Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Family Estate

"Do you have any use for an anvil?" my dad asked when he called this afternoon.
"Why?" was my response.
"Well, you could crack walnuts on it. If you had a hammer. Things like that."
No, I know what I could use an anvil for, I just wasn't sure why he was asking.
A few more questions turned up the roots of what he was getting at: he's back to "estate planning," and in addition to his Timex, maybe I would like this anvil.
It does, in fact, have some sentimental value -- someone in the family was once a blacksmith, and this came out of the "smithshop" on our farm --  but anvils are not exactly portable; I'm not especially sentimental; I don't have any immediate plans to become a farrier; I don't expect to pick up any gigs at Colonial Williamsburg; and I don't mind sticking with a nutcracker.
I was more interested in what had sparked his latest obsession with the dispensation of his worldly goods, because usually it means he's diagnosed himself with something terminal -- which is not to say that I'm dismissive of his health concerns -- it's just that he was expected to die when he had his first heart attack at 40...then again at intermittent intervals since... and then again when he had a triple bypass a few years ago.
He's been at death's door often enough that we now give him a jovial hard time about all the false alarms.

But it turns out it wasn't a new array of medical symptoms that prompted today's line of forge-related inquiries. It was, instead, the occasion of a funeral for one of his friends -- a funeral he didn't actually attend, mind you -- one he'd just heard about from his other friends. He didn't go because, if I made this out correctly, he was mad that his old buddy hadn't died a while back.
 "He tried to die six years ago, and they should have let him. But no, his wife quit her job and moved into that living room to take care of him until she just shrunk down to nothing. Melted. Really. But I'll tell you one thing, quick as he died, she brightened right up. Yeah, she's living it up down here drinking the high-fructose corn syrup now."
Worried that this is part of the second wave of mortality where his compatriots begin dropping like flies again, I asked about one of his other friends, the one who'd told him all about the funeral. "Oh, him?" he snorted in an apparent mix of disgust and concern. "He eats like a hog, and every time he sits down, he goes to sleep."
We chatted a little longer, and what emerged as his biggest concern seems to be that he'll die from some quack misdiagnosis in my hometown -- which is, I have to admit, a thoroughly legitimate fear, as it is a fairly third-world environment, medically speaking.
But I need not worry, he reassured me. "I told your Uncle to just put me on a hay-hook and carry me on out to the road where Janet can pick me up and take me to a real hospital," (Janet being the E.M.T. sister-in-law).
"Well," I said, "THAT is a relief."
Thank heavens he has a plan.

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