Rummaging through a drawer, I came across another boot. (Here’s a recent blog about a glass Fenton boot from my grandparent’s house). The boot I found was not nearly as lovely as the glass boot I recently purchased. It was a rock in the shape of a boot that my grandfather found and gave to me after he wrote my name on it, along with the date on which he found it – February 19, 1984. My grandfather died a little more than a year later in a car accident.
Unlike the delicate Fenton boot, the boot rock seems much more like something my mother’s family would own. They were simple people from West Virginia – the salt of the earth. My grandfather went by Ted, but I called him Peppaw. Peppaw was an auto mechanic by trade. He was remarkable in what he was able to achieve with a 7th grade education. He was one of those men who could pretty much do anything. He built his family a home with his own hands. He once took two imperfect cars and welded them and built them together to make one good car for my mother. He was always busy. On the morning he died, he was on his way to pick up a windshield for a car he was rebuilding.
Peppaw was a legend to us grandchildren. I learned all of the best cuss words from Peppaw. He was not shy in using them, especially when he (not infrequently) injured himself. He was irreverent and careless in a wonderful way. One of my last memories of him is watching from his house while he tried to pull a stump out of the ground with a tractor. The tractor’s front wheels reared way up into the air, and my grandmother was apoplectic. She made me run down and tell him to stop. He laughed and said, “I ain’t a’gonna get hurt!” and kept right on with the stump which eventually gave way.
He delighted us with off-color jokes. One I remember in particular was about two sisters at a dance, one smart and pretty and one less smart and homely. A boy asked the smart, pretty one to dance and she refused, saying “I’m contemplating matrimony.” Disappointed, the boy moved on to the next sister, who, trying to be like her sister, repeated what she understood her sister to say: “I’m constipated on macaroni.”
I remember him once with a chain saw in his hand, proclaiming “This is how I do my precision work!” He was universally adored by family members.
But how can I tie the boot rock and my grandfather back to what we do at Vested Partners for a blog? Well, obviously, family is very important to us. We deal with multiple generations of families every day. Just today, I had two estate planning meetings with clients emphasizing the need to share important personal and financial information between generations. Only if you have shared information with your family can they be prepared to help you should the need arise. My grandfather’s sudden death was jolting like all accidental deaths. But years later, I see there is a lesson in being prepared ahead of time so that others can take care of your business affairs if you become incapacitated or die suddenly.
I will be honest. I was only 13 when my grandfather died. I’m not sure how difficult it was for my mother and her siblings to pick up the pieces and help my grandmother when Peppaw died. What I do remember is my grandmother was completely unprepared for my grandfather’s death. She was dependent on him for handling all business affairs and also because she did not drive. She did not know how to write a check. She was not a decision maker. I would be shocked to learn that my grandparents, who were in their seventies, had completed a last will & testament or power of attorney at that time.
One more thing about people like my grandfather – the salt of the earth. Everyone needs to plan for their death or incapacity if they want to put their loved ones in the best position to help if needed. Guardians and conservators are appointed every day for people of little means who have become incapacitated and now require a court to appoint a decisionmaker for them even though they don’t have a lot. If you are incapacitated, rich or poor, you need a decision maker. A will is not enough. You need a power of attorney and an advance medical directive.