Caregiver’s Diary: The Executor’s Checklist

My wife’s father died two weeks ago – here is her account of winding up his affairs.

What I think about all these  ‘tasks’ – the canceling, terminating, handing in of all things that made Dad Dad – is that if I do them all well enough, then he’ll come back. 

Week One

Woke up feeling a bit better this morning, which made me instantly suspicious that a bad fall was coming. I decided to walk to Starbucks and get a decent coffee and overpriced muffin, so threw on my black wool coat (too hot) and wore my glasses. Very odd –never go  out in public with my glasses. Was surprised as every morning now that the world actually still exists, cars lined up on our main drag, woman walking her dog, leaves rustling underfoot, as if this Thing had never happened. And I think for the umpteenth time since Dad died – where are you?  Where. Are. You.

Returned home prepared to work  – many calls to make – canceling an existence is understandably labour-intensive. First effort to print out Dad’s (now our) recent bank account activities online was a dismal failure (As I knew it would be.) Suspected some nefarious plan of the Bank’s to freeze all liquid assets, but found out via cheerful guy on their Help Line that my browser was not advanced enough. I needed to download a more up-to-date version.  Screw that. While there are still sentient beings in my branch, I’ll take a chance and go in person.  Wrote Go To Bank in my nifty little Task Book and moved on to…

…canceling Dad’s pension, which I discovered existed thanks to a print-out of his most recent banking activities that I had in a limited fashion obtained at the Green Machine two days ago, not realizing that this was what I needed in a Much Bigger Way. Traced the pension to trust company, who gave me the name of the guy in charge of pensions at one of Dad’s old employers and called him up. Left a message. Moved on to…

…canceling Dad’s Saturday Globe. Online research revealed a well-hidden phone number to contact someone, who switched me to circulation and a Human Being came on the line in a record 7 seconds. No wonder they are Canada’s National Newspaper. The Star had me on hold for almost 15 minutes. Again, I am amazed at the universal chord struck at the death of a Father. The Circulation Girl, all business-like at first, ended by telling me that he is “still there”.  “If you smell him, he is there.” She was a spiritual person who believed in the afterlife. Did I believe? Yes.  I have to now.  She is a follower of Sylvia Brown, an online spiritualist, who I googled after the call – “The Afterlives of the Rich and Famous!”   Jury’s out on that one.

…the pension guy returned my call, telling me that Dad’s pension ends now, and I have to return November’s payment. Fair enough.  No problem!  I’m noticing that my voice is staring to go up in a cheerful way at the end of my sentences when dealing with anyone Official now re: Dad’s passing. Wonder what the hell that means.

The next day

Well it’s Copy The Will Day – since we now have retained a probate lawyer (well, a paralegal actually, to save some money) and she requires that the Original be handed over to her. It occurs to me as I watch the copies spinning out of the machine, that I’ve come full circle on the Will. When Dad gave it to me for safekeeping about 5 weeks ago, I didn’t want to take it, but he insisted, so I did, and them I didn’t want to touch it; like a Pandora’s Box, if I opened it, he might actually die.  He did die, barely three weeks later, and I had to open it a lot, show it around, and then it became MINE, the most important document ever, and I had to choke back tears when I got to his written words on the last page: of the Will, which was the bill:  “With thanks” and then his name.

Now I didn’t want to give the Will up. Like all his things, his wallet, his credit cards, his car keys, all of which I had been loathe to touch right after his death, it was now part of him. And with each shredding, canceling, handing in, obliterating of all his bits and pieces, I felt like he was dying all over again – in government offices, post offices, tax and insurance offices, banks, copy centres – slowly being erased by cheerful bureaucrats, with whom I colluded in an efficient and brisk manner. What kind of monster was I? How could I hand in his Driver’s License?  Driving his car was the last real pleasure he had had in the past year – how could I send it into the ether?

Because, as the executor, my job was to effectively wipe Dad out. When the job was done, successfully, I would be rewarded with half his estate.

How could this be fair?