My brother Dooby and I found our dad’s will while snooping through his closet a couple of years after our mother died. We learned that Dad had willed us to Uncle Duemore and Aunt Prudence. Uncle Duemore was Dad’s responsible older brother and business partner—and even less fun-loving than our dad. Their family never went on vacations. Our cousins spent Saturday mornings and all summer vacation doing household chores. Not a life we cared to share.
As an adult I understand Dad’s logic. His parents were too old and ill to raise grandkids in the event of his demise. On our mother’s side of the family, Grandma Gryper lived with Aunt Loosey and crippled Aunt Arta. Aunt Loosey was a single mom with no job who eked out a living by milking cows on what was left of the family farm. She and Grandma lacked even the most rudimentary housekeeping skills and had no money sense. We would have had love, but lacked such necessities as clean clothes and regular meals. It would have been fun while it lasted, but they would have blown through Dad’s financial assets within a year.
Dooby and I thought Dad should have left us to Aunt Charity and Uncle Happy. They took their kids on vacations to California or Yellowstone every year and went camping every weekend. Living with them would be a vast improvement over life with our workaholic dad. As kids, we didn’t realize that Aunt Charity’s health was too poor to take on a larger family—and that their camp trailer didn’t have room for three extra kids.
Fortunately, Dad did not die and leave us orphaned. Throughout my kids’ childhood I fear what might happen to them should we die. George’s parents were deceased. My stepmother disliked me and my children. None of our siblings was in a position to take care of our kids.
I’m sure I never spoke to my kids about this fear, but our daughter Lolly inherited it. She and Doc decided to appoint guardians for their four kids in the event of accidental death. Doc’s parents were in poor health, so he wanted his brother and sister-in-law, who had four kids of their own, to take on the job. Being a man, Doc has no idea that few women would be delighted to double the size of her family with kids not her own. Lolly was more realistic and asked my opinion.
Neither George nor I are spring chickens, but I said that in the event of a tragedy, we could move close to one of her sisters and care for the kids jointly. A mother’s sister with no children is more likely to give kids the love they need than a sister-in-law with her own family. Lolly hesitated. She knew the kids would be taken to church every Sunday with her in-laws. Our daughters and we are freethinkers, but would not undermine their parents’ wishes.
In my book, love is more essential to a child’s well-being than regular church attendance. I’ve never dared ask about Lolly and Doc’s final decision. I just pray for their health and well-being.