Dearest Rachel –
I will always remember the story that you used to tell about your mom‘s father, who worked for the SEC in its early days. It was a fairly lucrative job as I understand it (working for the government often is), and most of his colleagues were both younger than him, and decidedly more free-spending than he was. When one of them asked him why he salted away nearly every penny he earned, he replied, “I want to retire at some point, and when I do, I don’t want to pick s*** with the chickens.”
Then I can say to ·myself [L my soul], “I [L Soul, you] have enough good things stored to last for many years. ·Rest [Take it easy], eat, drink, and ·enjoy life [celebrate; T be merry]!”’Luke 12:19, Expanded Bible
I’m sure the reason the main reason I remember that so well is because of the saltiness of the reply. After all, no one in my family swore like that (do you remember that Thanksgiving right after we got engaged, and your mom and dad showed up at my folks place? Your mom walks in, and greets me with a loud and hearty “how the hell are ya, Randy?” I’m pretty sure both families have gotten a lot out of mileage out of laughing over my mortified expression upon hearing that). Plus, there’s this completely unsubtle dig at his colleagues in saying what he did.
But the truly memorable aspect of this line lay in the fact that, barely a year into retirement, his wife found him pitched over face first in his tomato garden. He was seventy, and you were only four at the time. Lots of good all that saving did him. I mean, I guess his wife managed to live pretty well (even if she didn’t know much about it for her last ten years). That harsh irony truly drove home the futility of his statement.
“But God said to him, ‘Foolish man! Tonight your ·life [L soul] will be ·taken [demanded back] from you. So who will get those things you have prepared for yourself?’Luke 12:20, Expanded Bible
Now, in fairness, he had to deal with Prohibition (his father ran a brewery back in the day, and he was supposed to take over the family business before that… so, obviously, that went by the boards) and the Depression (which left everybody who survived through it scarred, and desperate to not let that happen to themselves again), so his penuriousness couldn’t completely be held against him. But from what you told me about him, it seem to rob him of any joy in life, always having to worry about whether he had ‘enough.’
I don’t recall any similar such stories about your dad’s father, but that may have been because all your stories were already secondhand, since he literally passed away the same day you were born. All I can remember is that your parents admitted that they would’ve been creeped out had you been born a boy – complete with the implications of the transmigration of souls from your grandfather to yourself. But that sort of thing is neither here nor there.
The reason I bring all this up is because I’ve been spending money these days in what some might consider to be a frivolous manner. Be it on an impulsive attempt at a vacation, a large flatscreen television, or a bottle or two of soda syrup, I’ve been aware that I’ve been less concerned about my spending recently, much like your grandfather’s colleagues. At least I haven’t been neglecting saving, as there’s been so much already saved up from the past couple of generations. It’s really just a matter of using what’s available.
I know I’ve already started several paragraphs off with the phrase “I recall,” but there is so much on this topic that comes from remembering one thing or another from your family. In terms of generations, while you grandfathers may have started the ball rolling, your parents were no slouches, either; a pair of salaries as tenured professors will certainly build up over time. In contrast to your grandfathers, they had the time to enjoy their funds, and they did so, to a certain extent, ‘complaining’ from time to time that they for all their apparent frivolous spending, they couldn’t cut into their principal. Of course, what they considered ‘frivolous’ was a matter of perspective; you had to practically beg them to acquiesce to in-home nursing care, even after your dad’s first stroke, at which point he realized he couldn’t care for your mom on his own. But for the longest time, they couldn’t seem to see the value of ‘wasting’ their money on such care, even though – as it turned out – the amounts paid to their nursing staff still wouldn’t keep their holdings from growing in a good year. Considering your dad passed away only months after agreeing to the setup it’s a good thing he did when he did; setting everything up afterwards would have been an absolute nightmare.
And like I said, their prudence (and your management of it from then on) continued to pay dividends – quite literally. By the time your mom passed, there was more than enough to allow me to retire, and we could spend all our time together if we wanted. We even got a few trips in before the pandemic broke and the lockdowns went into effect, and we were pretty much insulated from the effects of either. It was a good time, if occasionally stifling by nature. Everything was going well, or set to do so once those ‘two weeks to slow the spread’ were over.
I’ll not go into that bit for now; you know how the story went.
But the thing is, I still remember barely a month before the accident, looking at our statements, and telling you that the dream goal I’d had for us, the one where we could deplete the principal in the amount of my final salary each year through Daniel’s expected lifetime, and still have some amount left over, had actually been reached. We were at ‘rich fool’ levels of savings.
I spent some time in the days after the accident wondering if letting you know about that conclusion might’ve been a factor in you being taken home. I know, it makes no sense (and really, considering I was the one who is concerned about money, I should’ve been the one taken), but I’m of the understanding that that sort of magical thinking isn’t exactly uncommon in a situation like this.
And, in fairness, I still feel guilty about the fact that I am enjoying something that was intended for you to enjoy. It’s one thing for Daniel to be able to; he’s kin to these people. I’m a complete stranger, for all intents and purposes.
God gives great wealth, ·riches [possessions], and honor to some people; they ·have everything [Llack nothing] they want. But God does not let them ·enjoy such things [Leat of it]; a stranger ·enjoys them instead [Leats of it]. This is useless [1:2] and ·very wrong [a sickening evil].Ecclesiastes 6:2, Expanded Bible
And there’s no way for me to right this wrong, as anyone who might be more deserving of this – apart from Daniel – is no longer here to enjoy it as they deserve.