Cosmically speaking, it was just a regular ol' 365.25-day circuit. Not so much down on the ground.
Labor Day weekend again. That was fast.
Also, man, what a long year it's been.
Today would have been my grandfather's 95th birthday. It's also two days shy of the first anniversary of my mom's death. Makes for a depressing occasion. I miss both of 'em, in different ways and for different reasons. And the same reasons. It's kind of muddled. But this is the closing hours of the year 1 After Mom, so that's where my head's at. I watched "The Visitor" entry of DS9 last night and found myself bawling my eyes out at the end. Because, hey, it's a touching episode on its own, but it takes on a different significance for me now than it did every other time I've seen it.
The past 12 months have been an education in the ways of bureaucracy, in cultural collisions, in frustration with society, and many other things, but mostly it's been a blur of grief. Both overtly expressed and buried under anger and frustration.
My mom died from completely preventable causes, and that makes me mad. It was her own fault, which makes me madder. At the same time, it kind of wasn't really her fault, which confuses me. And it's taken most of a year to get to a point where I can just feel sad without the rest of it.
"The Visitor" has a different edge to it now
She also left me in charge of things, which I have had mixed feelings about. (My step-father was still around at that point, but he had Alzheimer's, so I got put in charge of him too, at least so far as money and practicalities were concerned; he died eight months later, which if I'm being honest is a mixed bag. It's sad and I'm sorry to not get to see him again, but it spared him living with the end stages of Alzheimer's, which would have been hell.) I had no idea a year ago what it meant to be left in charge, what I would be tasked with in any real way. Nor did I have a clue as to the logistical hurdles society had erected in place for people in my position, or the closer-to-home internecine warring that would occur with extended family. I learned a lot. Not all of it positive, but learning is learning. And it's not done with, either, some of those hurdles are elaborate and arbitrary and exist to make people in my position tear their hair out and scream at functionaries that have no power over the situation while they place more and more creative obstacles in their paths.
Meanwhile, the Earth turned and went about its merry way orbiting the sun, and more happened. I learned that another long-term association wasn't what I thought it was, my cat got sick again, and yet more dental trauma hit my jaw and my wallet, all of which was well in keeping with the mood of the orbit. On the other hand, my dad had heart surgery, which you might not think of as a plus, but the result has been exceptionally positive, so score one for the forces of good. And perhaps as important as anything else, I was able to reconnect with someone whom I'd been close to but had drifted away, and with luck and effort will keep her in my personal orbit better than before. So, not all bad, to be sure.
Still, it's not a year I'd care to repeat. If Al and Ziggy Quantum Leaped me back to September 2015 I would be very displeased. No, I prefer to turn that page. Move on to another turn 'round old Sol, and see what the next orbit brings my way. Hopefully things I'd like to revisit, should I someday find myself by an Atavachron.
A Public Service Announcement
As most, if not all, people who’ll see this know, 2015 was a lousy year in large part because of my mom’s rapid decline and ultimate demise. Lots of upset there, and to one degree or another, that is commonly understood. What I was not expecting, though, was the trauma that goes with being the executor of the estate. So, as a heads-up to anyone who may find themselves, at some future date, in the capacity of an executor, Trustee, attorney-in-fact, whathaveyou, here are a few things that would be helpful to know at the outset that I learned over the course of four months (and that have been backed up by others who have been in this situation):
- Know your documentation, know the lawyer that prepared it. You don’t want to be surprised later on to discover that important legal papers were done poorly or incorrectly or lost or destroyed before they ever became your problem. Find out straightaway if everything has been properly filed with proper agencies and if there are any prior documents that were superseded by what you have, and if there are, get your hands on those as well. You may find them necessary if the lawyer in question failed to dot any “I”s or cross any “T”s. And don’t let that lawyer keep the originals out of your hands without an agreement for access if necessary. Remember that these are legally-binding documents when you have to show them to banks and other institutions and rely on that.
- Expect trouble. If you expect every interaction you have with a bank, brokerage, creditor, or other institution to be perilous, you will be pleasantly surprised if/when it goes smoothly, which is far preferable to expecting them to do what you need them to and blowing your stack when they refuse. (Possible exception to the trouble expectation: retirement fund outfits. There’s still red tape to navigate, but they deal with this sort of thing as a primary part of their business and seem to be more sensitive and accommodating).
- The size of a financial institution is inversely proportional to the amount of cooperation they’ll give you. The big kahunas do not want to assist you, they want to avoid being sued, and the staff you’ll have to go through do not want to report any problems above their station. If you find yourself having to deal with a large bank or investment firm or anything like that, be prepared for lengthy hassles. The people you first deal with will prefer that you go away mad than actually help you with a problem because they are conditioned not to make waves with higher-ups. Also, I’m rather convinced now that at least some of these institutions will refuse to help you as a matter of policy. Whether it’s to protect themselves from “the threat of fraud” or that they don’t want to give up any capital they’re earning interest on or that it’s just perversely fun for them, it appears to be by design that they refuse these kinds of requests in hopes that you will just go away; they seem to believe that they are invincible because they are “too big to fail.” On the other hand, small banks, credit unions, etc., rely on service and are far less likely to give you a problem if there’s no legitimate reason for them to do so.
- If someone is not helping you, go over his or her head. The trouble with this is that you may not immediately know if someone is jerking you around or not. But once it’s clear, demand to speak to their boss, or even a peer. Someone else, at any rate, and keep moving up the chain, if necessary. If you know what you’re asking for is appropriate and legal, eventually you will get to someone who will help, even if it takes months and even if they only do it to avoid the involvement of lawyers. I went to eight branches of Wells Fargo bank before finding one that was run by a manager that put a value on service and whose staff was willing to work out the corporation’s problems with/for me while I waited. Even they were stymied by Wells Fargo corporate at times, but they made a large portion of what I needed from WF happen, even though it took a great deal of time for them as well as me. Meanwhile, I was dealing with a large well-known brokerage outfit that uses a bull in its logo (I now know they show the wrong end of the bull) that it took three-plus months to get anywhere with; the person they had assigned to my case was simply unwilling to do anything but regurgitate a script and demand things that she had no business demanding of me, or she would ignore me altogether. It took a great deal of persistence and getting different people on the phone to finally find one that was sympathetic and understanding of my situation and who took action. Once I did, the matter was resolved within 48 hours.
- Don’t be afraid to threaten legal action if you are certain you’re in the right. Getting a lawyer involved may be the only way to get an obstructive, assholish too-big-to-fail financial entity to cooperate. There were several occasions where I verified with a lawyer that a bank or firm had no basis for refusing my authority on accounts, and then on one occasion felt it necessary to play the “I can take you to court” card. It probably made a difference with the Bull outfit. (Of course, don’t play that card without knowing you’d have a real case to make. Check with your lawyer even if it seems bloody obvious, just in case.)
- Figure on a year or so before everything is settled. If your situation is like mine, you will be dealing with other family members or interested parties who are impatient for resolution to things. Too bad. If your situation has a competent lawyer, no ambiguity, no legal hiccups, few arguments with banks, then maybe it’ll only be a couple of months, but if so count yourself lucky. As for my own case, my current estimate is for things to settle out after a start-to-finish period of nine or ten months, but I won’t be surprised if more delays happen between now (the four-month mark) and then.
Anyway, the more you know, and all that. I went into this mess cold, expecting some delay in getting from A to B, but not expecting the kind of obstructions and runaround I’ve come to know is more or less standard. So, there you go. Your mileage may vary, but probably not by a lot.