She was the lone sister left at home to care for her widowed father, selflessly. She had given up college to do so. Her father needed her, after the long battle with her mother’s illness.
When she was in her mid-thirties, much to her surprise, a gentleman began to court her. He was a big fish in their small town; he spoke in public for the local chapter of his preferred political party. He was a lawyer and accountant; a man of substance with the freedom of a professional office in his home. By this time he was divorced from the mother of his four almost-grown children, all of whom lived in another county a couple hours away. He was fifteen years older than her.
After several years of storybook courtship filled with trips to stage plays, dinner in fine restaurants she had never before experienced, and surprise gifts, they married.
As a wedding gift, his mother gave the new couple a nice five-acre tract sliced from her larger holdings. Our girl threw her savings account into the pot, and they built a dream house—just right for them. They lived there 39 more years. Storybook house; storybook life. Bliss.
During their marriage, the courtship never seemed to end. She was not allowed to carve a roast—she might cut herself. She would never be permitted to stand on a stepstool and reach for a pot from over the refrigerator—she might fall. He tended to every detail of their lives. She received wonderful gifts, from the simple to the lavish, often for no reason. She traveled. She did not have to worry her head about anything. Her husband took care of it all.
She did continue in her job in the nearest city, a government employee. It was low-stress, and she enjoyed the work. He saw her off on the train each morning, and each afternoon he was there to retrieve her when she returned.
All the neighbors and family talked about how spoiled she was; he did everything for her; he must have loved her so. He had the reputation in her family of being rich.
He fell into Alzheimer’s and, like she had with her father, she selflessly stayed with him, forbidding others from even speaking of putting him in a nursing home. The last two years of his life, he had no idea who she was. He thought she was just the woman who came in to care for him, which was also the truth.
She discovered that before he forgot how, he had spent every dime of their savings and had charged their credit cards to the hilt, mostly with cash advances so that he could continue his life of “generosity” to others. He doled out money like he had it. He had always been so generous. She was later to say that the fault was in his good heart. In her late 70’s, she was saddled with trying to manage debt for the first time in her entire life. It was not easy—she could only muster the money to pay the minimums on the credit cards, squeezed from her pension and his Social Security check.
He finally slipped away and, even though the past years had been hard, the day of his passing was difficult for her. Little did she know that her near future would become even more so.
The week after he was buried, his grown daughters confronted her. It seemed that the “wedding gift” from his mother had not been a gift at all. It was more like a loan. Mother had given husband only a life estate in the property. Now that he was dead, she had no right to stay any longer on the property. Never mind that she had, those thirty-something years ago, put all her savings into the home built there. No, she had no claim to it. Her investment in it was lost. She was evicted.
So, now in her early 80’s, she was homeless. She had to vacate her home and get rid of almost all her belongings. The only thing that she could afford to rent was a mother-in-law’s quarters tacked-on to someone’s home a few miles away. So, that is where she is spending the rest of her life. In penury.
And, though Husband has moved for the most part into sainthood in her memory, so willing is she to remember the best, there are moments of clarity. In those clear moments, here is what she realizes and occasionally admits:
- He was a lawyer. He knew what she did not: that she had no claim to her home. This was hidden from her.
- He was an accountant. He knew what she did not: that she had debt to juggle that would cripple her.
- That her own security after he left this earth meant nothing to him; he lived only for the moment. What happened to her after he was gone meant nothing to him. Walk talks louder than the talk…
- That his displays of generosity and kindness to her were not for her; they were for him, as were the big-shot gestures he made by throwing around money to others. They were all purely for his own ego. And they were greatly to her detriment. He did not care. It was—every bit of it—all about him.
- And she realized that she had only moved through her life from one father to another.
It’s a true story, all of it. Sad to say. Can others learn from this? C