Money changes things doesn’t it? It changes people. It gives and takes power. Today I am struggling with the unknown. Specifically, did my brother have a will? *rubbing hands together gleefully* ooooh, family drama! We found a draft will that was dated a few years ago. It was kind of slap stitched together. Brevity is the soul of wit and shit. But it is but a draft. We have not yet found a signed copy. Did one exist? If it does not exist do we assume from the draft what his final thoughts were? What if there is a lone hold out that says “I don’t think this is what he ultimately would have come up with three years later”? What if that hold out is me?
Last night I heard someone say ‘you can’t be logical when you’re being emotional’. No doubt that is true. I just screamed at my sister. Like, screamed at my sister and said a lot of ‘you can’t take that back’ kind of stuff. For no reason. We don’t even know what we’re talking about. I’m ratcheting up over the potential of something that in fact may not even exist. I’m preemptively striking. Sigh.
So there are three living children left in our family. We are the walking wounded; all of us. Let me be clear, we are all the walking wounded and I get that. We are all casting about to make sense of the nonsensical. We are all hurt in ways that are uniquely are own. I am looking at the horizon of my life and deeply struggling to see what could possibly still be out there that is worth looking forward to. Too bleak? Too bad; it’s all I have. And the uncertainty of things is very uncomfortable to me. Why did Nelson choose to end his life now? What precipitated these events? Could we have stopped it in some way? Was the needle moveable? And what now? That is one of the biggest questions, what now? The things we didn’t lose in the proverbial fire; what becomes of those things?
As it stands now, our only glimpse into what Nelson may have wanted was the draft will which said give everything to our youngest brother and if he is dead split it between my sisters. He is not dead. He is here and mourning alongside the rest of us yet he is now different from us because all the flotsam and jetsam of Nelson’s life are theoretically under his domain. This includes a house that had deteriorated into chaos under Nelson’s ownership and any holdings my brother may have had. All of it – the responsiblity – to one person to sift through and reorganize and keep and give away. It feels and has felt complicated. It is a lot for one person to be given. I feel for my brother in many ways. THat said, I also feel I need to ask permission to venture into Nelson’s home, which by the way, was also our childhood home. In the days directly after the suicide I felt sure that there were answers lurking in those walls and if I were just given the time and opportunity I would be able to find them and make sense of the nonsensical. But the pain of not feeling as if I could move freely and sink my arms in to my elbows gave me serious reservation and some resentment, if I am to be honest. I finally asked for a key and was immediately given one. It made me wonder why I hadn’t asked sooner. My brother is healing on his own timeline and he and I are very different about dealing with the emotional struggles of life. I wade in and he turns his back on the puddle. Neither is right, it just is. So he’s not ready and I’m chomping at the bit. I can’t imagine having all the decisions and searching and sifting hanging over our head for weeks and months. I want to pull the band-aid off. I want to have it all over but the shouting, as they say. But baby brother is moving at a glacier’s pace by comparison and I feel like I can’t push things because it all is his to manage. It has been a humbling experience to say the least. I find myself walking on eggshells; wanting to do more but afraid to ask for fear of being told no. It is worth mentioning that he has given no indication that he would say no; there is just pain in having to ask.
The house is in very bad shape. There is garbage on top of debris. Cleaning it will take a Herculean effort. We all plan to pitch in and help but in a deferential manner because it isn’t ours to orchestrate. There is little of value and what is there has been so long neglected. My mother’s art is there. That has value, to us. My brother lived like a pauper which means that in theory there is also money left over and here is where the road takes a sharp turn. Flotsam and jetsam are marine law terms. They are the stuff found in the ocean. Flotsam is the stuff that can be claimed by the original owner and Jetsam is up for grabs. To me, the house has always been flotsam. My mother left the house to Nelson because he lived with her at the time of her death and had for several years prior. She must have said to him ‘take care of your brother’ because it is sort of known without origin that Mom intended for Nelson to share the house with my youngest brother if needed. He was a college student at the time of her death. She didn’t want anyone to be homeless. But that was over a decade ago. So here we are and it appears Nelson meant to make good on that promise. While difficult, I am at peace with that. It is no longer the home of my childhood. That home lives on a short street in the back of my mind and there it will remain. As my father said, it was a lifetime ago.
But the jetsam. What of the jetsam? Should that not be distributed evenly to all of us who remain? Was one of us really so much more important than the others? Were the rest of us such footnotes? I struggle. I know Nelson loved me. I know without hesitation he loved my son more. But as he goes from this world nothing of him remains for us except our memories. I struggle. I struggle to see why one person may get inequitabley enriched and the rest of us just get heartbreak. I think it is not fair. The world isn’t fair though, right? Another log to burn on the fire. And what does it say about my moral character that I care? I’m struggling with that too. You are not supposed to care about this sort of thing. It means you are crass and selfish. Or does it? My sister feels that if there is no will found she will honor the draft will. My father agrees. *camera swings slowly to me*………. I want my remaining brother to say ‘I think Nelson meant for all of us to feel loved and he didn’t mean for me to just be the recipient; he meant for me to act as his steward. You are all helping me with the job of cleaning the house and picking up the pieces Nelson left behind and I feel like it is my responsiblity to be benevolent about the things that can be salvaged.’ That is what I would want him to say. Perhaps he will. Maybe I’m supposed to wave my hand casually and say ‘oh no, this is yours’ like my sister and father say they will but I am really, really struggling.
The hilarious part is that we don’t even know what there is besides cobwebs and 15 year old cars. There may be nothing more than words on a draft will. There may be nothing but the love between siblings struggling to survive. It would be simplier if it were so.