25 February 2014

In The Rickshaw

We see it in movies. (My wife and I watch a BUNCH of old black-and-white movies, so this image may be more vivid for us than you)...
Coolies or slaves slogging across the sand in some desert, carrying a potentate or otherwise VERY Important Person in the curtain-shrouded chair.
Or sometimes the chair is on wheels, pulled uphill and down by some extraordinarily fit Asian, taxiing some foreigner to an important meeting across town.
The person being transported is taking advantage of work being done by others.

I can't help being philosophical here.
Those of us living comfortable lives today are "In that chair".
And, depending on your age, that chair was pulled by your parents, grandparents, or great-grands.

They watched as their world grew unsettled.
It's easy to just deny evil is in your neighborhood, and that's just what they did...
Starting in 1933 they watched and hoped...
Ignored the fact that rules laid down to prevent another conflagration were being ignored.
Ignored the fact that other neighbors were suffering as essential energy sources were being gobbled up by belligerent forces.
What did it matter? The light was at the end of the tunnel...
Beer was back.
The worst of the depression seemed behind us.
Chamberlain had the right idea. "Smart diplomacy" had saved the day and avoided war.
Until it didn't.

And then our parents+ got their noses bloodied. It was no longer possible to ignore what was truly going on in our back yard. And correcting the problem was going to be UGLY...
Uglier that it would have been had we just seen the problem and corrected it earlier.
But they shouldered the ugly task and suffered greatly.
And corrected the problem.

We've been riding in the Rickshaw they provided for years, enjoying relative peace, prosperity, and freedom.
We've all heard over and over the old saw, "Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it".
I think most everyone believes the saying to be true, but the lessons I glean from my historical studies may not be the same lessons you learn.
And there's the rub isn't it?

I'm scared to death of what I see on the news these days.
I'm even more scared by the feeling I'm surrounded by a bunch of Neville Chamberlains.
I hear drumbeats.
I see folks that bear a striking political resemblance to evil people our parents ignored.
As we now reduce the size of our military, I remember the U.S. in the 1930's and remember how our population and resources came alive after about 1940, at great cost, until we could fight without one hand behind our back.

I fear the Rickshaw ride may soon come to an end.
I fear the tools our enemies have at hand will make this conflagration worse than anything our parents could imagine.
I HOPE our citizens learn from history before it's too late.

God be with us.

05 February 2014

When Parents Die

I'm ready to pull my hair out.
It wasn't supposed to turn out like this. We planned. We solicited advice from "Experts"...
Set up the machinery so things would go smoothly.
Still... this is a fiasco.

When my Dad retired he cashed out his retirement funds, all in Company Stock, and scared Mother to death. Indianapolis Power and Light Co. had always been a solid investment. But new regulations were just over the horizon and things were changing dramatically at the company.
Dad had a funny feeling. My parents sold the stock and put the proceeds into a "Single Premium" life insurance policy. That decision turned out to be one of the best my Dad ever made...
Within two years the value of IPALCO (Ameren) stock dropped 90%.
In retirement Mom and Dad lived happily for nearly 30 years, able to travel and do most of what they wanted without being restricted by money.

Dad died in 2003. Within a year, Mom had a minor stroke that impacted her vision. No longer able to stay in the lakefront home she shared with Dad, we knew big changes were in store for her.

For three days my Sister and her clan worked frenetically to sort out the "stuff" Mom HAD to have, then organized and had a Yard Sale to dispose of the rest.
Working, I couldn't be there, and I was glad to have the excuse. But I wasn't spared the stress of this change...
We put the house up for sale thinking it would move quickly. Ha!
The bubble in real estate had burst. Folks looking at the house offered "Fire Sale" prices. One prospective buyer hired a house inspector to look the place over. His list of things that had to be repaired was disheartening. Sara Jean and I drove 10 hours round-trip several times over the next months to spend my time off work to paint, do carpentry, clean, and tinker to make the house sell-able.

"Luxurious Senior Living" read the sign...
Sis got Mom situated there and started a new chapter in Mom's life.

An empty house is a nuisance. Insurance companies don't want to insure them. I had a Dickens of a time finding a company that would cover it for catastrophes... for a shocking premium.
The house sat empty for the better part of a year before it sold.

But let's get back to the money...
When Dad died we took the advice of one of our "Experts" and hired an attorney to set up a "Living Trust" for Mom. We then took the proceeds from the life insurance policy Dad bought with his retirement funds and bought an annuity, naming Mom's Trust as the beneficiary. Of course, the Trust laid out instructions as to how Mom's estate was to be handled in case of death or incapacitation.
Smart. Simple. Painless. Right?

Mom died late in June of this year. I've been struggling with the annuity company since.
I'm about to pull out my hair.
It's almost as if they think the money is theirs, not ours. After much struggling, cajoling, and finally threatening to hire an attorney and sue for damages, they issued a check to the Trust last week.
Then I had a hassle just finding an institution that would take those funds so I could pay Mom's bills.

We're finally on our way. When the checks for the new account arrive I can finally pay Mom's final bills, a full eight months after her death. What remains will be divided up as per instructions laid out by the trust.
But I have to wait until the I.R.S. gives me a green light...
They have to have their pound of flesh before we can finalize Mom's wishes.

I have a suggestion for you all, dear readers:
Give ALL your stuff to your loved ones while you're alive.
Save those you love the chaos.