Where There’s a Will, There’s Two Smarter People Than We Are

I spend considerable time fretting over dying in a plane crash. The only other irrational concern I possibly direct as much worried energy to is being attacked by a shark. It goes without saying that the most unsavory of death scenarios would leave me swimming out of a crunched fuselage flooding with ocean water, arteries emptying into a red slick around me, while Great Whites nudge my torso. If left to ponder that thought too long my right eyelid begins to twitch in a discotheque-like staccato and I have to call the Fandango hotline just so that soothing voice can restore a little tranquility. Because I’m given to breathing into a bag aboard commercial flights, I’ve developed a panoply of rituals that help me to endure an airplane ride from my seat rather than on the pilot’s lap with a headset tuned to Air Traffic Control and the Weather Channel. These coping mechanisms include wearing sneakers, non-flammable cottons, and referring to my husband as Liam Neeson.  My husband, G, says this derives from a need to control my surroundings and manage outcomes that are essentially out of my hands. He claims the definition of micro-managing is trying to negotiate every detail into the grave.

I say why stop at the grave? I have way more pressing concerns than the age I draw my last breath (104), and the manner in which I perish (choking on a baguette whilst in Paris at 104), and who writes my eulogy (Carrie Fisher). These matters pale in comparison to those I have after I leave this plane.

We have three children who must be cared for. They will need a mother figure to counsel them, and carry them when necessary, through the travails of adolescence. If that plane crashes or that shark snaps, I fear that my influence over what the kids see, hear, and feel is going to wane dramatically from my location in a DMV-like purgatory. “Who will allow Dom to twirl her hair till tears spring from her eyes from the pull on her scalp?” I ask G breathlessly in the middle of the night. “Who will know exactly which way Eve likes to wear her clothes so that she doesn’t take them all off in the school yard?” I point out as I dress her for the twenty-second time in an afternoon. “No one will know the way Liv likes to be held when she’s to too fussy to smile but not enough to sleep,” I remark as I lug her through the house, perched on my forearm. “Who, for Christ’s sake, will allow three children to sleep in their bed with them?” I groan while untangling my limbs and taking stock of a bed so littered with humans that it could only be found in a Lady Gaga video.

G is not consumed with trifling conversations like these. He is protected from foreboding by a callus of invincibility. When the plane shudders, he reclines his seatback – which fearful flyers know is like a big middle finger to the gods of aviation – and has another drink. When we swim in the ocean, he doesn’t even flinch when I scream, “I think I saw a fin, maybe nine of them actually!” And when I tell him that it’s high time we sit down and map a plan for the future of our kids, he thinks it’s absurd to consider one in which we’re not present. He trusts that we’ll be there for every sandwich, every joke, and each bout of illness. And if, through some tragic fluke of fate, we are not, he feels secure in the belief that each member of our collective families will suddenly rise to the occasion, certificates in Infant First Aid and Early Childhood Development magically manifesting, to take in our brood and love them exactly as we would have. In fact, I think he invests so strongly in the adage ‘It takes a village to raise a child,’ that he believes our families will actually secede from the U.S.A. as a new protectorate, complete with its own postal code, city council, and Subway franchise, to shepherd our kids into adulthood.

When I married a lawyer, I thought I was moving on to Easy Street when it came to tax filings, parking citations, and how to respond to those to class action law suit notices that arrive in the mail all the time. I figured every decision would be managed with neat compacts and Last Will and Testaments. Yet, somehow, despite our children and my highly prized collection of Electric Youth perfume bottles, we do not have a will. We have no tangible directive as to the landing place of our children should we both die. G defaults to irritating, esoteric-Field-Of-Dreams mantras when pressed, “If the times arrives, the clear choice will emerge from the haze.” It’s not as clear to me when I see candidates who are too old…too young…too settled with their own families…too unsettled…too unmarried…too committed to life without children…too living on a submarine.

And, for the record, Kevin Costner sucked in that movie. And every other movie he’s been in.

In an effort to inspire G to codify my wishes for the family, I’ve resorted to pitiful attempts to strike fear into his mind about the fragility of life. A pulsation in my calf becomes Restless Leg Syndrome which morphs to a Central Nervous System failure which intensifies to a terminal brain tumor. All in the space of one Khloe & Lamar episode. Major world events, like the slaughter of Osama Bin Laden, become the backdrop for our own imminent death. “That could have been us. And then what would become of the children…” I warn with a grim expression. “What could have been us?  A wanted international terrorist holed up in a Pakistani compound, shot by Navy Seals?” G asks incredulously.  I remind him that my brother is, in fact, a Navy Seal and probably desired to shoot me most of our childhood and that I gave a Pakistani exchange student a television once.

Every place we visit becomes a landmine ready to combust. What if this grocery store is held up and a bullet pierces us through a box of Twinkies? What if I choke on my food and you attempt the Heimlich, but I elbow you in the windpipe because I hate anyone touching my waist? What if we die from…Lice. Non-profit fundraisers. Garage sales. Silent auctions. Yams. The self-checkout line at the grocery store. Crustaceans. Holiday gift exchanges. Car washes. Wearing Lycra.

Know what else is deadly?

Living without a will.

And fuckin’ airplanes and sharks.

(Am I alone here? Are you freaked out about what to do with your kids should you both die? Do you have a will?)


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37 thoughts on “Where There’s a Will, There’s Two Smarter People Than We Are

  1. I’ve been working on a will for the past two years, and keep massively editing it. Right now it’s the most-basic form it’s ever taken.

    My inane fear with death is that the muscles of the body relax…and you crap yourself (possibly also urinate yourself, but for some reason, the crapping is the only part that concerns me greatly).

    Breann has always just looked on in amazed and confused wonder at my fear of dying…and crapping myself. Not so much dying…but the resulting excrement.

    I once tried to convince her that, should I die in her presence, she’d appreciate the concern as well…at which point she looked at me like I was speaking irrationally and moved the conversation on to another topic.

    (however, when I pointed out that she gets all the iStuff upon my departing the earth, she was all “oooooh!”)

  2. Oh my god. I’m hyperventilating while reading this. I am OBSESSED with the fact that my husband and I don’t have a will, especially since we’re all going on our first plane trip to Mexico in 2 weeks. Literally every DAY lately I’ve been like, “What if we both die in a plane crash but LJ LIVES?!?”. One of our biggest problems is that we can’t pick who else we’d want to raise her! It’s pathetic. Seriously: there is nobody we’d trust. Our parents are old; our sisters wouldn’t want her; all our friends have issues of some kind…. we’re effed. Poor kid.

  3. I have nary a clue what will become of my children. We’ve talked about it. We know we should make some descioins, but I think I default to G’s stance. God/my mother as long as she’s not dead then my sister or Hubster’s kin or the nice man who always give the kids sickers at the grocery store will provide.

    I don’t think I come from a family of worriers—I come from a family whose motto is “There’s no problem too small to run away from.”

    Electric Youth. Holy cow. I think my bra just reverted to training size. Oh wait, it’s already that size. But still, blast from the adolescent past!

    Also, I think we are very similar writers, style-wise. Naturally I think you are very gifted. Granted I make more typos and use too many commas. Thoughts?

  4. Also you’re smarter and have a bigger vocabulary and a larger collection of pop star signature scents. Otherwise, idetnical styles.

  5. Surprisingly, I’ve never seriously (there have been moments when I’m mad at everyone) worried about who’ll get v if I’m not there. What I am worried about is people calling me back to refree because I didn’t state anything in my non-existent will.
    However, when any member of my immediate family of 5 gets on a plane (which isabout once in 15 days or less), I’m worried sick till they land safely. The best part is, nobody knows this.

  6. I made my will before my kid so the cats will go to my mom but the kid, who knows. I don’t have a really good answer.

  7. We have a will. And actually updated it when we had the second child. I chose the financially wealthy sibling, because, Duh – they can pay for boarding school and trips and shit!

  8. My husband do not have a will either. And he could not be less concerned about it. I think that I will have to just have one made myself and then just bring it for him to sign.

  9. So I guess I can’t get you to come scuba diving with me? I have even dove with sharks.

    My sister (bless her heart) is going to take our kids should something happen to us…like you know, if we get eaten by sharks while we are scuba diving.

  10. Dude,
    You said “fuck.” I am so proud of you, baby girl. It makes my heart hurt.

    No, we don’t have a will. It’s on my to-do list. And the funny thing is? I have a post in the pipe-line about it! We’re on top of a hot new trend: who to give our children to upon expiring.

    And the Field of Dreams line? Priceless.
    God bless.

  11. We have a will. Basically if the husband goes before me, I get everything and the child. If I die too, everything goes to his parents, and then his eldest brother, including guardianship. There, I’ve just given you the order in which to take us out one by one to get my son’s inheritance. Which is probably not much yee ha!

    Oh and I too have fears that I will die horrifically, before my time (105). I usually envision something scarier like car crash. Eeeek.

  12. Yup, it’s lawyers – We don’t have a will either. Actually, I don’t think any of the lawyers I know have a will. Awesome. BUT YOU NEED ONE PAY ME BIG MONEY TO CREATE YOUR ESTATE PLAN.

    Anyway, we’ve made decisions about who the girl will go to, and I am CONSTANTLY telling EVERYONE that I want every. single. bit. of life support if something happens to me. I want to live FOREVER until they find the cure for what is trying to kill me. No Terry Schaivo shenanigans for me.

    PS Your writing is amazing.

  13. We don’t have a will and we do worry about that now that we have Logan. Now that we have chosen Godparents who are in completely different families, I see a movie much like that new terrible Katherine Heigle movie… Donald and Kelly have to live together and raise Logan and try to raise him in the same batshit crazy way we were (are).
    I guess if Donald happens to be there when I die he will get a confirmation on the amount of time it takes to crap yourself. Immediate? An hour?
    Also, I super hate flying too. And long car trips. So traveling isn’t my favorite thing…

  14. We’ve been planning to put together a will once we have kids (that is also when we’ll start caring about our life insurance).
    Then again, it seems most people I know with children have had this exact same plan, and just… don’t.
    I’m sure it’s partially due to an even SMALLER desire to think about what will happen when you die (a friend says she can’t even fathom the thought of her daughter having to live without her, which she realizes isn’t the best way to ensure for the safety of that possible future), and partially due to the fact that when you have kids, you’re busybusybusy, and then suddenly, hey, they’re way older, when the hell did that happen?

    that being said, maybe we should start thinking about it now. Pre-kids. And not send anything official to a lawyer until we’re preggo. Maybe.

  15. We totally just wrote our will this week. Basically I went on strike, refusing to road-trip to Maine or give birth to our second child until the will is written in triplicate. And while he’d have been fine going to Maine on his own – the prospect of me remaining pregnant? Was enough to scare the man into a lawyer’s office pronto.

  16. To Donald: Ya know what’s worse than shitting your pants when you die? Accidentally pinching a loaf on the table while laboring to deliver a baby in a room full of nurses, midwives, doctors, and your HUSBAND — all while fully alive, horrifically mortified, and wracked with excruciating pain. Not that I have any personal experience with any of this…

  17. Oh, the will. So my roommate is a lawyer. And she has been doggedly pursuing us about our will. So before we went to CA, we had her draw one up.

    I was white-knuckling my way through the whole flight. B/c I am POSITIVE I’m like “Wee ‘Burb is all set, take me now, Universe.”

    Which I understand is counter-intuitive. But, there’s just something so ooky about it. I totally cried when I signed it.

    But? I’m sleeping better know it’s there. Esp b/c we kiiiinda didn’t tell all of our family our plans on who gets the baby. Wonh wonh WONH! That’s only a fight if we’re dead, right? RIGHT!

  18. Ack! We don’t have a will either. It’s pathetic. My husband and I both KNOW that we need a will. We talk about it all the time. Like you said, there aren’t perfect alternates for us because no one knows everything about our children like we do. I love how you managed to talk about such a serious topic while making me laugh out loud. The part about G. getting knocked in the windpipe had me giggling for a while. Actually…still giggling.

  19. So know I have two things in my head! That Debbie Gibson song and the fact that I too do not have a will. So now we are the Electric Middle-Aged ( not yet?!) and needing to get our neurosis and papers’ in order. We have talked to my in-laws of taking the girls in ,ifever that should happen to us and they have responded in a kind of”yes but,we really really hope that never happens! Ok lets stop talking about it! “Thisbeing said, it does suck to grow up and think about topics like this. I used to LOVE to fly and now am so stressed whenever I have to fly with my girls, especially when I’m doing it alone. I just fear the worst. I don’t care if I crash but they have so much to see and do. So I picture that map of the US whenever there are storms or whatever and think of all the little red dots that represent all the flights in the air at any given moment over the US. Not too many actually crash. And I hear that punching a shark in the snout will maybe make him think twice about eating you but i’d rather not have to find out!

  20. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud as I read this. Not because this is a concern, truly, but because I have so been there! I too loved Electric Youth with its funky bottle and color, and Debbie Gibson still has a favored place on my Zune.

    I fly reluctantly and clutch my cross in my hand during take-off and landing. I pray silently but strangers have told me they read my lips and wonder if God listens to prayers that contain swear words. I still clutch and pray.

    As for the will…

    They have great DIY kits. Maybe you should just buy one and put your fears to rest.

    {Thanks for the post! Your writing is fabulous.}

  21. We don’t have a will.

    I’ve always assumed Carrie Fisher and Liam Neeson would raise my kids after I meet my untimely death…

    Which will surely involve spiders and “surprise glitter” that falls out of envelopes.

    Yep. We’re been playing fast and loose with our futures out here in southern California, too.

    But sharks like warm water, right? And the Pacific is cold. So there’s that.

  22. First of all, if you plan to live til 104, I would call Carrie Fisher to write the eulogy— NOW. Girl is not going to last that long.

    Secondly, I do not have a will. But my husband reminds me constantly that we need to make one. I say— that’s your department— do it.

    Thirdly, yams are not dangerous. They are delicious. Radishes, however— deadly.

  23. Dude. Your effing hilarious! How in tarnation did I not know that when I was snapping your Instagram photo at BBC Boston?! Wanna know what’s scarier than airplanes, and possibly even sharks? Space. Outer. Freakin. Space. Scare my pants clean off. Right up their with time travel and the space time continuum (what ever that even is). I don’t trust words with double u in them, and I don’t like things that give me a headache when I try to wrap my mind around them. I like thinks that make sense. Like cupcakes. And lattes. And the super cute sandals I want hubby to buy me for my birthday next week:). Glad your plane hasn’t crashed, that you’ve not been attacked by sharks, and that Kevin Costner doesn’t make movies anymore anyway. Did he get eaten by sharks?

  24. And forgive my “your” in the previous comment. I want to time travel back to 3 seconds ago, pull a hangnail, and jump in a pool of hungry sharks. Seriously, it bothers me that much.

  25. You two better start working on this because who in the hell is going to take 4 kids 4 and under. That’s right 4. I plan on sending Hank to live with you after I’m sent to prison for going homicidal in the self check-out.

  26. I think it’s fate that the first time I come here I read a post about your fear of flying! I have always been afraid to fly. Way worse than the white-knuckle flying.

    I avoided airplanes like the plague. I’m finally at a place in my life where I can get on a plane and go somewhere but that doesn’t mean I’m any less scared. I’ve just learned how to control the fear. A mixed tape program called “SOAR”. For realz.

    Anyway, I suffer from generalized anxiety disorder ON TOP OF my other crazy diagnoses (yes, that’s plural).

    I think I’m going to like you and your blog :)

  27. Don’t joke about non-profit fundraiser. I’m pretty sure they are, in fact, out to get us.

  28. First of all, this was an awesome post. No big shock there.
    Secondly, DO YOUR FRIGGIN WILL!!!! Russ and I did ours when G was about six-months old, because my neuroses are apparently WAY more convincing than yours. I told him either one of us could die at any moment, leaving the other with a child and no money. Or both of us could die in simultaneous accidents, leaving our child with no money and leaving our families to fight over who will raise him.
    We did the whole shebang… Life insurance, living trust, and the other stuff I can’t remember.
    Just start the process with a lawyer he really hates. That’ll get him off his ass.

  29. The class action law suits??? You do need a Will though, sharks and planes aside. I’m a lawyer, an Australian one, I know, but still a lawyer, right? And Costner was not that bad in Field of Dreams… Was he? PS – must get our Wills done THIS WEEK!!! Cannot believe I blinked and missed like a month of your blog!

  30. I keep saying we need a will too! We have 2 kids, and no will. I actually bought some do-it-yourself software at Costco, like 3 mos. ago and was so proud of myself. I figure its better to have a do it yourself will than no will. It’s still in the box. :(

  31. Lady, we might be soulmates as far as airplane fright is concerned. I completely understand trying to control my surroundings because you can’t control the situation!

    I don’t have a will right now, but after fiance and I get married in a week and a half, we should probably, you know, get on that.