If I could pass on just one nugget
of wisdom I've gleaned from this life to my children, it would be this...
QUALITY PEOPLE are the most important factors in your life.
Therefore, you should choose who you let into your life very, very carefully.
Is the person honest? Loyal? Hard working? Moral? Kind?
Fair weather friends will catch the first bus out when others turn on you.
Good time Charlies will go POOF when the money runs out.
And the faint of heart will fade out of your life when your health fails.
Sickness may come no matter how carefully you live your life.
The last few people I've seen fall ill were proactive and vigilant.
They were also medical professionals. It happens.
Poverty can strike faster than you think, as well.
Losing a job, a catastrophic illness, a lawsuit can take everything in a flash.
You are not the Master of your fate, as you may have believed.
Good drivers are only as safe as the thousands of others on the same road.
So when bad things happen, what matters most?
The people who are strong enough to stick around are what matters.
Quality People don't run when the really tough times come.
They don't leave you because, after all, they have to "have a life."
If you start a relationship, don't make excuses for bad behavior.
You don't deserve to be called names.
You don't deserve to be mocked.
You don't deserve to be stood up.
You don't deserve to have your secrets shared.
You don't deserve to do more than half the work.
Quality people are not necessarily highly educated, attractive or wealthy.
Nor do they have to know where a salad fork goes on the table.
Or have a perfect command of grammar.
Quality People are hard to find, so keep looking.
And don't settle.
It will be worth the wait in the end.
My friend had a spinster aunt who was fond of saying, "Money isn't important."
Auntie was an R.N. who found steady work as a private duty maternity nurse to the local wealthy. She was frugal by nature, but gave to her church and certain charities. She didn't give quietly. And Auntie gave many the impression she helped support her elderly parents, with whom she lived.
Auntie was the youngest of three children, and the only daughter of first generation immigrants. Mother was Irish, and it was from her German father that she learned her frugality.
It wasn't the custom in those days for a girl to continue her education after high school. Fortuitious circumstances (Mother was the beneficiary of a modest life insurance policy) allowed for Auntie to get an advanced education denied to her two older brothers. The parish priest suggested Auntie would make an excellent nurse. In those days, a priest's advice was Gospel. And so Aunty applied to, and was accepted at, a Catholic hospital nursing school a short train ride away.
The Great Depression was winding down just as Auntie earned her cap. Maternity nurses, R.N.s who took care of new mothers and newborns in the home, were all the rage in those days. Auntie loved her job, and her well-to-do lady clients appreciated her garrulous personality and the conscientious, professional care she gave to both them and their babies.
Life was good. Father retired from his Bell Telephone job after almost fifty years of service. In addition to his pension, he had a strongbox full of Bell stock the he kept hidden behind behind his workbench in the cellar. Father fished, did odd jobs around the house, and picked up and dropped off Auntie from the homes where she was "on a case." Mother worked cleaning and cooking during the day and went to Church Bingo several nights a week. Brother 2 slowly recovered from the near fatal wounds he'd received during the Invasion of Normandy, and Brother I was settled into family life in New York City with his wife and two children. World War II ended and happy days were beginning.
Auntie slowly accumulated a considerable nest egg. Not even her parents were aware of how much because she kept her finances to herself. (One can save an awful lot of money living at home while working!) Auntie's life consisted of cherry picking maternity cases, going to the movies and dining with girlfriends, doing an occasional chore about the house and, in general, living a very pleasant and secure life.
Decades passed in contentment. In her mid-forties Auntie fell in love with a local businessman. She was rapturuously happy, and he was just as smitten. Neither had ever been married and both appreciated this unexpected romance. But Boyfriend passed of a heart attack shortly after the couple announced their engagement. For the first time in her life, Auntie knew despair.
It was around this time that Father and Mother reached their eighties. Although they were in good shape for their age, their decline was on the horizon. Auntie began to weep about what would happen to her when they passed. She'd lived with her parents all her life. The house was her the only home she'd ever had. What, she asked Father, would happen if her siblings (or their wives) laid claim to the house "someday"?
A lawyer was summoned to the house for a family meeting. The brothers, pitying their weeping sister, signed away any claim on their childhood home and any inheritance they may have been eligible to receive.
A few years later her parents passed away about six months apart. Both were in their 90th year. Mother passed away peacefully in her sleep in March and, six months later, Father suffered fatal aortic aneurysm. Their passing was quick and merciful - and economical. Neither was ill long enough to acquire any substantial medical bills.
Auntie inherited a house and Father's considerable fortune. She was fifty-three years of age. Auntie took a year off to recuperate from her loss. Maternity nurse jobs were far and few between, adn so she took a job as a head nurse in a home for the aged. A driver from the home picked her up each evening and dropped her each morning, no charge.
The homestead was beginning to show wear and tear, and Auntie made no efforts toward a spruce up. She appeared to be struggling to make ends meet, a woman on her own, after all. Brother 2, now widowed, moved in with her after his retirement from a NYC job. Brother 1, still raising children, contributed to the household expenses when he could. He, along with nearby nieces and nephews, drove Auntie everywhere: "Why should I learn how to drive with so many family members with cars living nearby?"
Boyfriend 2, seventeen years her senior, entered Auntie's life a few years after she became parentless. She'd known him and his wife most of her life, and had bonded when the man hired her to care for his bed ridden wife years before. Eventually his wife passed and Auntie and the Boyfriend 2began to "keep company." Boyfriend 2 waswas childless and a well preserved seventy-something. He liked nice clothers, nice cars, and had a fine home with beautiful, uncarpeted slippery hardwood steps. (A fall on these steps, and a broken hip, contributed to his wife's demise.)
Boyfriend 2 was well set financially: he'd been a railroader and his wife a teacher.
Auntie and Boyfriend 2 went out to dinner at least 5 nights a week. (What else do you do at that age?) Time went on, she retired, and both Boyfriend 2 and Brother 2 passed on. Both of these men in her life had seen her weep pathetically about what would happen to her when they passed. And so Boyfriend 2 made Auntie the sole beneficiary of his sizeable estate. Brother 2 rewrote his will to make sure his estate was divided equally three ways. He had two children. You guessed it.
Aunty was now in her middle seventies. For anyone else, living alone might mean an empty life, but Auntie kept busy. Her nursing career had lead to many friendships, which she maintained. She now filled her time with phone calls and writing notes and occasional trips to shop and to Church. (The niece up the street inherited the job of chauffeur).
One regular recipient of her notes was an elderly cousin in Philadelphia. The whole family had always suspected that Cousin was well off: he and his mother, with whom he lived until her death at age 90, had always worked and lived very simply. Cousin had never married nor had children, and was, quite possibly, gay. Auntie would write to him at least once a month (rarely a phone call and never invitation to visit). She always ended her notes with an allusion to the fact that they were the last two left in the family.
When Cousin passed at age 87, alone in his Philadelphia walk-up apartment, he wasn't missed right away. His bloated body was found three weeks after he took his last breath by a concerned landlord. The landlord went through his mail looking for next of kin clues. Voila! There was one of Auntie's notes with her return address and, of course, the mention of their blood relationship. She was, naturally, notified of Cousin's death.
Auntie went to her lawyer. Was she aware of any other surviving relatives? She told him she was, to the best of her knowledge, the only surviving cousin. He instructed her that someone needed to go to the deceased cousin's apartment and search for valuables and papers. The nieces and nephews were recruited with a promise that, if there was any money, it would be divided equally with them. The apartment was, by the time nieces and nephews got there, a flop house for crack addicts. Broken glass and pulled-out drawers covered the floor. But the trip was worth it: Nieces and Nephews found several Certificates of Deposit hidden behind pictures.
Eventually all of Cousin's money became Auntie's... a cool quarter of a million dollars. But the Nieces and Nephews who'd dug through the needle-infested rubble never got their share. You see, once Auntie realized her cut would be the same whether she gave 75% away to Nieces and Nephews or to the three remaining relatives she's "forgotten about", and who were legally entitled to that money, her memory because very clear. After all, they could come after her if they ever found out she'd cheated them, couldn't they?
Only her lawyer knows how much she was worth when she passed because, not wanting anyone to know, she left a token amount to Nieces and Nephews. The remainder she had placed in a trust for charties and seminarians to say "perpetual Masses" for her soul, Cousin's, and the others she'd inherited from.
Auntie was such a good Catholic girl. And, really, money isn't important, after all.
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I was never really a big fan of Amy Winehouse while she was alive. Yes, I, like everyone else in America, heard her most famous song, Rehab. ("But I said NO, NO, NO.") Most people would admit it was a very catchy song. But, like most celebrities, she was just a face with a name.
Funny when you can't sleep and you start researching people who barely create a blip on your radar. But we at Nippies found ourself doing just that one night. And it was dismaying to realize how young, healthy and vibrant Amy Winehouse was just a few short years before the tabloids captured her with missing teeth, scabbed skin, and far too few pounds on her overall unhealthy body.
I could go into why I think this happened to Amy here, but why bother? It's all been done before. What her sad state of affairs got me to thinking is how easily this can happen to anyone, at any time.
We all tend to get cozy and content thinking, quite smugly, that certainly we'd never get addicted to drugs or alcohol. But at the same time we are a society of people who use pills for almost every emotion. Not happy all the time? Go to the doctor and get an anti-depressant. Sneeze and cough? Where's my antibiotic, Doc? Aching back? Don't worry about the thirty five extra pounds you are carrying, get a pain reliever. You follow?
We are all led to believe that we should run for a remedy for every negative emotion and situation. But that doesn't make the situation go away. It just allows us to view life through a haze.
To be continued.