The Practicality of Preparing

The last few months, I’ve been helping my aunt and uncle decide what to do with their manuscripts, correspondence, papers, and library. They’re not planning on leaving the party any time soon, mind you! But it’s good to have a plan, so we’re planning.

They do not have any children, but they helped to raise me – so I am as much their daughter as their niece. I’m also the executor of their will. This means that when the time comes, I’m going to have to be in control at a time when I will feel most lost. And what I do not want during that time are scavengers collectors coming to me, looking to buy things (manuscripts, first editions, whatever) and potentially arguing about things when I will be (if history is any indication) barely able to decide what to have for breakfast, let alone what to do with 50 years of author’s papers.

So we are in talks with an institution to possibly set something up wherein pretty much everything (except the cookbooks, Pete, did we talk about that? Because I will fight you! Or just invite you and your family for dinner… a lot….) will go to them. And I just absolutely fucking love this idea.

I love it because it rests their minds. Not that I’m a “I’ll just throw away all this shit” person, but they have put years and heart and soul into what they have, and I imagine that knowing it will go to A Place, where people who want to will be able to access it, rather than into storage until gawd knows what happens, must be a weight off their shoulders. They don’t have to worry about burdening anyone. The people that want what they have are extremely excited.

I love it because it rests my mind. I don’t have to sort through it, to Marie Kondo everything, to look through paper after paper and feel the weight of ghosts as I sort things into a bunch of piles that I’ll have to make more decisions about. Ghosts, in case you’ve never sorted through the ephemera left behind after a loved one’s passing, are very heavy.

I love it because the people who are asking for it are not just librarians but enthusiastic science fiction and pop culture fans. I’ve met them, since I’ll be the one they’ll be dealing with, and they are all absolutely lovely, funny, genuine, smart, thrilling people. One of them reminded me soooooooooo very much of Tim’s mom (also a librarian) that I’m really hoping there might be a time in the future where they meet. I think they’d get along like a house on fire!

I love it because it lets me off the hook with people who might come around after Aunt Gay and Uncle Joe leave the party, looking to buy stuff up. I am enamored with the idea of being able to say “so sorry, it’s all already taken care of.” I’m not saying that everyone who comes around will be a vulture, but I know how people behave, and I would not be surprised to see at least one person hoping to get a bargain on something collectible by pulling one over on the remaining grieving relatives. Not that I’m an easy mark! But I know I will not be at my best, and this is just like… insurance.

I love it because the same place is also interested in what I have of my dad’s papers, and I love that even in death, part of the brothers would still be in the same place. Some people can go to a graveyard… I’ll be able to go to library to feel my family still around me.

Not that I ever pass up a good graveyard trip!

So. That’s just been on my mind, since we met with another person from the library last week. Planning. Preparing. Being practical.

Do you and your family have a plan?

3 comments

  1. Lore,
    Good on yo for taking all this on! Even better that it’s self-organizing this way.
    If the chance presents itself be sure to watch the Masterpiece presentation of Any Human Heart by William Boyd.
    The story of a man’s life from English private school to the Cold War.At the end the wonderful Jim Broadbent plays him as an old man and sorts and BURNS his way thru his papers ending up with one last posthumous bestseller.
    It is a wonderful story, worth the time. I thought of someone we knew when I saw it. Skinnier though.

  2. (Long comment ahead)

    I love this. All of it. I love that y’all are thinking ahead, and I especially love that all those things that aren’t just “things” are going to be taken care of in a way that they can continue to be “more” not just for your family but others.

    It reminds me of something a patient told me that I’ll never forget. He had such a wonderful, positive attitude, wanted to get up and go go go as much as he could every day, and I had commented on that. He told me that he was aware he was going to die, and he was prepared. Everything he had owned had been transferred to his wife and children’s names. They wouldn’t have to worry about a single thing legally or financially. But despite being prepared, he wasn’t in a hurry to leave this world. He said (and this is what will always stick with me), “Let me put it to you this way: My bags are all packed, but I’m taking the last bus out of town.”

    So kudos to you for helping pack the bags. Make sure they wait on that last bus. xoxo

  3. I so-o need to work on this. Not that my family has an extensive literary legacy, but more that we need to figure out who gets what family heirloom or what goes to the estate sale. And that everyone’s happy with what goes where – my brother & I have already had preliminary discussions about this. Now to get the parents on board.

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