I was speaking with my folks one day when I was visiting home. My mom made a comment about after she and my father passed, all the stuff in the house would be mine. I am an only child, so my situation may not be like everyone else’s, but the point struck a chord with me.
I don’t want all of this stuff. My dad’s clothes won’t fit me, my Mom’s won’t fit my girlfriend. I don’t need any more dishes, forks or knives. I have my own furniture and junk drawer. The lawn chemicals, hot tub and tchotchke’s are not going to find their home with me either.
Please hear me and understand I am not ungrateful, but I just don’t want all of this stuff. I want more time with my kids. I want my parents to take that trip they have always wanted to take, but haven’t. I want my folks to be able to move freely about the country to visit friends. I want them to take that class on photography or tai chi or pottery.
With that said there are a few things I want from my parent’s house that would mean a lot to me. My maternal grandmother painted a beautiful picture that hangs in my parent’s house. But, it’s not necessarily the landscape of the picture that grips my heart. It’s the fact that that woman who painted it was a single mother who worked two jobs literally to the day before she passed away from complications of a heart stent. It’s the fact that she had this talent that was so impressive that was largely hidden from the world for seven decades. That picture represents her sacrifice, my parent’s sacrifice and so many of the past two generations that have put their dreams, ambitions and talents on hold to just provide and survive. That picture reminds me of the sacrifice that has given me the life, experiences and opportunities I have in front of me and I am grateful.
The antique pieces of furniture that my father has stripped down and restored by hand from his mother’s house. An antique mirror that hangs on the wall and a tea-cart that is nearly 100 years old, not to mention the desk that his uncle used that sits in the living room. Those pieces albeit functional as furniture and serving pieces are important to me because I remember my dad working on them in the garage after work and teaching me how to use stain, sand paper and a myriad of other tools to build and finish furniture. I now love making my own pieces using the information and time he imparted upon me to make pieces that inspire me today.
So you see, I am not callous or ungrateful for my parents and their things, but I want them to be enriched and have a mindset of what’s still to come in retirement. To not be burdened with stuff that they feel they can’t leave or that is holding them back merely by the thought of some day it will be passed on to our son. I want them to choose life, to choose their health and relationships, not the things they have amassed. Seeing them thrive and reach for their dreams in this next phase of their life would be the greatest gift for me as their son and wealth partner.
Have you had a discussion about your stuff with your kids, or vice versa with your parents? What are those one or two items that would be meaningful to receive when they pass away? Have you asked your kids or grandkids or great-grandkids what they want?
I know for Phillip it was the guitar that his grandfather played and the leather boots that he often wore. For me it’s the one painting of my grandmother’s that represents the talent that was hidden for so long and should have resulted in so many other paintings.
It’s not too late to start talking about these things. Your legacy is being created today. What will yours be?