This is Day 10 of a 21-day effort to see the good in what might, at first, look like an irredeemable drag. Its name comes from a classic bit of dialogue uttered by actor Kevin Bacon in a classic film of my generation, Animal House.
My late father was in the habit of mocking my late mother's side of the family for what he saw as their massively fucked up views on money and blithe disregard for facing up to the truth of just about everything, their mortality included.
It was not without some irony, therefore, that my sister and I viewed the colossal disarray in which he'd left his own affairs. And as for his relationship with the truth...well, let's just say it was rockier than we'd been led to believe.
Of course, we should have been prepared for this: there are few people who get excited at the prospect of their inevitable demise, and we'd been blindsided once by the bizarre structure our maternal grandmother had left in place. But this was our dad: the sensible parent, the one who didn't drink. If he had put a bit of a gloss on some...shall we say...interesting life choices, well, hell, we were a family of storytellers and ad people, for crying out loud! We spun for a living.
When there is a dispute about shekels left behind, the warring parties always declaim, "It's not about the money." But of course it is: the money is what's there representing the promises made (and broken). And since money means different things to different people, bequests represent love, security, freedom, fear and probably a host of other things. As with fetishes, there's one for everything you can name, and entire online communities for many things you can't.
For me, the difference between the airtight provisions that had supposedly been made and the jerry-rigged structure my sister and I ultimately discovered was devastating. Yes, because of the money, we're talking a lot of money, here, but also because of the years and years of haranguing about our supposedly subpar handling of our lives. My sister and I chose some pretty non-traditional paths, and while we weren't what I'd call irresponsible, we also were not living the suburban-American dream, socking away millions from our jobs at Shearson Lehman.
Dad was the responsible one. The one who supported his aging parents for the last 20 or so years of their lives while never, ever rubbing his father's pride in it. The one who paid for our mother's funeral, even though they had openly despised one another for most of their lives. The one who always always always asked if we needed money, and, though we always replied in the negative, quite often sent some anyway. The one who told us we'd be taken care of, and the precise sum that translated into, despite our protests that the whole discussion was silly and morbid.
So the blow was hard to take. And it was followed by another, far worse one which there's no reason to go into, the story is so old and clichÃ©d and obvious, it's laughable. A story that happens to rich people and crazy fourth wives of famous singers, not middle-class girls from Chicago. The details hardly matter. Suffice it to say that it involved lawyers and family members taking sides and the besmirching of our good names. No one wins in a game like that, except the lawyers.
And yet, almost four years after the fact, I am grateful for this happening. My blood sister and I are closer than ever, having walked through the fire together. The family and friends who stood by us, I have an even greater appreciation for. More than anything, though, I am thankful for being introduced to who I am at my core, and for discovering the striking similarity it bears to the me that walks around from day to day in more mundane settings.
It is a good thing to sleep well at night...