Dear Children: there will be no inheritance, but I’m leaving you the most valuable thing of all!

It’s love. Yup, that’s what I’m leaving you. There will also be a large collection of old books, some decent art work I’ve accumulated, tons of photos, and a comfy sofa but that pretty much sums it up. Just in case you were counting on ocean front property or a huge financial windfall of some sort, I figured I should let you know now, the bulk of my estate consists of love, and a smattering of hope, but that’s it.

I hope that’s enough for them. It’s going to have to be. There were days it was all I could do to hang onto even that. We all know people who have given up on love. They aren’t just taking a break, or spending time finding themselves, they have just given up completely on the dating thing, pulled out of the race for good, have decided that being alone is better, forever. That seems so sad to me but we’ve all given up on something haven’t we. We’ve all been disappointed by something in life and have vowed never to go back there again.

For me it’s home ownership, the American Dream, a raised ranch, two cars, a healthy 401K and nice savings account for emergencies. It feels secure when you have it, it really does, until someone pulls the rug out from under you. After you’ve learned a few times that nothing in this life is ever secure, you stop believing in it, for good, and sometimes then you realize it’s not actually what you ever really wanted in the first place. Maybe that’s why it never worked, never felt quite right.

When my children were small, it was very important to me to have a “home” for them, a place they could always go back to, a place where we hung the stockings in the exact same spot every Christmas, a place where the grandkids could visit and climb the same tree out back each of them climbed as children. I have built two homes for my children, one with their father and one with their stepfather. Each time I believed it was the house I would grow old in. Each time I believed my grandchildren would visit me there one day. Each time I sacrificed time, money, blood, sweat and tears for a building I no longer live in.

Turns out it’s not actually about the building is it. My children have wonderful memories of childhood based on the things we did together, on the fun times we shared, on the love we shared, not on the wallpaper in the dining room or the new insulation in the attic. It doesn’t matter, at all! They don’t remember that the mortgage was paid on time every month, or that we got a great deal on the new roof, although all those things seemed so important at the time.

No, they remember the time we woke them up in the middle of the night and drove just outside the city to lay in a field and look at the meteor showers. They remember snow days, and sledding, and cuddling together on the couch to watch movies. They remember long trips to the beach and boat rides to the island and special dinners made just for their birthdays! Those are the things that last. Those are the things that count!

I’ve been thinking about grandchildren a lot lately because my oldest daughter is getting married in a few weeks and it seems like the next logical step. I know so many people my age who already have grandchildren, not that I’m in any hurry by the way, but who knows! I’ve even started collecting children’s books again, whenever I find a really brilliant one I buy a copy and I stash it away. I’ve wondered what kind of a grandmother I might turn out to be, especially now that the home I’d planned for them to visit me in is no longer part of my life.

No my grandchildren will not visit me and their grandfather in the little house their parents grew up in. Instead, my grandchildren are going to have a Nana that lives in an apartment in the middle of the city, who takes them to parks instead of her own backyard. Their Nana will always drive a ten year old car full of liberal bumper stickers and she won’t care if they scratch it with their bikes! Their Nana will have extra time and money because she won’t be mowing her lawn or refinishing her kitchen and she’ll take them to museums and art shows and outdoor concerts and on long bus trips to places none of us have been before. Their Nana will sometimes bake cookies with them but sometimes she may be too tired because she was out dancing the night before, but hey she knows a good bakery and we’ll have cookies and chocolate milk and long talks about life and love!

Their Nana will take them to fabulous parties and introduce them to all her interesting friends from all walks of life! And their Nana will have a boyfriend, oh I can’t guarantee it will be the same one she has now, because that’s just how life works, but it might be. Who knows what life holds because although their Nana may have given up on some things, she has not given up on life, and she has not given up on love, and I don’t think she ever will because really, what else is there?

A very responsible friend told me recently that she thought I should “tone it down a little.” To which I replied “no, no I don’t think I’m going to!” because I spent years being the responsible one, the one who made sure everyone was taken care of, the one who made sure the bills were paid and everyone had new school clothes. Now it’s time to enjoy myself! I’ve earned it!

When I have grandkids it will be up to their parents to make them eat their vegetables and brush their teeth and up to me to remind them that life is short and unpredictable and to grab every bit of enjoyment they can out of it, at every opportunity! I plan on making sure they know that no matter what happens in life, no matter how many times you are disappointed, you can pick yourself up and brush yourself off and make a new life! I plan on proving to them that loving someone is worth it, every single time you do it, because every kid needs someone in their life to tell them that, even if they don’t believe it until they are old themselves!

I’ve survived a lot in my life and you know what I’ve ended up with, the people. The people who love me and who I love in return are all that really matters. Yes, when you die it might be nice to leave the kids a house, but I’d rather leave them a legacy of love. (Oh, no worries kids, there may be a small inheritance but only what I don’t spend on delicious, decadent living between now and then). I brought them into this world out of love and it’s all I really need to leave them when I’m gone, and it’s enough, it’s more than enough actually, it’s all that we can ever count on, it’s all there really is.


Karen Foley

About Karen Foley

Karen Foley, has successfully been writing her blog for the BDN since May 2011. By successful, she means a few people read it, and she has not been sued, stalked or fired since starting it.