(Note: I drafted this about four or five years ago. It still seems relevant and interesting, although you get to be the judge of that…)
Really, screw you.
Let me explain. This isn’t the normal me.
In August 2011, I took two weeks off work because I was exhausted. I was a newly-minted single dad, and life was very busy.
A few weeks later, my dad had a massive heart attack and died.
I flew to Australia for his funeral. It was a disorienting affair because door-to-door travel time between Washington DC and my family near Melbourne is about 36 hours, and I stayed only three days. I wrote about the sequence of events in a numbers of posts. Here are a selection:
Sitting in business class and first class made the travel itself more comfortable. The time zone changes were still brutal. With less than three days in Australia, and many events to attend and people to meet, I was dizzy by the time I got on the first of three planes back to the USA, and spaced out by the time I returned home.
Good, so you’re all caught up. But there’s more.
Some time after my return to the USA I realized my dad had lied to me over a period of years. Maybe, *gasp*, he disliked me.
Some of you might say, “Duh, why would he like you? My dad hates/hated me.” I get that, but he never projected that, so this is NOT the time to found out.
This is a guy who was not dissimilar to me…except for a key difference that I have human emotions and he didn’t. (If he’s an alien from Men In Black, then his disguise is pretty good).
His mother died shortly after he was born. His dad fought in World War II, then abandoned him and his brother and sisters for a new family. He was denied the chance to ‘feel’ as other people do. Still, we got on very well. We never argued and I thought we had a good if geographically distant relationship.
The curious and defining hiccup that includes a revealing background: He cut me out of his will completely.
This isn’t money he decided to give to charity. He didn’t cut my brother out of the Will. It was a share of hundreds of thousands of dollars and I mention the amount because if it were a small amount, it wouldn’t be indicative of anything. And it’s not me being money-hungry; it’s about the why he did it, not the money that I never had anyway.
If this was simply because my brother needed the money more than me, that would be quite understandable. My brother is not healthy and not wealthy. But the Last Will and Testament was made years before my brother’s health went downhill, years before he became disabled and poor.
Dad had a 50% share in a house with his long-term partner, someone he was with from a few years after he divorced my mother. After he had this house built, he told me on the phone a few years ago that he planned to leave the 50% share to my brother and I, with a stipulation that his partner would have the right to live in the house until she died. At that time he made that statement, his Will said something completely different. It’s odd that he would lie to me about that.
His Will left everything except for the house to my brother. Except there wasn’t any “everything”. My brother got a $200 payout, then a bill for the funeral for more than $7000 from Dad’s wife. At the funeral, I asked if she needed help covering the costs and told me that she would personally pay for the funeral, so I surprised to hear that she later sent the bill to my brother. This is where the Theft tag is derived from — his ‘other family’ decided his money was theirs and moved it out sight after he died.
(I was also surprised to find out that she was his wife. He hadn’t mentioned that they had married.)
None of this explains why he cut me out of his Will. With him gone, no one can now know for sure. Did I upset him? Did he just not like me?
One theory: My dad visited me in North Virginia in 2003 and was staggered at the size of the houses and the wealth in the area I lived. It’s not that I’m wealthy compared with most neighbors, but that I got lucky with the house I bought in 2001. Maybe he left for Australia with the idea that I must be wealthy if I live here? Has he forgotten that people take out mortgages and the banks are quite keen on getting their money back? He rewrote his Will in 2006, and it was the first version to exclude me. My brother and I were given the old versions of the Will, where everything was split 50/50 between us, with an allowance for his partner. Something caused him to change his Will in 2006, and not update it again.
Another theory: Dad was humiliated when he visited me in 2003. He broke up his trip by going on to England to visit his home town of Liverpool and our family in the Derbyshire Peak District. One day he was driving round and got lost. He stopped at a bus stop and left his keys in the car while asking for directions from a helpful bystander. In the meantime, someone else climbed into the car behind him and drove it off, taking all his possessions. He was shocked and embarrassed that something like that could happen to him. He was proud of being über-clever and in control of his life, and the fact he did something like this ‘broke’ him. He came back to the USA a week early without any explanation, and wanted to leave for Australia right away. After I winkled the story out of him, I argued that his grand-daughters, who he was seeing for the first time in their lives, shouldn’t be ‘punished’ because of his misadventure in England. It wasn’t the end of the world to have to buy some new clothes and have my spare suitcase. He stayed a week more instead of three, changed his flight one day, and just left. Maybe he was mad that I ‘made’ him stay longer and didn’t just let him run home immediately with his tail between his legs?
Before I continue, remember that my theories are just that. There’s no evidence of anything. This is partly because his new family cleared out most of his things before inviting my brother and I to inspect his room. (He didn’t share a room with his partner, but he married her??). If the ‘other family’ are to be believed, he died with no cash, no wallet, no driver license, and no bank accounts. A rather unlikely scenario. As a party with no standing, I pressured my brother to discuss this with the police. After all, he stood to gain a half-million based on some good luck my dad had with buying/selling properties in a rising housing market.
A third theory: When my father left my mother, he did so with a mean flourish. I was about 21 at the time. He had an argument with her shortly after their 25th wedding anniversary, packed his bags, quit his job, and vanished. I didn’t hear from him for almost two years. He had traveled around Australia for nine months and returned to Melbourne. My cousin was in contact with him for months before my father bothered to call me to say hello on my birthday. This didn’t impress me at all. The subsequent divorce negotiations didn’t go well. He wanted half of all the martial assets, ignoring the obvious reality that his ex-wife, my mum, earned a tiny fraction of his income. She was a low-level clerical assistant and he was an engineer with General Motors. I got involved on my mum’s behalf and convinced him to avoid paying attorney fees for a trial by giving her a larger than 50% share from the sale of their house. (For some reason, alimony wasn’t an option, but I don’t recall why.) In his memoirs, he made explicit mention of being annoyed at my intervention. Maybe he held a grudge? If so, it’s an odd one. He and I worked on the memoirs on behalf of my kids for a few years, off and on. He put a lot of effort into them. That doesn’t feel like someone with a deeply-held grudge; he could have written them without my input and reviews.
Whatever the background, it was a deliberate act on his part to cut me out of his Will in 2006. Why did he keep talking to me openly? It’s a mystery.
He told me about his desire not to have a funeral after he died. I pointed out the funeral wasn’t for him, it was for those left behind, and he relented.
He told me about his desire to leave his body to science. He checked. Science said, “No thanks.” Oops. That has to be a little embarrassing, right?
I discussed my plans for a Living Will. He asked me to do the same for him. He asked me to make decisions on his behalf if he was on life support. I had to sign official forms, and it was me that authorized the hospital to shut off the machines after his final heart attack. He had my paperwork and would have done the same for me. It seems like a fairly intimate transaction.
There’s no room for obvious medical loopholes that make sense to me. He was alert and capable until he died. There was no secret Will; his solicitor and executor had copies of all versions of the Will. If there’s an easy explanation I’d like to hear it.
Did he secretly dislike me for some reason? Why lie to me? Why be so friendly and jovial on the phone and initiate contact? Why work with me on his own memoirs?
If your own dad can’t like you, it’s not much of an inspiration for relationships.
For my girls, There is a folder on my PC called “Death” and it includes letters I’ve written to each of them. Every couple of years, I spend a depressing night writing additions to be read from beyond the grave, taking into account new things that have happened. Nothing will be enough if I depart before my time, but it’s better than nothing from me at all. Maybe I will step up my game one day and sit down to be interviewed by them about my life.
For my dad, he decided to tell me nothing, actively present himself to me to chat, and leave me with a mystery I can’t solve. He left me with lies that he volunteered. For this, and not because I didn’t get money that was yours to give to whomever you wanted, fuck you, Dad.