Sunday, April 10, 2011

Last Will & Testament

Color is coming back to gardens all over Baltimore – the bright magenta of tulip trees, the lush yellow of daffodil beds along the highways, the soft orange of the robin’s breast. And we chose this time of year, when life emerges once again from soil and bark, to talk about death.

It was time to create our wills. Actually, it was long past time for me to write a will. For Michael, too, a little late.  When  should you write a will? Advice varies, but you probably want to start thinking about it when the stuff you own is valuable. A house, let’s say (we bought our first together 15 years ago). Or, when you get married (almost 18 years). Or when you have children (not). Or when you get sick (not yet, knock on wood).

I’ve been thinking about wills for a while.  But we breezed through the decades of  his 20s, my 40s, then our 30s/50s without acknowledging that either of us would die. 

When I think about why we put off creating a will for so long , here’s what I come up with: Actually putting it on the table seemed like, well, acquiescing to age.  Married to a younger man, I don’t need to remind him that I’ve lived longer than he has.  He sees it every day in the wrinkles that won’t go away despite what Clinique promises, or the thumb that can’t open a new jar of mayonnaise. I avoided talking about death and wills and bequeathments because it seemed easier to pretend that really, at heart, we’re the same age.  The same young age.

But that pretense couldn’t last. I’ve just made an appointment for my first colonoscopy and celebrated my sister’s 65th birthday. Meanwhile, although Michael’s still got game on the basketball court, we both put prescription orthotics in our boots when we take the dogs out for their morning hike.

So last month, with years and the accumulation of stuff weighing more heavily on both of us,  we called a lawyer. Then we opened our windows and breathed deeply of the spring air, and asked the other: What if I die first; what if you do? What if we die together?

Now that I’ve acknowledged I’ll likely die before he does, it’s clear that he, of course, has known that all along. And what we both discovered is this: More important than who gets our stuff is this:  Who gets the dogs?

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