Monday, January 08, 2007

You work hard all your life...

My cousin NJ, son of the late BJ, is executor of AH's will and has reported on its contents. Twenty percent of the estate goes to NJ, and the rest to the late BJ—in other words, to the greedy, grasping, manipulative bitch who is BJ's widow. There was no mention of my father nor even of BJ's other child in the will. And with that the story ends, goodbye flight logs. (It would have been hard enough to take possession of them had we been there.)

Except that the story doesn't end there.

My father wrote an eulogy which will be read by his cousin (who, by the way, tried to get my parents to engage a lawyer to challenge NJ's handling of the estate. Pah) at the funeral on Thursday, and he sent me a copy. He mentions playing in the street with friends when AH came home one day from work, and gave them a few pennies—a fortune then, of course, in a child's eyes—to buy sweets, and said that this was typical of the man. True enough, that is how I knew him: generous to a fault.

Well, that happened in 1936. AH was born in 1922. We count on our fingers and discover that AH was a "working man" at age fourteen if not earlier. (Given the methods of the English school system at the time, he probably left at age twelve.)

AH worked at least six days a week for at least seventy years.

Where did it get him? How large was the fortune that AH accumulated in those seventy years of daily toil?

In all probability he has left a bankrupt estate. Certain is that he owned no property, the shops and their residence were rented (which I never knew); that his bank accounts were practically empty (he borrowed £2,000 from my parents a few months back); and that he owed £10,000 in back rent. He left two businesses (small local shops) which in theory could be sold, if one could find a buyer, and an enormous collection of jazz LP's in near-mint condition. The accountant is still working on the details, but the general picture is clear and grim.

Poor AH. First Pat died before they had taken even one of the retirement trips they planned, then ... well, we shall never really know what happened then. My presumption is that he discovered that selling the businesses would not cover his retirement costs, and so was trapped into continuing to get up at 4am seven days a week to sort newspapers.

Which is, of course, just my interpretation; and I haven't seen him since about 1998 so I can't really speak for his state of mind. I cannot believe that anyone who owes that amount of money, and lives with that amount of uncertainty, can be happy and content (though I readily believe that people who owe many millions sleep quite well at night). I think that I would be miserably unhappy were I in that position (which God forbid!), and it saddens me beyond words to remember him in his mid-fifties, throwing a stick for the dogs to chase in Bushey Park or shaking hands with the musicians in Ronnie Scott's, and then to consider how his life ended.

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Blogger Lioness said...

Still hard to believe what people will do for money, even within a family - well, especially within a family.

The poor man, imagine having to work till you die! Poor, poor man, that must have been one nightmare come true. I'll light an extra shabbat candle for him, doesn't help at all, of course, but it breaks my heart to think of him this destitute when he should be enjoying his last years, in security at last. Not fair.

January 8, 2007 at 1:28:00 p.m. GMT+1  
Blogger Savtadotty said...

It's often the case that the nicest of men marry awful women. Perhaps your uncle's businesses allowed him to avoid spending more time with her? (I developed this theory about my late brother's devotion to his profession.)

January 8, 2007 at 1:41:00 p.m. GMT+1  
Blogger Udge said...

Yes, very not fair. Thank you for the candle, it's a touching gesture. I shall do the same.

Savtadotty, I expressed myself badly. The awful bitch is BJ's widow. AH's wife died twenty years ago, and she was a lovely kind generous woman. (You're right in so far as BJ's job involved a lot of international travel for weeks on end :-)

January 8, 2007 at 8:08:00 p.m. GMT+1  
Anonymous arevik said...

people like your uncle are kind of heroes, the only real ones, i think... courageous till the end.
they make one deeply thankful for whatever one's got from destiny. But the lp collection lets me think that this man had great joys in his life too, and that's beautiful to know it.

January 8, 2007 at 11:19:00 p.m. GMT+1  
Blogger brooksba said...

It is too bad that he had to work until his death; I hope he did have joys that filled him. I don't believe debt to be a restriction on happiness. It doesn't cause happiness, but maybe he found happiness elsewhere.

I'm thinking special thoughts for your family at this time.

January 9, 2007 at 12:22:00 a.m. GMT+1  
Blogger zhoen said...


I am so sorry, this part of his story cannot be easing your grief, nor your father's. But someone who has worked all his life might well have not been able to retire. Oh, I'm sure he wanted to, certainly deserved to, but could he really have enjoyed it?

Just a thought, for your peace of mind. My condolences, such as they are.

January 9, 2007 at 2:28:00 p.m. GMT+1  
Blogger CarpeDM said...

I tried commenting yesterday but blogger was evil. Anyway, I'm glad you have good memories of him, that's always important.

January 10, 2007 at 8:58:00 p.m. GMT+1  
Blogger Udge said...

Thank you again, my dears.

Zhoen, you may well be right that he wouldn't have wanted to give up working. It made him a part of the community, kept him in touch with everyone. Still, there's a difference between wanting to continue and being unable to stop. Ach, who knows?

January 10, 2007 at 11:25:00 p.m. GMT+1  

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