I sat across the table from my sister-in-law and listened to my brother tell us things we already knew. We were gathered in the kitchen of the rented house, some at the window seat, some here at the table, a few of the brother-in-laws leaning against the counter picking at the food set out there. For the first time in three days no one spoke much. No one was swearing or drinking. We all just sat in our own minds.
“He said he’s seen this a lot. It’s terrible, but a super common situation.”
A wave of rage batters the shore in my mind. I know Dad picked 2 because he’s the most successful, business wise. But he’s also the kindest.
Who leaves a mess like this for their kids to clean up?
“He said old men are just weak. He sees it all the time.” My brother shakes his head.
It doesn’t make any of us feel any better.
“I really think he thought he’d live forever. I don’t think he did this on purpose. He just thought he’d never die, thought he had another twenty years, at least!”
I think my brother is probably right, but I can’t feel it.
In the past three years, too many things have gone wrong all starting with mom’s sudden death. The kicker being that it wasn’t even cancer that killed her. After ten years of that bullshit, it wasn’t even the cancer that did it. My father’s relief was more apparent than his grief, that was the next blow. Two of the seven children are still down for the count from that one. The other five soldiered on for eighty days until the next blow. He called each of us announcing his marriage. One was happy for him. The rest looked on in shocked silence. Not the reactions he was looking for, three months after his wedding he changed his will.
He left her everything.
Not just allowed her to live in the house until her death, but also, the final blow, left her all the personal possessions. Not just his, but everything of mom’s still in the house.
When she dies the house and property come back to the kids.
When she dies.
As I walked into the viewing, the same room mom’s was in, the first thing I heard was the second wife’s voice.
“No, he left me everything. There’s a will.”
I turned around and walked back out.
It’s nothing I didn’t already know, but hearing the words from her mouth make me very aware of that fine line that keeps me out of prison. That very thin line that defines me as human.
Out on the sidewalk in the cold night, I try to remember the last time I wanted to see someone dead. Okay, not that hard to remember, there are only two others. Is that number high?
I think about Kirk. It was almost thirty years ago. Back then I ran away to Hawaii. The distance helped but it took years to put myself back together. Now, there are no beaches, no palm trees, nothing that resembles warmth on my horizon. Not this time.
He died on the toilet. Three years to the day after mom. He’d had a recent shoulder surgery and died of heart failure.
I like to think she slapped him silly when she saw him. Then I wonder if she hugged him and commiserated with him, stupid, ungrateful children? I wonder what she thought of his second choice in wives? I wonder if the two of them think of us and are embarrassed over the mess they’ve left us to sort? Did they watch her dismantle their great room, selling off rare plants and trees they’d had longer than any of their children?
That was just the Monday after the funeral. She waited till Tuesday to start posting their personal effects on Facebook Market.
Mostly, I wonder how long she‘ll live.