Until next time...nel

Jenny said...

I need one of those Life Hammers, I have nightmares about falling off a bridge in my car and drowning. It is not pleasant.

My parents definitely need that book, they say everything is in order, but I would like to actually see that. Of course getting them to fill out the book would be something like you had to go thru.

Baba said...

Hi Linda, we don't like to think of things like this, but it is necessary for the future..
My husband and I keep our stuff in a locked fire proof box and we both have a key.We gave our made out wills to one of our daughters at Christmas time and kept a copy for ourselves.

Off of this subject,how are you enjoying your flip video?? I am thinking of getting one that is HD 4GB for it worth buying??
Have a good day..our day is rainy.
Hugs, Baba

Carrie B said...

Oh my gosh . . . Pink suite with a few bangs! Cracked me up.

Good Luck!

Susanne said...

Oh boy, I can relate. And it's funny but I've so been thinking of this not just for my parents but for myself. Our poor neighbors passed away this last month and nobody seems to know where any important papers were kept.

Your mom is a gem! She makes me smile every time you tell a story about her!

Anonymous said...

I keep important items like birth certificates, marriage certificates, the receipt to my computer...stuff like a plastic baggie in the front of my file cabinet. I'm used to running from hurricanes and know that I can quickly grab it as I'm running out the door. My pictures are in a couple of boxes. Those would go in the car too. So yes, I know I sound anal, but I know where my stuff is!

Betty said...

You did good Linda! I´m sure your parents appreciated your effort. My in laws are about the same age and it frightens me to think of the things there will be to "clean up" or put in order once they die. But no one feels responsible to ask them now...and they probably wouldn´t let us help. It gets so frustrating, but if you want peace, you are quiet.

Anonymous said...

Um, is it bad that I do the same thing with our fire box?

I love that your parents have been married for 68 years!

Faith said...

oh my gosh are great for the spirit let me tell ya! this was so funny to me. My hubby and I have a lawyer with our "stuff" and hopefully his key is not IN the box! hahaha.....

As for what suit I want? first of all my goal is to be 104 when I die and I want to be cremated. because i just turned 50, I told my daughters I am NOT middle-aged yet. That will be in 2 years when I'm 52 which is exactly half of 104!! lol....

I am MOST impressed that your folks have been married for 68 years! wow...that is just a testimony!

Cathy said...

I'm just glad I'm the middle child and my older brother and sister are the executors of their estate if something happens and not me. Is that mean? Hope not.

Shawna said...

Oh Lid, that was hilarious...not for you, I realize. But your writing is so wonderful that you made it sound funny...especially the pink suit and bangs...and the key kept IN the lock box!!!

I can't even discuss this stuff with my mom. She's almost 68, and I live in a different state. She wants me to reassure her, I know. But what she really wants is for me to move my family back home to take care of her, living next door and coming over every day. It's a heartbreaking process, beginning with realizing you have aging parents and then trying to figure out where to go from there. I feel for you, sweetie.

2cats said...

I would give anything in the world if I could fill a book out with my mom. She would not cooperate but I would love the time spent with her.
Consider yourself lucky.

Kim said...

One of those laugh-or-you'll-cry situations. I feel for you Lid! Went through a little of it with my in-laws before we left the U.S. (in an effort to help/support/encourage the brother who's in charge of these things). Definitely NOT fun.

We actually had to set up a plan in case we die overseas. Because of the logistical nightmare of trying to fly a body back to the U.S. (yes, I know it's possible but it's not easy) we have opted for cremation. I've jokingly told my hubby I want him to put me in a pretty, decorative urn that the 2nd wife has to keep dusted.

Yes, I've got a warped sense of humor -- in case you hadn't already noticed.

Rach@In His Hands said...

Bless their sweet little hearts...good luck on getting everything in order for them!

Paula (SweetPea) said...

I don't have any important papers but I do know I want a little bangs to cover my forehead. That was absolutely priceless!!

I'm sure there's a level of frustration you being the daughter and all. But from an outsiders point of view...this is just precious!!! Locking the key in the lock box.

I could be moved to tears (if I allowed my emotional side to surface at this moment, of which I am not allowing) but 68 years! That is just outrageous! That is awesome. That IS one person. I can't phathom. I bet in their 80s they are the absolute cuteness of cuteness. Give them a big hug for me. They deserve a nobel peace prize or something for being married 68 years. What honor and committment. Wow. Humbled.

ain't for city gals said...

Oh my...this sounds so familair. I have really almost given'm thinking it might be easier "after the fact" parents will be celebrating 60 years of "almost always bliss" this wants to be wants a full blown funeral...hope it doesn't happen at the same time

Kelly Combs said...

I love the bangs comment. That is such a woman - worried about the hair, even in the afterlife. :-)

Good for you. You are a good daughter.

Tabi said...

Until November, I thought I had years before I had to worry about something like that...lessons are always learned hard aren't they. Now, I know how all my moms stuff is set up and know what she wants done.
My husband and I too went and change some stuff around with our policies and are in the process of making a will so our children would be taken care of properly. Life decisions like these are tough...

Bless your mom and her bangs comment! That is too sweet, always got to worry about our hair don't we!!

The Quiet One said...

I am sitting here in tears from laughing. I so needed this laugh right now too. My siblings and I are trying to arrange a family meeting as we speak (well read/writea) about the very same thing. At least now I know what to expect! Thanks for the heads up and thank you so very much for that needed laugh! :)