Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Last Will and Testament

My father is dying. He's diabetic, suffers from dementia and currently weighs less than 108 lbs. He recently got his blood test results back and it doesn't look good. With CEA levels of >500 mcg/L, he probably has colorectal cancer as well. My father has opted not to get any invasive testing since he also does not want any treatment.

My father was a passive man with little to no initiative to improve his life. (I say "was," since with his diminished mental capacity, there's no point in criticizing him for what he is now.) He was unemployed for most of my childhood until my mother had to pull some nepotism strings to get him a job. It's no wonder that my parents currently have $60,000 in credit card debt with absolutely no assets.

My father never took much care for personal relationships either. He is estranged from my mother and refuses to speak to or acknowledge her although they live together with my sister. When my sister and I were growing up, he never really took any interest or effort to get involved in our lives.

While driving to Phoenix couple of months ago, I borrowed a chick-lit audiobook called "Best Friends Forever" by Jennifer Weiner from the library. In the book, the main character, Addie, gets bullied by the school jocks who graffiti nasty stuff about her on her driveway. Addie's father helps her scrub off the graffiti and encourages her to keep her wits about her since the harassment will eventually end. This made me sad since I don't EVER recall an occasion that my father consoled me when I was down. For example, when I was in the eighth-grade, my classmates ditched me during a class-outing. I came home crying and told my parents what happened. I distinctly remember my father continued to do whatever he was doing. Typical.

Anyhow, what little effort my father spent in developing a relationship with his family, he spent less with others. He really has no one he can call his best friend, other than his younger brother.

The sad life of my father is reflected in his "Last Will and Testament" that he emailed my sister and me. Below is a translation:
This year in October, I will turn 74 years old. I don't know how much longer I will live, so I am setting forth a simple "last will and testament."

Upon my death, please notify the following 3 people:

1.) My younger brother,
2.) Mr. K.M. I am the person who nominated him for various positions he currently holds, so I doubt he would object to your notifying him about my death,
3.) The Buddhist Temple in the old country where the family grave is located. Since I have not been making any offerings to the Temple and since you girls are now US citizens, please notify the Temple that there will be no future communications on behalf of the Family upon my death.

When you dispose of my body, you may also dispose all of my personal belongings as you see fit.

I am sorry that I couldn't do much for my family. I understand that I have a small life insurance policy. Whatever is left over from the proceeds, please give to your mother.

It's very sad to see in writing that my father accomplished little towards a fulfilling life. If anything, though, I see my father as a cautionary tale. As a result, I am putting more effort into nurturing my personal relationships. (Hence, the lack of posts.) At the end of the day, I want people to remember me fondly for who I am, not because they owe me a debt of gratitude. Whatever petty issues I have with my family and friends, I need to let them go. As long as I am willing to give more than I get, that shouldn't be a problem.

With respect to personal finances, my father recently gave me some advice:

Last month, my sister an I took our parents to Las Vegas to celebrate Father's Day and my birthday. Since my mother and my father absolutely detest each other, I stayed in one room with my father and my sister stayed with my mother in the other. (How much more dysfunctional can my family be?)

Anyhow, while my father and I were getting ready for dinner, my father looked at a bottle of Fiji water at the mini-bar. My father commented that when he was working in Australia, a co-worker suggested a trip to Fiji and New Zealand. My father said, at the time, he thought that was such a big waste of money and didn't go. He said, "I now wonder whether I should've gone. Now at the end of my life, I think I perhaps I should've taken opportunities when they presented themselves and not be so stingy." Pearls of wisdom from my father. Late, but better than never.