pen rainbow

Friday, December 13, 2013

Friday—Life Is Complicated Day #15: The Finish Line

My daily journal as trustee of my dad's estate

At the peak

The Finish Line
It was my last day in the house, and I was determined to finish the job that my sister and I had started two weeks ago.

I spent some time in the garage cleaning off shelves and organizing his tool bench.  I owe it to my dad that I can tell the difference between a Phillips screwdriver and a flathead.  Garage aficionados will appreciate the mini-fridge stocked full of pop and my dad's favorite brew.  The garage was where I sought his approval.  He taught us that girls can do anything that boys can do, including the proper use of tools and a willingness to get your hands dirty.

At the end of the day, I had a couple of visitors.  Two of my dad's dirt bike buddies stopped by to discuss the motorcycles.  One of them was a local legend on the dirt bike circuit and owned a shop in Vegas.  Like all of my dad's other friends, he was a class act, and my dad would have wanted his bikes to go to him.

After he left, the next door neighbor stopped by to talk about the car.  He had another neighbor with him who was interested in ramps and whatever was left in the workshop.  I was running short on time and told them that we'd meet again when I was back in town after the holidays.  My dad had good neighbors, as well as good friends.

I loaded the car and did a final check of each room.  It seemed like it had been a year since I walked through the front door of this house with my sister for the first time.  We had accomplished a lot in two weeks.  We had reframed the past and redefined the bond we had as a family.  We were the strong, smart and capable daughters he'd always thought we were.

And, we'll always have one special memory of the time when the three of us dissolved into side-splitting laughter over a perfect storm of good intentions and human blunder.  That is the way that he would have wanted it to end with us.

No fuss, no muss.  Only laughter and great memories.

Thanks for the happy ending, Dad.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Thursday—Life Is Complicated Day #14: Countdown

My daily journal as trustee of my dad's estate

A clean carpet
8 Hours
Another day at the house, and for the first time since my dad died, I got a full night's sleep.  What a difference!  The untethered anxiety that had been waking me up at 3 a.m. every morning had been sorted and compartmentalized.

•  My mom's ingratitude
•  The self-absorbed stepdaughter
•  The burden of legal responsibilities
•  A timeline that was still undetermined
•  The selling of big-ticket items
•  The overwhelming sense that I was guessing my way through every day
•  Forgetting dance steps
•  My distant reality in California

Critical Path
I had been following a critical path of decisions and actions since Day One.  Certain things had to be done before other equally-as-important things could follow.  The trick was to figure out what those things actually were.  It wasn't so much fear as it was a tidal wave of caution that was keeping me up at night.

My first obligation was to my dad and what he wanted.  I tried not to get bogged down by the small stuff.  My dad made it abundantly clear that when he died, his life story was over.  No memorial, no obit, no anything.  Just a peaceful exit.  I wrote an obit because other people seemed to need it, and he wouldn't have cared, as long as it wasn't over the top.  What he did not want, and he was adamant, was a production after he died.  Above all, my dad was pragmatic and not overly sentimental.

The Doggie Who Wouldn't Go Outside
Today was about digging in.  I started downstairs and found a bag of pictures and a heart-shaped necklace stashed in the piano bench.  They would go to my dad's deceased wife's daughter who lives in Alaska.  She texted me and wanted the piano, too...along with her mom's china cabinet.  No problemo, I'll hire a mover to deliver them to her mother-in-law who lives a few blocks away.  That will be the end of that.

I spent the rest of the morning attacking the carpets.  Apparently, the blind, diabetic dog had never mastered the art of house training, and the carpets were proof.  I want to thank my dad's housekeeper, whoever she was, for buying a half dozen bottles of enzyme carpet spray and stain remover.  Bless the woman for she gaveth me a way to destinkify the carpets.  I'm quoting from the Housecleaning Bible, Heloise 4:09.

I finished cleaning out the fridge and restocked it with cans of Ginger Ale and Bud Light from the garage.

Thanks, Dad.  Those will be good when the weather warms up, and I'm in the back yard trimming the roses.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Wednesday—Life Is Complicated Day #13: Home Sweet Home

My daily journal as trustee of my dad's estate

The first big pick-up

Home Sweet Home
It's an odd feeling to wake up and not recognize where you are.

I opened my eyes and tried to focus.  This wasn't my bedroom...Was I in Boulder City?  Nope.  The garden window that looks out onto the purple lantanas at my grandmother's condo was missing.  The Mission-style footboard and the yellow wool blanket at the end of my bed looked vaguely familiar.

I was in a house that was redefining itself.  My dad's cozy blue bathrobe was dangling from the inversion table that was set up in the guest room.  A pair of brand new slippers identical to the ones he always wore were next to the bed.  He had a habit of purchasing two of everything, and we found the slippers in the spare bedroom with the tags still on them.

The stuffed baby camel from my grandmother's condo sat at the end of my bed.  How it managed to make it from the condo in BC to her assisted living facility, then into a box on a shelf in my dad's bedroom closet and back to me was remarkable.  The little camel greeted me for five summers while I lived with my grandma and worked at the Boulder City pool. The room felt like my old bedroom, a mashup of hand-me-down furniture and a touch of my grandmother's style.  Comfortable.

I eased into my dad's bathrobe and carefully maneuvered down the steep staircase toward a pot of the most gawd-awful coffee you've ever had in your life.  Humongous blue can, unknown label, mystery fibers mixed in with the grounds...tastes slightly like chicory.  The night before, I'd managed to clean and set up a brand new Cuisinart grinder /coffee maker, so the coffee was a little better by virtue of the new machine.  I could see why my dad hadn't ever used the machine.  It would have been a little too gadgety for him.  Too many buttons, too many controls, too many things to set.

Before my second cup, I was cleaning out the bottom of the hutch and packing dishes for Goodwill.  It was a good day to dig deep and hit all of the places Heidi and I had missed the week before.  The house and I were becoming better acquainted.

By the end of the day, I had a new stack of donations, and the carpets had all been pretreated.  I'd retrieved three pendulum clocks from upstairs and set them up around the house.  One was chiming on the hour; one had been brought over from my grandma's condo to her assisted living facility; and, one was a retirement gift from my dad's company.

The weather warmed up in the afternoon, and I spent a couple of hours in the backyard sweeping off the patio and sidewalk.  I rearranged pots and picked the pomegranates from the lower branches.  I left the poms on the top branches for the birds and raked the green grass.

I tackled the kitchen and got rid of pantry items that expired last decade.  In the upstairs guest bathroom, I found a stash of new toothbrushes and dental floss from my dad's dental appointments.  I scrubbed baseboards, rearranged artwork throughout the house, and laundered the towels with fabric softener that I brought out from BC.  It was the least I could do for the house.    

By the time I was finished, there were eight new Hefty bags of trash on the curb.  As tired as I was from the first week, I was hitting my stride now and really moving the dial forward.  I was starting to feel like myself again.

Tomorrow would bring more discoveries about my dad's life and more happy endings.

Thanks for giving us a great house, Dad.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Tuesday—Life Is Complicated Day #12: My Dad's Obit

My daily journal as trustee of my dad's estate


Today, I wrote my dad's obit for the Review-Journal in Las Vegas.  It will appear on Saturday, December 21, 2013.  The original version included the quote from Arthur C. Clarke, one of his favorite Sci-Fi authors.  The RJ was having fits about the quote, so I left it out.  But, my dad loved to read, so I'm running the original here in my blog.

Click HERE to see the obit in the RJ

February 19, 1935 - November 26, 2013

“In my life I have found two things of priceless worth—learning and loving. Nothing else—not fame, not power, not achievement for its own sake—can possibly have the same lasting value. For when your life is over, if you can say, ‘I have learned,’ and ‘I have loved,’ you will also be able to say, ‘I have been happy.’”
~ Arthur C. Clarke, Rama II

Reynold Uther Jones of Las Vegas passed away peacefully in his sleep at the age of 78. He is survived by his daughters, Heidi Jones Harris of Gainesville, Florida, and Troi Jones Nelson of Walnut Creek, California; sons-in-law Victor Harris and Steve Nelson; and eight grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his daughter, Brooke Edin Jones, and his young son, Mason Uther Jones; as well as his parents, Pearle Rose Olinghouse and Uther Clark Jones; and his wife, Margaret Jones.
He will be remembered fondly by his step-daughter, Lisa Horstmann, her husband, Pete, and their family. His loyalty, tenacity, and adventurous spirit will be greatly missed by friends who shared his love of dirt bike racing, RV camping, and fishing.
At his request, no services will be held.  Rey loved the outdoors and his family requests that donations be made to the National Parks Foundation in his memory.  

He will be missed.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Monday—Life Is Complicated Day #11: Phone Calls

My daily journal as trustee of my dad's estate

It's all in the trust

Paper Rules
Today was Phone Day #1.  I'd been dreading it for a week mainly because I did not know exactly where to start.  Some had to be called now and some later, but it was vitally important that I make these calls in the right order.  Like a game of Pickup Sticks, one wrong move could bring the whole thing down in a quagmire of tangled communications.  But, it had to be done, and today was the day to start.

Veteran's Administration
I started with what was in front of me that I clearly understood.  My sister and I are beneficiaries on my dad's VA insurance.  I called the number on the form that he'd given me and got a very helpful guy with a thick Jersey accent.  They would send me the death claim form, I'd fill it out, and return it.  Okay, pretty straight forward.  One down, four more immediately important calls to go.  Next stop, the cards in his wallet.

Social Security  
Another easy one.  Social Security is perhaps Numero Uno on the list of agencies that need to know when somebody dies.  I called them, and they said that they'd contact Medicare.  Really?!  A gov agency that will contact another gov agency...for me?!  What a relief.  Thank you, thank you.

I called all of the physicians' cards in his wallet.  Might as well let them know that he DIED, and thanks for nothing, by the way.

Homeowner's Insurance & Auto Insurance
We found these policies in the safe deposit box.  Thank gawd for that because he had two file drawers and a dozen binders full of old financial records at the house.  As it turned out, the auto policies and the homeowner's were with the same agency, so I was able to handle both issues with one phone call.

For the first time, I had to defend myself against a condescending insurance agent who tried to tell me that the cars were outside of the trust, and that they had to go through probate.  He also felt the need to explain probate to me.  I cut him off when he began to tell me that probate was a foregone conclusion.  Shut the Hell up.

This is where the powerpoint presentation and the notes that we took when we met with the trust attorney suddenly came into play.  With the trust documents in front of me, I read from the Assignment of Assets designating all of the personal property and vehicles of all kinds as part of the trust.  So, zip it, Barney, and tell me what you need in order to update his file.

He wanted a copy of the Affidavit of Successor Trustee designating me as the new trustee, as well as the Assignment of Assets document.  He wanted them faxed, not scanned and sent by email, but good old-fashioned, old-timey fax, which meant that I had to find someplace in town that had a fax machine and get down there before they closed.

It was a preview of things to come.   This would become my daily routine.  I had to be clear-headed and have all of the critical information in front of me.  I also needed a baseline understanding of how certain things work.  Medicare and Medicare prescription plans, for example, are separate entities.  One does not talk to the other.  Then, there is supplemental health coverage outside of Medicare, and they are entirely separate, as well.  

I am learning as I go for the next 6 to 9 months.  

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Sunday—Life Is Complicated Day #10: My Day Off

My daily journal as trustee of my dad's estate

On Tropicana going over The Strip on the way to my dad's house

My Day Off
At the end of last week, it was obvious that there was more to do, and I needed to extend my stay for another week.  I was still waiting on the death certificates, which take 7 to 10 business days to arrive, and not much happens on the business end of a trust without death certificates.

I also needed to pick up my dad's ashes from the nice folks at Bunkers.  The initial shock of his unexpected death was starting to dissipate and a new, more purposed reality was settling in.  At least, it didn't feel like a half-dream anymore.  I'd been on auto-pilot for a week straight, and I was beginning to wonder when I would feel optimistic again.

So, I gave myself a day off back at the condo in Boulder City.

I slept in and drank coffee all morning.  I sorted through papers when I felt like it.  I strolled around in my little aromatic garden and let the rosemary and cedar branches brush against my jeans.  I started a new Harry Bosch novel on my Kindle.  I ate lunch and did some blogging.  I thought about driving out to Searchlight and decided that it was too cold to get out of the car.  I did laundry and zapped a  Lean Cuisine for supper.  I was in bed by 8:15.

I would be heading out to the house in Vegas on Tuesday to put things out for the donation truck on Wednesday morning.  Beyond that, who knows.  The course of each day was determined by the accomplishments of the preceding day, so I wasn't sure if I'd be spending the rest of the week in Vegas, or not.

I decided against attending a family event in Searchlight on Monday in lieu of making phone calls.  Like it or not, I had to start the process of notifying Social Security, Medicare, his doctors, and the VA.  Plus, I had to confirm his homeowner's and auto insurance.  First things first.  Time to switch into secretarial mode.  Dealing with pointy-headed bureaucrats takes mental alertness, and although I was bracing for a crap storm the next day, I was trying not to think about it too much.

Thanks to my sister who diligently organized 3 laundry baskets of files into individual stacks of important papers, I could face Monday somewhat prepared.

Thanks, Heidikins

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Saturday—Life Is Complicated Day #9: What Worked

My daily journal as trustee of my dad's estate

Fishing in Alaska

And Then There Was One
I dropped my sister off at the airport today, and for the first time since my dad died, I felt alone.  The Army of Two who marched into unfamiliar terrain and faced down unidentified foes is down to an army of one.

Over the past week, the strength of who we are as individuals and our bond as sisters was tested over and over again.  Her clarity and humor provided a life raft for me on days when I felt as though I were walking on the bottom of the ocean.

She kept herself open to every detail and to every exchange of information as we processed through each day.  We worked together and independently at the same time, putting our trust in each other ahead of everything else.  Fueled by mutual respect, we skillfully navigated the very tricky landscape of who gets what.  Thankfully, that was a small piece of a much bigger picture.  We were a good team, and my dad would have been proud of us.

Why It Worked
1.  We Like Each Other
We got along before my dad died, and we are simpatico sisters.  

2.  Just Two
I thought a lot about how lucky we were that there weren't more siblings to complicate matters.  We were Batman and Batman, both working for the common good.

3.  Unselfish
I can't think of a single moment when we weren't sharing every aspect of this weird experience.  We shared information, thoughts, feelings, things, meals, and decisions.

4.  Balance
Miraculously, we were able to balance our time so that we could take care of ourselves.  We made time for her morning walks and my blogging.  We packed lunches and ate outside on my dad's lovely garden patio.  We watched our favorite shows on TV.  We tried to get enough sleep.

5.  Workhorses
My sister and I have the same habit of working past our limit.  We are task oriented.  It did not matter that we had to walk up and down a steep flight of stairs 25 times a day.  If there were a closet or a drawer that hadn't been cleaned out, we were on it.  When my dad's friend announced at 8 o'clock at night that he'd be over in 10 minutes to pick up a load of stuff, we went into overdrive making boxes and packing fragile glass knick-knacks.  If I had to crawl around on my hands and knees to retrieve pots and pans from the far reaches of the kitchen cupboards, it got done.  If it meant spending 2 hours in a filthy, greasy shed full of motorcycle parts looking for Christmas ornaments, Heidi did it.

6.  Mutual Respect for My Dad
No one knew him better than we did, and he knew it.  We shared the same sense of humor, and our basic principles were alike.  Our lives were inextricably blended with his.  We knew his secrets, and he pretty much knew that we were perfect daughters...LOL  :)  He would have liked that joke.  We were equally at ease with him as we are with each other.  The job ahead of us was clear, and there was never any disagreement over what he would have wanted.

7.  Supportive Spouses & Kids
Our spouses rallied and called in every night to check on us.  More importantly, they did not interfere.  They listened patiently and did not try to tell us what to do.  Thanks, Guys.  And, our adult kids were kind enough to reach beyond their daily trevails and offer words of condolence.  Thanks, Kids.

8.  We Each Have A Backbone
We both understand the difference between being assertive and being aggressive.  Neither one of us is afraid to be assertive when the situation calls for it.

9.  Maturity
Post-menopausal power, baby!  I don't know where it comes from, but when women are no longer being ruled by their ovaries, the fog clears.  The clarity and confidence of youth emerge once again, and rational thought returns.  The carefree girls we once were evolve into women of substance, and insecurities seem to evaporate.  Being over 50 provided a critical source of stability from which we drew strength and guidance every day.

10.  We Have Enough Stuff
It was never about his stuff, although sorting through his belongings kind of forces the issue.  Every person who knew my dad and genuinely cared about him backed away from his stuff.  His friends refused to take any memento that we offered because he wasn't about that.  A relationship with our dad was based on living life to the fullest and not on collecting things.  My dad streamlined his life before he died so that the bulk of what he left behind was a rich collection of memories for his friends and family.  His step-relatives were very interested in his stuff, and I imagine that's why he placed everything under the protection of a family trust.  No will, no probate, no interfamily drama.

Way to go, Dad!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Friday—Life Is Complicated Day #8: Gratitude

My daily journal as trustee of my dad's estate

Leaves on my sidewalk in Walnut Creek

Today, we gave away canned food and a vehicle.  Funny thing...the guys who got the canned food were a lot more appreciative than the two people who got the truck.

Regardless, it was a gesture to pay off a debt of conscience owed by my dad.  As trustee of his estate, it is my job to pay his debts of all kinds.

Now, the slate is clean.  Judging by the way that he put his affairs in order and made everything right at the end of his life, he would have approved.  This was the kind of debt that could not be rectified while he was alive.  Perhaps now, a broken heart can mend.

RIP Dad.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Thursday—Life Is Complicated Day #7: Keep, Give, Throw Away

My daily journal as trustee of my dad's estate

Clothes, bags & boxes


"I'd like to schedule a pickup for next Tuesday."

"Okay, what items do you have?"

"Right now, I have...

Ten 33-gallon garbage bags of clothes & shoes;
2 bags of bed linens & comforters;
4 large duffle bags of sports gear;
2 small duffle bags of knick-knacks;
5 used suitcases;
4 boxes of miscellaneous household items;
4 lamps;
A clock;
A box of old record albums;
A shower assist chair;
A mirror;
5 picture frames;
A flip-up Polaroid land camera;
A box of Russian military hats;
A scary Jesus poster;
And a box of Christmas decorations."

Give Away
Heidi and I spent the day staging items to keep, give away, and throw away.  We were women on a mission.  On Day 2, we set up a yahoo mail account so that we could keep trust business separate from our individual correspondence.  We were looking for a list of items requested by my dad's deceased wife's daughter.  Not a step anything anymore, she had nevertheless shared a history with my dad.  We were more than happy to find the things that would close this chapter for her...and for us.

Heidi braved the confines of the back yard shed to search for a box of Christmas ornaments.  I sifted through rows of fragile glass figurines looking for her mother's Hummel.  I found one that was similar to a Hummel, but really a knock-off.  I wrapped it in one of my dad's old teeshirts and placed it into one of the new UPS boxes that we had purchased in BC.  After spending two hours that morning in the dust-filled shed, Heidi found the Christmas ornaments in a closet in the house.

A close friend of my dad's stopped by that night and offered to haul everything over to the house of the mother-in-law of my dad's deceased wife's daughter.  We hauled out several boxes of Christmas decorations, along with two marble-top tables that she had requested.  We scoured the house and packed up anything that looked like it may have belonged to my dad's wife.  Six boxes and two end tables later, we were closing the lid on things from someone else's past.  

Things from our past...

3 small Post-Modern tables that once belonged to my grandmother;
A personalized jacket from a Best In The Desert race that my dad won;
My dad's blue terrycloth bathrobe and a new pair of slippers with the tags still on them (it was cold in the mornings);
A heavy lead crystal bowl that belonged to my grandmother;
2 small porcelain candy dishes that belonged to my grandmother;
A wooden nut dish that belonged to my grandmother;
And, a floppy camel that used to sit on the guest room bed at my grandmother's condo.

Throw Away
I hauled 7 bags of garbage out to the curb for the next morning's pickup.

Bed linens
Empty frozen dinner boxes
Empty snack-size chip bags
An empty bottle of French Chardonnay
An empty canister of anti-bacterial counter wipes
Decrepit kitchen plastics
Lime-encrusted aluminum pots and pans misshapen from years of use
Expired stuff from the fridge
Old hiking maps where my dad liked to walk his dog
Alka Seltzer, Bandaids from 1997 & other assorted items from under his sink
A flattened chair cushion (My dad bought two of everything, and I found a new replacement in the garage)
Oily, greasy rags from the garage

We had completed the first pass through the house, and we were on overload trying to maintain our focus.  With brutal clarity, we sorted through objects that now had new meaning.  Without him in the equation, it was a matter of assessment and memory as we assigned new values to his possessions.

The good news is that, for the most part, he did not collect junk.  He held onto old things if they still worked.  Everything that was his was functional and had a purpose.  Even the girly calendar hanging in the garage helped him keep track of the days.

Thanks, Dad, for keeping a neat house.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Wednesday—Life is Complicated Day #6: Climbing Mountains

My daily journal as trustee of my dad's family trust

A gorgeous December sunset in Boulder City, Nevada

In Our Words

"We are climbing mountains every day.  Not the same mountain, it's a new mountain every day."  ~Heidi

"She can take that gun and shove it."  ~Heidi

"...And then pull the trigger!"  ~Troi


Four days of driving back and forth between Boulder City and my dad's house off of Charleston were enough to convince us to spend our last two nights at the house.  We were both flying out on Saturday, and we running out of time.  We still had to clean out every cupboard, every closet, and every drawer.  The fridge was still stocked full of food from two days before Thanksgiving.  Rusty's insulin supplies were still sitting on the kitchen counter.  We were stepping into my dad's life and taking over from where he left it.

We spent the morning at the condo in BC plowing through the stacks of papers, folders, and binders that we had taken out of the house.  I woke up every morning faced with the enormous burden of responsibilities associated with the trust.  My mind was racing with details.  It was taking all of my organizational skills and experience to prioritize our daily tasks. What needed to be done first?   On the one hand, my dad had been dead for just over a week, and I hadn't begun to make phone calls.  On the other hand, there was the physical labor of getting the house in order.  And, only three more days to get it all done.

We were climbing mountains every day.

The First Supper

We finally got out of BC around 2 p.m.  The route that was most familiar to me was I-515 to Tropicana, then over the Strip.  It was the same route I used to take when I drove out to see my grandma Pearle at the assisted living facility in Vegas, which was close to my dad's house.  The lights and the grandeur of the Strip were oddly comforting.  It was like Disney World, Vegas-style, and it was nice to see people enjoying themselves.

We got to the house and worked like maniacs until 8 o'clock when we finally ran out of steam and decided to raid my dad's fridge.  Mmm, frozen enchiladas and a turkey dinner!  And, a nice bottle of Chardonnay from my wine cooler in BC.

Where would we sleep?

We were each going to take a guest room, but the mattress on one of the beds was a concrete slab, apparently.  It felt like it, anyway.  It was a hard as the dining room table.  My dad had broken his pelvis four years ago in a dirt biking accident, and I think that the guest bed was where he slept when his back bothered him.  I had no interest in sleeping in the master bedroom.  We had already stripped his bed and flipped the mattress, which was still in good shape.  The big Jacuzzi tub and the double vanity were calling to Heidi, so she found some clean floral linens and made up the bed.

The practicality of spending the night there forced us to get over any remaining discomfort associated with his room.  We had to find someplace comfortable to sleep.

I brought out two feather pillows and clean pillowcases from BC, and they matched the linens beautifully.  We untangled the cables and moved the clunky TV onto the floor next to the closet.  The desk had been cleared off earlier that day, and Heidi had bagged up all of my dad's clothes for donation.  The room had undergone a transformation during the afternoon from his bedroom to a lovely, uncluttered master suite.

In a closet stuffed with old, outdated grungy sheets and comforters, I found a new unopened twin-size Waverly sheet set!  I'm pretty sure that my fairy godmother left it.  Floral, of course, and a comforter to match.  I had been doing laundry and working in the guest rooms all day, so the two guest bedrooms got a makeover, as well.

Clean, refreshed and updated, the house was becoming ours.

Our House

We went to bed around Midnight exhausted, but gratified.  It felt like we had conquered another mountain that day.  We were planning one day at a time, based on what we were able to accomplish the day before.  We realized that we needed another whole day and night to finish up the house.  So, we decided to stay until Friday when my mom could come out and pick up the extra food.

Thanks for not buying a Thanksgiving turkey, Dad!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Tuesday—Life Is Complicated Day #5: TCB

Navigating Las Vegas...taking care of the business of dying

Dove statue at Memory Gardens

Las Vegas Coroner's Office  
First stop, the Las Vegas coroner's office on Pinto Lane to pick up my dad's personal belongings.  $38 in cash, his wallet, 2 credit cards, a debit card, and his keys.

Bunkers Mortuary
Next stop, Bunkers Mortuary at the corner of Washington and Las Vegas Boulevard South.  This is old-timey Las Vegas.  We drove past the old Union Plaza depot, past Fremont Street, and past the neighborhood where I learned to ride my first 2-wheeler bike.  We were just down the street from the elementary school where I attended Kindergarten and First Grade.  We arrived at the mortuary once owned by "Miss Nancy" Merle Bunker, the star of The Cinderella Show in Las Vegas.

We met with our arrangement director, Nick, who gave me a casket flag for my dad because he served in the National Guard for a year, and then in the Air Force for four more.  Heidi and I signed more paperwork and paid $83 out-of-pocket to cover state mortuary fees.  My dad's pre-need cremation package came to a grand total of $1,328.  If we had walked in that day to make arrangements for the same package that my dad had prepaid in 2009, it would have been $2,000—and gone up from there.

Memory Gardens
Next stop, Memory Gardens Cemetery off of Craig Road to see if my dad had purchased a cremation niche next to his wife.  The rolling lawns were yellow and neglected, but the cemetery attendants, Inez and Betty, took care of us.  They confirmed that my dad had NOT purchased a cremation niche, but they offered to sell us one for $12,000.

Seriously?  Twelve grand to keep a box of ashes in something that looks like a high school gym locker?!  It's hard to believe that my dad paid that much for his wife, but grief warps good judgment, and he probably gave in to her kids.  The absurdity of it all made us giddy on the walk back to the car.  We left for the bank just as a bitterly cold wind picked up from the West and dark gray clouds began to stack up over Red Rock.

Wells Fargo Bank
Our final stop was at Wells Fargo Bank off of Charleston.  This would be the trickiest errand of the day and my first official duty as successor trustee.  We needed to see the contents of the safe deposit box that I shared with my dad.  It contained all of his most important personal papers, and as successor trustee, it was now my job to gain an accurate and precise understanding of his estate.

As I said in the previous post, my dad was a genius at dying.  Four years ago when he set up the family trust, he brought me into the bank and went over the contents of the safe deposit box with me.  He added my name to the box and gave me a key.  Anyone who visits a safe deposit box has to sign a ledger, so my signature was on the box from that visit in 2009.  This allowed Heidi and me to open the box, go over everything together, and remove the contents.

Four years ago, I was instructed to contact a bank manager regarding the safe deposit box.  The reality is that even with an affidavit of successor trustee from our trust attorney and a receipt from the coroner's office for my dad's personal effects, I still needed an official death certificate to access his account.  It takes 7 to 10 days to get certified death certificates from the mortuary, and the bank froze the checking account immediately after we removed the contents of the safe deposit box.  In hindsight, I would have cleaned out the safe deposit box first, then taken a couple of days to download statements and study the account before notifying the bank.  

Without his papers, I would have had no idea where the titles were to his cars; how much he owed on his house; what insurance policies he had; what the passwords were to his online accounts, or how he managed his money.  With his papers, I could begin the process of notifying his creditors and move ahead with the execution of the trust.  The details are staggering, and the first thing that needs to be done is to sort out what is immediate and what isn't.  Everything was riding on access to his important papers, and he was wise enough to put them into safe keeping, then teach me what to do.  

We know a whole lot more today than we did yesterday.  Talk about a steep learning curve.

Thanks for insisting that I go to the bank with you four years ago, Dad.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Monday—Life Is Complicated Day #4: Rusty

My daily journal as trustee of my dad's estate

The wall at the trust attorney's office

"When all the world is a hopeless jumble,
And the raindrops tumble all around,
Heaven opens up a magic lane.

When all the clouds darken up the skyway,
There's a rainbow highway to be found
Leading from your window pane
To a place behind the sun
Just a step beyond the rain."

Somewhere Over The Rainbow ~ Music by Harold Arien_Lyrics by EY Harburg

My dad's little dog, Rusty, crossed the Rainbow Bridge today.  He was a sick little dog, and he was suffering.  It was time to let him go.  My dad had been saying for the past couple of weeks that it was time to put him down.  But, it is a heartbreaking task to take a beloved pet in for euthanasia, and he'd been putting it off.

He had friends who stepped up and took care of this high maintenance dog when he no longer could.  They were there before we arrived, and they simply got the job done for a friend in need...and for a couple of complete strangers who were reeling from their own loss.

As much as I've been the strong daughter that he wanted me to be, their act of selflessness blows me away.  When people say that they want to help, it's really an expression of sympathy.  But, when someone's life stops abruptly and unexpectedly, the momentum of that person's every day existence continues for a while, like swirling glitter in a glass of water.  Animals are left behind.

I always knew that he had great friends.  I guess, I've never really seen friends who could stay out of the way and at the same time know exactly what to do to help.  It's a difficult line to walk.  And, how do we show our gratitude?  All that I can do is to emulate their example and be there for someone else when it's my turn to step up.  ...And, pay Rusty's vet bill.

My dad had an IQ of 154, which put him at the top of the highly gifted category.  But, from what my sister and I have seen over the past few days, he was a genius at dying.  More about that later...

Thanks for having such an amazing group of friends, Dad

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Sunday—Life Is Complicated Day #3: Neverland

My daily journal as trustee of my dad's estate

My dad's scotchy-scotch-scotch

In Our Words
"She tried to pull the weepy woman thing, and that didn't land with me."  ~Me

"We're not criers."  ~My sister

"If they want to do a memorial, let them.  It makes no difference to the dead person, and everybody wins."  ~My sister

House Day
It was house day on Sunday.  The locksmith showed up at 1 p.m., and we had 8 locks rekeyed.  It was reassuring to know that whoever else had a key to my dad's house could no longer get in.  Now, if we can figure out how to operate the damn alarm, we'll be okay.  New keys won't stop bad guys, but an active alarm system will.  

It was a hands-on day.  We worked hard and started in the areas that held the most interest for each of us.  Heidi dove into the backyard shed, and I tackled the downstairs rooms of the house.  We began the process of staging. It's pretty much the same as moving, except for the odd sensation of knowing that nothing in the house belonged to us.  And, why again were we spending the day in my dad's house invading his privacy?  Like it or not, we had crossed the threshold into Neverland.

We moved through the house like army ants.  Room by room, drawer by drawer, closet by closet, we sorted through the things that brought richness, depth, and quality to his life.  I dug through the pockets of his jeans that were casually laid over the footboard of the bed in his spare room.  I folded the riding shirt that he had worn on his last mountain bike ride.  I cleaned out the upstairs medicine cabinet and gathered together all of his dog's insulin supplies, the doggie eye drops, the prescription dog food, the well chewed doggie toys, the scruffy dog bedding, and the meticulous notes that my dad kept on his dog's daily care.  My dad's mini-schnauzer, Rusty, meant everything in the world to him.

Around 4 p.m., we loaded the back of the shiny, black Escape with 3 more laundry baskets of financial records and a round maple table with a spinny top that once belonged to his mother, Pearle.

And, 3 unopened bottles of single malt scotch.  And, a mystery bottle of Portuguese liquor.

We rolled up to the condo quiet and tired, but we quickly revived when we remembered that Heidi had a case of soda water upstairs, and we had 3 bottles of decent Christmas scotch in the car.  20 minutes later, I was able to truly relax for the first time since I got the news that my dad was gone.

Here's to you, Dad