Wednesday, February 24, 2010

One More Time...With Feeling

This blog isn’t dead…no, really…it isn’t. I’ll tell you what is dead though and that is every single creative impulse in my head, crushed under the weight of dealing with issues and situations I have little control over.

The passing of The Better Half’s father has put our household into a tailspin. He left behind a twisted trail of financial obligations and investments that we are struggling to unwind. The dining room table, our garage, and my office all contain stacks of plastic bins of financial documents that make little or no sense. Some of the paperwork dates back to the mid-70’s, and that stack was unceremoniously dumped into the recycling bin. Paperwork from the 80’s we have to be more careful with as there may be ‘live’ information contained within, and that’s why we are struggling to work our way through his financial dealings.

TBH’s dad was not someone that would be called ‘organized’. I’ve written before about the condition of his house, a house that would be, um, right at home on an episode of ‘Hoarders’. The man kept everything from newspapers to nuts and bolts and everything in between. I found three very badly preserved deer heads in his back shed, one of which still had what once was a brain inside the skull. Let’s just say I quit poking around the shed after that unfortunate discovery.

Digging through the piles of paperwork we found account statements from the early 90’s mingled with financial documents from 2009, stuffed into empty cowboy boot boxes and desk drawers. His actual filing cabinet was crammed full of even more paperwork and receipts for food purchases he made three decades ago. It was surreal, his entire life boiling down to cancelled check stubs and receipts from Lucky’s Drug Store.

Because our time in Montana was limited, we had to pack as much of that mess up and bring it home to sort through. That’s where my troubles begin. It is physically, mentally, and spiritually impossible to live your life when someone else’s is occupying so much time and space. The Better Half has even more of a burden to bear because she is the one responsible for his affairs. We literally cannot take a step in the garage, office, or dining room without having to be mindful of the pile of papers on the floor…and it is piles and bins and folders of paperwork.

Sadly, we haven’t really been able to get much done when it comes to sorting and organizing all of the flotsam and jetsam left behind. We still have three young daughters that need us to care for and spend time with them, so at this moment we are living our life around what remains of his life, tiptoeing around reminders of bills he left to be paid…placing dinner plates on top of bank account statements dating back to Clinton’s second term. It is unhealthy and it is unfair to not only TBH and myself, but also our kids.

I’m tempted to just go home and raking all of the paperwork into the recycle bin and saying, ‘F*ck it, we can’t live like this anymore’, but I can’t do that. For every three documents that get tossed there is one piece of paper that holds a vital piece of information that must either be saved or requires action on TBH’s part.

We have no plan of attack with this nightmare because it has consumed every aspect of our lives. Work isn’t even a refuge as I spend lunch and breaks talking to attorneys, contractors, and real estate agents. TBH is doing the same, but she is also fending off vultures looking to pick through the carcass of the estate.

The Better Half’s dad was stubborn and independent, two traits that served him well in life…up to a point. As his health failed him he was unable and unwilling to step aside and allow TBH access to his finances. Near the end he allowed her some access, but not nearly enough so that the transition after his passing was smooth. Then there is the issue of the house. Over the summer we travelled out to see him with the understanding that we would be cleaning up and ridding the house of junk. That was a disaster and absolutely nothing was accomplished. He fought us over every damn thing you could imagine. TBH tried tossing out freezer burned shrimp that expired in 2004, a move that resulted in an epic screaming match that resulted in TBH hurtling shrimp across the kitchen.

I doubt that TBH’s dad meant for us to go through all that we are. Perhaps he would have changed his ways and prepared better if he could see the stress that TBH, her sister, and both families are living with. All I know is that I am not going to leave my daughter’s in the same predicament, mainly by spending my last years blowing every last dime of my Social Security and retirement funds at the Snoqualmie Casino. Well, no..but TBH and I have plans to speak to an estate planner….we’ll get to that just as soon as we get done cleaning up.

1 comment:

  1. I can only imagine what a daunting task you and L are facing. I will keep my fingers crossed that it doesn't become any more difficult than it already has been.