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no sun inside my chest or skull
april 1, 2011
Mary and I made out our wills this past month.
That's certainly one of the benchmarks in life.
First time you stand up, looking down at your red, yellow, blue and green alphabet blocks, seeing them from this entirely new perspective, as if you're God. Your first day of school, when you learn how stupid and frightening other kids can be. First crush. First kiss. First day on a job, away from your parents, having to please strangers. Moving into your own scary place, with all its new noises. Your wedding.
We made out our wills because we're getting older, we have some money, and it's just a practical thing to do at this point in our lives.
I've known for a while now that I'm going to die someday.
I don't know when, or how, or why, but I realize it will happen.
(Who was it? Gogol? Tolstoy? Who said that each year we celebrate the date of our birth, but pass over, because it's unknown to us, the date of our future death.)
I believe, based on my intuition, the 'spidey-sense' tingle at the top of my spine, Mary and I are probably not going to die for another thirty years.
So we might live long enough to see humans colonizing Mars, a cure for cancer, the midgets at Microsoft finally getting Windows to work properly.
We'll see. Hopefully.
Right now, I'm in good health. I haven't had a physical in over forty years, but then again, I've never had anything wrong with me. No blood, no lumps, no sun inside my chest or skull.
I can tell Death is starting to explore my body, but so far, Death is being gentlemanly slow.
I have arthritis in my right shoulder. It takes a little more effort to get up off the floor. But that's about it.
Perhaps because I've always enjoyed good health (and I certainly have enjoyed it), I've never made much of an effort to "stay healthy." I smoke, I drink, I eat lots of rich food, I haven't had a solid eight hours of sleep in years. I don't "exercise", meaning I don't do repetitive movements for twenty minutes or longer at a time. I do exercise though in that Mary and I work outside in our garden a lot, we kiss quite a bit, I lift a lot of food to my mouth, and I pet the tops of our cats' heads for extended periods each day. I eat lots of health foods, but to me health foods are fresh fruits and vegetables, high quality meats and seafoods, pungent cheeses, rather than a log of tofu shaped and colored to look like a chicken drumstick. Liquid products full of chemicals that you buy in a tall carton, pour into a pan, that are supposed to somewhat imitate the texture and taste of eggs when you heat them? That's healthy eating? Really? I'd rather crack open the real, brittle white McCoy, dropping silver and yellow.
I know a few local attorneys from my previous job, but we decided to start anew, so I did a Google search for attorneys in our area, then winnowed them down to attorneys who listed wills as one of their specialties.
Mary and I finally decided on an attorney in a nearby town who seemed to have a good reputation.
I called his office, set up an appointment with his receptionist.
As it turned out, as it often turns out, we pass his office about twice a month, in this case on our way to Tom Thumb, a local supermarket. That's something I've often noticed, that frequently in our lives together, Mary and I, going from point A to point C, will often pass by a point B that means nothing to us at the time, but years later becomes significant (we get a job at point B, point B is the office of a physician Mary will start going to in the future, etc.) That spatial 'not-knowing' appears to be a kissing cousin to the temporal 'not-knowing' of passing your death date each year.
Anyway, it was a nice building. One story, central corridor stretching far back. Our attorney's office was in front. We told the receptionist who we were, then waited a few minutes in the corridor on the type of soft leather sofa it's hard to rise up out of with any dignity, while she got on the phone, speaking in a low voice.
He walked down the corridor to greet us, introduce himself, escort us to his office.
We don't have any children, so our will was pretty straightforward. We're leaving $50,000 to Operation Kindness, a no-kill animal shelter here in Texas, where we got our cats Elf and Nei, so many years ago, and the bulk of the estate to our four nieces and nephews on Mary's side of the family.
We set up the will to make it 'per stirpes' rather than 'per capita'.
Per capita means that if one of the four nieces and nephews die before we do, their share is divided equally among the remaining three. So instead of each receiving twenty-five percent, if one of them predeceases us, the remaining three would each receive thirty-three percent.
The way we did it, per stirpes, means that if one of them predeceases us, their twenty-five percent share will go to their children. The surviving nieces and nephews will also receive twenty-five percent.
We also ordered a Durable and General Power of Attorney (so that each of us has the authority to make financial decisions on behalf of the other), a Medical Power of Attorney, which allows each of us to decide the medical care the other will receive (when the person is no longer capable of making such decisions themselves), a Directive to Physicians and Family and Surrogates (which is where we decide what efforts should be used to keep us alive, for example if even with life-sustaining efforts, we're not expected to survive), and a HIPAA Release and Authorization (which allows each of us to discuss the other's medical condition with physicians and other health care providers.)
The final document we signed was a Disclosure Statement, which establishes we read the information contained in the Disclosure Statement prior to signing the documents I listed above. The Disclosure Statement concerns the Durable Power of Attorney for the Health Care Directive to Physicians, and is the only document that lists the hour of the day in which it was signed (i.e., it has to be signed before the other documents are signed.)
These documents will allow us to make decisions on the other's behalf. The Durable and General Power of Attorney in particular should come in handy, since sometimes I have to talk to people on Mary's behalf regarding her Medicare benefits or financial assets, because of her aphasia, but I haven't been able to get into an extended discussion with them because I haven't had a power of attorney.
Two weeks after our initial meeting, where we explained what we wanted, we went back for the signing ceremony (the documents themselves were available a few days after our meeting, but Mary and I weren't going to be running errands again for two weeks.)
Our initial meeting took about fifteen minutes, but this second meeting took an hour. Nearly all that time was spent reading all the documents, initialing each page, then having two witnesses come in to verify our signing of the documents, after which the attorney notarized our signatures on each form.
The total cost for producing two sets of six documents (one for Mary, one for me), was $750.
The attorney told me at one point, in answer to a question I asked, that the percentage of his business that was involved with creating wills has been steadily rising over the years, up to about twenty percent now, given the aging demographics.
Creating a will won't keep you out of probate (everything has to go through probate, in part to make sure that the deceased's creditors are paid), but it certainly reduces the complexity of it. Dying without a will can be extraordinarily messy. In Texas, if no children are involved, the attorney's fee for getting a deceased spouse's estate through probate is about $5,000.
After we were back home, after several hours of food shopping (another form of exercise), Mary mentioned prepaying grave sites. That's another thing we'll probably look into at some point, but not now. I think it would be nice to buy adjoining gravesites while we're both still alive, so we can visit them occasionally, holding hands.
After we had all these important papers signed, we realized we really should get a fireproof box to store them in.
One piece of advice our attorney gave us: Do NOT store important papers in a safe deposit box at a bank. Why? Because the box cannot be opened without a court order, and that can take weeks or longer to go into effect.
We searched on the Internet, and finally decided on the Sentry F3300 firebox. It withstands temperatures up to 1700 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour. (Electronic media melts at 125 degrees Fahrenheit. Paper burns at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.) The average fire burns at 800 degrees Fahrenheit for twenty minutes before it's put out. Unless you live in a really rural area, where it may take a long time for fire engines to get there, a firebox that protects against temperatures up to 1700 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour should be enough to protect your important documents and electronic media. We got free shipping (which is important-the unit weighs about ninety pounds), and ended up paying about $130 with taxes.
Also, it's waterproof. At first I thought, what does that matter? We're not in a flood plain. But then I realized, How does the fire department put out a fire? With water.
Store your firebox on the first floor. If your house burns down, and your firebox is on a second or third floor, will the firebox survive a drop of forty or sixty feet without popping open, exposing its contents to fire and water?
And throw a couple of silica gel desiccants in the firebox. Since the firebox has no ventilation, the desiccants come in handy in absorbing moisture. They're really cheap. We use Uline.
ChiZine, one of the very best online magazines of horror fiction, highly respected, is restructuring and relaunching their site April 1. As a part of the relaunch, they're asking past contributors to donate a story for a mega-issue celebration.
I donated a story, never before published, called Dogs Want to Eat You.
You should be able to read the story by going to ChiZine.
My new short story collection, I Smell Blood, is doing really well.
Mario Guslandi, reviewing the collection on HORRORWORLD said, "Ralph Robert Moore's second collection confirms the excellent qualities displayed in his previous book "Remove the Eyes", namely a powerful imagination, an extraordinary degree of originality and a great storytelling ability… A highly recommended book."
I Smell Blood currently appears (March, 2011) on Lulu's top one hundred Literature and Fiction bestsellers list as number 68. Given the thousands upon thousands upon thousands of novels and short story collections Lulu publishes, that's pretty good. To learn more about I Smell Blood, and order your own copy, please go to Buy My Books.