Wednesday, December 23, 2009

on grief and greed and human nature

Even though may I understand some of the reasons behind it, some bits of human nature still frustrate and confuse me. When my grandmother died, I was only about twelve years old...but I saw what grief does to people and relationships, and how greed caused more heartache, and it really hit me on a very deep level. I've carried that with me since.

As she was coping with the fact that she was dying, the one thing my mother didn't want was a replay of the drama that happened when her mother died...and yet it happened. People being called vultures, some folks keeping track of who was getting what, others who felt they had more of a right to determine what went to whom.

It made me sad, very sad for my Mom...she would have hated to see it.

And now it's happening again. My father is having a blast, doing good with the money he and Mom worked so hard for all their lives...he is taking care of the people who meant a lot to my mother and to him, giving things away, working with people to help them get closer to their dreams, trying to bring some smiles to their faces and pass on some of the good fortune he spent a lifetime with Mom creating. He's making himself happy, and making my mother happy in memoriam. And for some reason, it's not enough for some people.

I've been thinking about it a lot. There seem to be four different stages of responses to the kind of philanthropy Dad and Mom were doing [and Dad is currently doing] as they planned for their deaths:

* "I'd like..." - these are the folks who, when my parents were giving things away, said "I would like to have", and then they would name some piece of furniture, some basket, some bit of jewelry, something that had special meaning to them or evoked memories for them.

* "I need..." - these people said "well, if you are really sure, I could use". Then they mentioned things like a heater, a television, a bedroom set. Practical items, things that they truly needed or were already planning to get on their own.

* "I want..." - this is where the fine line starts. Once the first two types of asking were done, it started turning into "well, if it hasn't been given away yet, I want". Not a need, no real connection to the item, just "this would be cool to have". Not necessarily a bad thing, and it still makes Dad happy to give things to people who will appreciate them [and I freely admit that I have quite a collection of knives and bags and lights from him to ship home], but it doesn't take much for it to devolve into greed just because something is there to be had. Which segues into the last type...

* "I want, so they can't have" - I'm seeing people take things just so that others don't have them, even if they have no need or even room for them. They don't think someone else has a right to something, or they are being just plain greedy, as if it were a free-for-all. So they grab and take and pile on and pile up and walk away with stuff just because it was there.
And on a slightly selfish note, here is where I end up totally screwing myself: I only ask for what I would like, and what I think I deserve. I did it during my divorce...legally, I was entitled to a full half of all of our assets [including our house]; instead, I only asked for a portion. And the same with Mom and Dad: I wanted them to spend their money on themselves and they way they wanted; after all, they were the ones that worked so hard for it. I didn't feel that I deserved or was entitled to any of it. If I needed something, I worked my ass off to get it: my car, my house, my motorcycle, my vacation to Disneyland, basically my life. It never occurred to me to expect them to provide any of that for me. Anything that I'm getting from Mom and Dad is an unexpected bonus, something I honestly have a hard time accepting, but am very grateful for and will make good use of.

Let me be clear: I have absolutely no problem with how Dad is handling things. Truthfully, I applaud him for it. And you know what? He's having a fricking blast doing it. It's fun to watch the joy he is getting by giving things away. I just wish people could be a little nicer to each other during all of's not worth burning bridges about. In the end, the rest is all just's the emotions, the memories, the people who count.

Luckily, some people see it for what it is, and are enjoying it and are grateful and kind and love him for doing it. Those are the ones I am trying to focus on...because that, too, is human nature. Good, bad, kind, self-focused, altruistic, loving, remote, greedy, giving. There is a song in my collection, by the band Nomad, which has some lyrics I try to live by:

"Keep your face to the sunshine, and you will not see the shadows."

Sometimes it's not easy to avoid the drama...but damn it, for my Dad's sake, and for my own, it's what I'm going to do. And if it means I get less, or don't get as much as others do, it doesn't matter...because I have this time with my Dad, I have my friendships with my parents [which I especially treasure], and I have a lifetime of what Mom and Dad taught me. I hope others are able to avoid the shadows, and see that side of all of this as well.

I love them, and they loved me. That's ultimately all that matters.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Words that I wished I could have spoken whem dad and then later mom was passing away. No material things can ever take the place of the memories I have of them.