After I’m gone, take out the garbage
BY KAREN L. RANCOURT
“How often do you clean that?” asked my husband Gary. He was referring to the air cooler that is unique to vent-less clothes dryers, one of which we have in our home.
“Why,” I asked, “are you wondering how to clean it if I die before you?”
“Well, yes,” he replied, “I know how to clean the lint filter, but I don’t know what to do about that air cooler.”
This exchange triggered a what-if-I-die-first conversation about how each of us needed to make a list of our individual household responsibilities and how to fulfill them so that the survivor could carry on after the demise of the other.
Granted, this is not a particularly cheery topic, but after 51 years of marriage, and having taken my own advice about taking care of our legal matters to make things easier for our family members after Gary and I are both gone, this conversation was easy and comfortable for us.
This exchange triggered a what-if-I-die-first conversation.
Statistically, Gary should predecease me by 5 to 10 years, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, but we all know of cases where this gender prediction didn’t hold up. (If you want a quick explanation on why women live longer than men, I suggest an article posted by the World Economic Forum.)
Like many couples, Gary and I have a division of labor. I take care of daily financial matters, taxes, and household equipment. Gary takes care of all our technical/digital needs, our sports equipment, and portfolio matters. We have detailed these tasks for each other.
A stroll through each room and our garage with pad and pencil in hand helped us expand our lists of things we do that the other is not aware of or simply doesn’t think about. For example, looking at the refrigerator reminded me that I annually order and install the water filter. Looking at the car reminded Gary to teach me how to check the tire pressure and how to add air.
Our lists will no doubt change over time, but meanwhile, we take comfort in planning ahead so that life’s inevitable transitions will be as smooth as possible for each other and our family. This is a gift grandparents can easily and lovingly give each other.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Karen L. Rancourt, Ph.D., writes an advice column for parents and grandparents at Mommybites.com and is the author of Ask Dr. Gramma Karen, Volume II: Savvy Advice to Help Soothe Parent-Grandparent Conflicts.