The obituary wasn’t going to be published until the next day, so I had 24 hours to prepare people. My mother said she would come up and talk to the people my grandfather had employed, but we all knew that the next day I was going to be running things in his place.
I was 18, it was a week before my senior prom and roughly a month before high school would end. There I found myself addressing people who knew some day this was going to happen, just not quite as quickly. My grandfather hadn’t been sick, he was however an alcoholic so we may want to redefine “sick”. His death was a surprise in some ways, just sat down and his heart gave out. It had really given out 5 years before when my grandmother had died, but now it was on a piece of paper.
Everyone knew something had to be up. I should have been at school that day, so my presence along with the absence of my grandfather raised some interest. Might not have been such a good idea to have the lawyer meet me there beforehand?
I worshipped my grandfather. No one in my life has ever encouraged me in the ways he did. Sometimes it was brut language and other times just pointing at something I missed.
Everyone knew I had been in a fight with him. My dumb, 18 year old self didn’t understand alcoholism. I had made a scene a few weeks before because I had gotten another phone call saying he was in trouble. I yelled at him. It wasn’t my finest hour.
As people gathered to hear what I had to say, most had figured it out. They had the luxury of being older and wiser. The signs were all there, they just needed confirmation.
Through some miracle of crazy the will had left control to my brother and I. Kids running something only one of us had been trained to do since birth (yeah, that would be me!). The talk was short, I didn’t have the right words. Even today I don’t know the right words when talking about death.
Over the years I’ve done my best. Made choices that haven’t been easy and sometimes not in my own best interest. There have been times when it looked like we might need to close the doors or sell out to someone with deeper pockets. And other times when bonuses felt good to deliver.
When the ex’s parents wanted more information I had to say no. It felt like going through someone’s drawers when they aren’t home. Another of my not finer moments because they never looked at me the same afterwards. Always waiting for what was being hidden. Nothing really, just some failures mixed with some successes, normal business stuff.
When it comes to protecting my family’s interests in anything, I have for the most part swam. But for people on the outside I have sunk to lower levels of confusion and sometimes just plain misdirection. The price paid hasn’t been worth it.
I’m lucky that the terms of my grandfather’s will state that no child of my generation may inherit a thing. It forces the sale, saves my nephew from the hell it has brought to me. Given my own set of circumstances, he’ll never be old enough to understand any of this. It’ll just be some paper he reads when he becomes old enough to not have to sound out some words.
The successes have always been the people who work for us, the failures have always been mine to bear. So maybe I have done both, sink and swim?