I’ve had a great week giving money away. My sister and brother were the main beneficiaries, my close friend, too. Not to forget my goddaughter, Alexandra, in Guyaquil, Ecuador. Even my dog Nina got a bite. It’s not for nothing she spends three-quarters of her active life keeping my bed warm. Not under the blanket, mind you, on top. And you know what? It feels good to give money away.
Before you get too excited and knock at my door for your favorite charity, let me say, no, I didn’t win the Lotto or get a million dollars for winning the finals at Wimbledon. I must admit when I buy a Lotto ticket I seldom check if I won. Why bother? It’s most likely I lost. Why buy the ticket then? People are unreasonable, that’s why. Perhaps a winning ticket is collecting dust under a pile of papers in my house. Perhaps it’s beyond the one-year limit, unredeemable. Better not to know. My generosity would have to be posthumous. It’s in my will that I was giving away everything I had. There’d be nothing until my house was sold.
I am not a young man. Living without a will was even more unreasonable than buying Lotto tickets and forgetting about them. I had traveled by plane three times in seven days last month. Being up there in that secluded cocoon always makes life seem more intense, more precious — and how little control we have over it at times. Anything can happen from one minute to the next. In an instant I’m gone. Here come the “authorities,” state and federal, and they put their heavy paws in my not-so-golden pockets. My negligence shouldn’t affect the very special people in my life. I had to protect them. I had to make a will.
I called AARP. They recommended a few attorneys. I made a call. For them it was routine. For me it was my life exposed. The glory and the shame. Millionaire or all-in-the-house kind of wealth. I’m the latter. It’s my reality. It’s precise, concrete. The whole material story. A secular confession. I must tell the truth and decide who gets what. The awkward encounter between love, meaningful attachments and the miserable dollar equivalent. Who gets the most, the least? Who gets nothing?
The attorney sends me a list of questions. I send the answers back. Next day we’ll meet. She welcomes me reassuringly. I’m not nervous. It’s like a business review. I make decisions. I’m in control. I have power. Once my house is sold I’ll be rich and generous. There’ll be nothing left for me. I want to forget that. I can give everything because when the time comes I will need nothing. I am focused on the giving, not on the reason that will allow me to give. It’s all in the future, hopefully a distant one. My satisfaction is immediate. For the first time in my life I can give a lot of money away. I ignore the less happy part of the story.
After the deal was wrapped, I felt alive and curiously fulfilled. The “authorities” wouldn’t take advantage of me. I decided, not they, how my “fortune” would be shared. I had acted responsibly and with speed after years of procrastination. Overnight I had become a benefactor to some delightful people — and even my dog would be safe, should she outlive me. The little girl in Ecuador would know her godfather remembered her in his will.
Found in a publication of the New-York Historical Society: “In the name of God, Amen, December 13, 1744. I, Thomas Pool, of Boston, mariner, being now bound on a dangerous voyage to sea, and not knowing how God may deal with me, I leave all my estate to my honored father, Jonathan Hartshorn …” “In the name of God, Amen. I,Peter Noordstrandt, being sick, I leave to my wife Harampie, a bed and bedstead with the furniture, and a cupboard and oval table, and a sorrel mare, and a saddle … September 22, 1747 …” And I, Pierre Gazarian, am in pretty good health, and I don’t have a sorrel mare, and I am not going to sea. Life didn’t seem so safe and easy over 200 years ago. Horses, cows, feather beds, even slaves are mentioned in these ancient wills.
Having a “last will” made me feel more alive and energetic. Yes, I’ll be generous one day but let it be far in the future. I don’t want to rush it. Sure, a will has something to do with our mortality. But it’s also a great reminder to enjoy life as long as we can. Let’s go to sea, let’s fly, let’s discover the world. Let us tell that last will, “I’m going to take my time.” And the will can collect dust in the attorney’s vault for years to come. I hope.
Pierre Gazarian is a poet and a writer of one-act plays.
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