Tag Archives: death

It All Fades Away in the End

This blog isn’t just about money, it’s about how money is so tied into the life we lead, our morals, our contentment, our journeys. I write a lot about investing and income here, but also, I like to write about the meaning of life. Perhaps that’s because my grandfather was a Rabbi, and it’s hard for me to isolate talk of earning from my own philosophizing. Nothing ties the two together more than art, an expensive hobby as both participant and viewer.

A good work of art moves you once, a great work of art continues to move you long after you’ve parted ways with its formal presence. Musicals are unique in that while the storyline might not stick with you, a great score in its own right can slither into your thoughts for a long time to come.

Too many musicals these days are designed to purely entertain and not get you to that cathartic state that art is all about. But, as I wrote the other day, my recent entanglement with Bridges of Madison County (which closed today, WTF is wrong with people) left me reflecting on numerous themes posed throughout the piece and how they related to my life. Because I’m so vain. Or, that’s how art is supposed to work.

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How Often Do You See Your Family?

I made a choice 12 years ago to leave the state I was raised in and haven’t looked back since. I’ve lived in three different cities across the country and settled clear across the country.

If you’ve read my blog in the past you know my parents are a bit on the nutty side (dad has serious anger management issues with inability to accept that he’s wrong in any situation and my mother acts like a ten year old most of the time, throwing temper tantrums and demanding to be the center of attention when she’s not bragging about her children’s latest “accomplishments.”) So I got the heck out of dodge, spent many-a-year (and paycheck) in therapy, and have finally started to accept that what my parents thought was right for me isn’t at all what is right for me. Continue reading

Facing Reality of Cancer as Autumn Leaves Burn to Umber

As I’ve written about previously, my father has cancer. He was diagnosed three years ago with advanced stage prostate cancer. If you’ve been reading my blog, you know I have an interesting relationship with my dad. I wouldn’t say we’re the closet father-daughter pairing in the world, but regardless he’s still my father and I’ve always imagined watching him grow old and having him around as the grandfather to my future children — he was always good with really little kids. I wanted him to meet my kids, and for them to have him as a grandfather. I’ve always known he’d be a much better grandfather then father.

But everyday that goes by, I know this is more and more unlikely of how life will pan out. With cancer, you can be fine one day and the next your conditions can deteriorate rapidly. Living far away, I try to visit often, but in between there is little conversation. He doesn’t like talking about his emotions or what he is going through, though lately he’s admit to being depressed. He won’t admit to being depressed about dying, per say, more so that the drugs they have given him have removed his testosterone and have “feminized” him. Really, though, I know he’s equally, if not more depressed because he’s terminally ill. But I don’t know how to deal with that. He doesn’t want to talk about it. I want to be a support for him, but I don’t know if I can handle it, even if he was willing to talk.

The day today on the east coast is cool and crisp, with a heavy grey sky, and bright yellow leaves on the trees falling off in the wind to dry and die on the ground. Another year has come and gone — and things are slowly changing. Everything is aging, myself included. I don’t like change, but I’m not resistant to it. I’m more in denial about it. That will all change the day my father’s condition gets worse — which is any day now. That will all change when I need to decide how important it is for me to be out here with him through his final days, however long they may be, or to maintain my life across the country, far from his inevitable deathbed. I don’t like to think about it, but it’s getting to a point where I’m going to have to. I don’t know if he would want me here, he hates being seen as weak. But I’d want to be here. It’s strange knowing that in the next year or two, this is something I will have to face. It’s part of life, but he’s still young at 60, and I’m not ready for him to go. I keep hoping that someone will discover a cure for prostate cancer, and everyday there’s a new treatment available, but never a cure.

When Parents are Dying: Coping & Planning

Death is never a pleasant experience. As I watch my father slip slowly away, I try to come to terms with reality, but since no one in my family has ever learned how to cope with the cruel nature of life, so goes our lack of outward empathy in death. I’ve never had anyone close to me die, and all that’s going to change — whether in a year or five years, I don’t know, but my father’s cancer is back with a vengeance, and regardless of how much I avoid acknowledging reality, the day will come when I won’t see him alive again.

In the meantime, there are arrangements to be made. Uncomfortable arrangements. Who wants to discuss plans for after they part with the world? My mother and I had a brief conversation today about what her plans are in retirement — selfish as she is, with everything always about her, her sadness only formed in confusion over next steps in her life without the normal next steps for a husband and wife approaching retirement.

The question of what happens to her after he’s gone is one I’ve avoided getting deeply involved in. I told her that I don’t want to be the person to help her decide what to do with her finances because I would not feel comfortable telling her to spend or save money that may have some effect on a one-day inheritance for myself or my sister. I’d rather she discuss this with my father, and make her own decisions, or at least with the help of a trustworthy financial adviser.

Meanwhile, at lunch today, she managed to make me feel terrible, though not on purpose, about previously asking whether she’d be willing to contribute some future financial support for the various fertility treatments I’ll likely have to go through one day in order to have children. As my mother has made numerous comments about wanting grandchildren, I don’t expect her to help me financially with treatments, but if she could help when the time comes, it would be appreciated. But today, in front of company, she made some comment about how I said that she “has to help me” with affording having children, which was a very uncomfortable moment, that took its time to set in before later making me extremely upset. She claims she didn’t mean it that way at all, but it was her friend that responded that she really didn’t seem like she wanted to help me in this situation.

But anyway, I digress. The point here is that these things that will come up in the future are my own costs; but it is up to my mother if she wants to help out ever. I don’t want to be the person to ask her or tell her what to do. I apparently shouldn’t even mention these things, as just vaguely mentioning that I’d appreciate her help if it turns out I’ll need costly fertility treatments turns into a huge deal where she clearly doesn’t want to help, she just feels like she has to. I don’t want her help unless she wants to give it. And she never will.

And, at the same time, I deep down do want to “help” my father at this point — even though he’s often cruel to me — and I can’t. It’s always walking on eggshells around him. His reactions are never something you can guess, and with his illness he’s become, justifiably, even more moody. But I question my own motives for wanting to help — perhaps my motives are inherently flawed and narcissistic, after all I’m still just a little girl seeking her father’s approval. Wanting him to feel comfortable confiding in her about his feelings, without actually being emotionally prepared or strong enough to survive what that actually means. For better or worse, he doesn’t want to talk about it. He wants to mope and be depressed on his own, then get angry over little things that don’t matter, to criticize his family, to avoid his own complete lack of control, his life slowly slipping from his hands as his health manages to fail for all his many medical problems unrelated to the cancer, leaving his last years of life filled with discomfort up to pain. I’m a sick person for at some level wanting him to suffer — but not to die, not to suffer and then learn a lesson in taking your depression and issues out on everyone else — and then to go on with life a new person, a nicer person, one who has learned how to care about other people in a way that doesn’t involve control and manipulation. That’s a story that will never play out. The reality is his suffering only going to get worse. I may be here to see it, I may be home on the other coast, hearing detailed stories from a woman who will complain about having to waste her days helping him, feeling guilty for not being here, feeling guilty for not feeling guilty for not being here, and so on.

The practical questions of what will happen to my mother after my father passes away are ones I haven’t been able to ask, for I can’t bring myself to talking to my father about death. I’m even angry at him because had he gone to the doctor regularly they could have probably caught his cancer early, and with prostate cancer it’s usually curable if caught early. But he didn’t want to go to the doctor because of his weight, which also likely increased his risk of getting the cancer.

Here I am at 27, having finally almost come to accept my own future death, but I am not prepared to watch either of my parents go. Not even my father, who was destined to die early with his morbid obesity, diabetes, and other health issues, even before the cancer.

Life is so short, and it’s passing by so quickly. I was miserable throughout my childhood, yet I’m nostalgic for the few moments of happiness, or even boredom, wasting away lazy summer days, with all the time in the world, all the life in the world. And now, it slips, with ends looming behind every corner.

 

 

 

A Post About Life, Death, and “Stuff”

My father worked his entire life taking a train into the city and home, five days a week, with an hour-and-some-odd-long commute and long hours. He earned good money, enough to support an upper middle class life for myself, my sister, and my stay-at-home mom.

He retired early because he was overweight and couldn’t take the commute anymore. A few years later, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The recession hit and his 401k, once nearing $2 Million, was down to below $1M — still a respectable amount for retirement, but not necessarily enough to support his lifestyle, illness treatment, and my mom’s high-maintenance lifestyle.

Three years ago, my father was told he has two years to live. I’m glad he’s outlived that doctor prediction, but the reality is that it’s unlikely he’s going to live for many more years. He doesn’t want to think about that, or believe that, understandably, so while he complains about his slowly depleting bank account, he’s been spending the last year obsessively purchasing stuff to put in our NJ home. It’s actually really sad, as he’s spending lots of money to fast redecorate the entire home, and completely refurnish rooms, because to him, stuff is important, or at the very least a distraction from reality.

He purchased a $3,000 rug for the dining room, he’s bought paintings for thousands of dollars that have questionable value, but he liked them. He wants the house to look like a museum, now that he has time to shop for art. He complains that building on to the family room cost too much money, yet continues to spend. It’s not my place to say anything about his purchases, but the other reality is I’m going to be the one left to deal with my mother when she runs out of money later in life. And I’ll deal with it when the time comes, but all I want to do is teach my parents how to be responsible with money. It’s not a conversation I can have with my father — he’s worked his whole life while barely living and if acquiring “art,” movies and books makes him happy, then he should be able to do this… even if it means my mother is going to have to learn how to live on less or, more likely, run out of money when she’s 80.

I really hope I can live a life where I never get to the end and feel like I need to rush to spend my money buying stuff to fill the emptiness that extends beyond a few white walls. For now, I’ll continue to be surprised by the latest addition to my family “museum” every trip I take home.

 

Passing Down Wealth From Generation to Generation

My father is dying of cancer and has a short time left to live. While his health is ok now, his medicines will stop working at some point over the next few years and from then on the cancer will take over and he will get sicker until he passes.

This post is not about my father’s health, but it’s important to note to put this into context.

Previously, many of my readers have left comments offended by a post I wrote about expecting an inheritance. A conversation I had with my dad this weekend over the phone continues this topic.

He told me how “I” need to get my mother to understand that she needs to live off the interest on the 401k. They get $7000 a month and there is no reason that they can’t live on that. (My mom is a spendaholic.)

My dad went on to tell me how he spent his whole life building wealth for the family so it could be passed down to his kids (me and my sister) and that we could pass it down to our children. Both him and my mother grew up in the lower middle class and did not have wealth. Their parents will not be passing down a great deal to them. So he wanted to build wealth up for our family, for the future. He wasn’t trying to make my sister or I rich, but he did want to make sure we didn’t have to worry about not having enough funds to get us through life. Once you have wealth, living off the interest becomes feasible. It’s not about luxury, but it is about having a lofty security blanket for your family – as in – your children and their children and so on.

But it makes me sick to my stomach to think about how in the future, I will be in such an odd spot — when my father passes, it will be up to me to try to make sure his dream lives on. Yet that dream is for my sister and I to obtain an inheritance. My sister has a learning disability and while she can comprehend some of this she is also younger and I don’t think she will understand a great deal of the financial situation (other than wanting the money.) My mother will want to spend it all. I understand finances, saving, living off interest – I could probably teach my mother to do this, but ultimately it would be so that I could get money after she dies.

My mom didn’t work once I was born, so all of the money in savings is from my dad’s years of working many hours to build this wealth. On one hand I feel the responsibility to make sure that the reason my dad worked so hard his whole life (probably causing unnecessary stress and part of the reason he gained so much weight and got sick) lives on, and part of me feels like this isn’t really my business at all besides making sure my mom doesn’t spend everything too quickly – she does need enough money to survive for many years. She’s in her mid 50s so hopefully she’ll be around for a long time.

I do want to make sure my mom doesn’t go crazy with spending, but she could very easily live a luxurious life and spend every penny if she wanted to in the future. And who am I to stop her?