Monday, March 31, 2008

In Matters of Life or Death

I came home from work last Friday. It was sunny. I was happy. After a grossly stretched out work-week, the prospect of two days of nothingness in front of me was almost overwhelming. But in a good way.

In the lobby of my apartment building, I stopped to check my mail, pulling out a big envelope that was shoved into my petite mailbox. It had an official address label from a law office that I recognized all too well; I wondered what my dad had sent me this time. It could be anything, really, but most likely it was credit card applications and other random bits of junk mail that still went to my parents’ house, and Dad sent along to me, not ever wanting to open mail that wasn’t addressed to him, and not knowing what was important or not.

I tucked the envelope under my arm and flipped through the rest of the mail. Junk. Junk. Magazine. Junk. Peapod coupon. Junk. Heaving into my apartment and throwing bags and my coat down, I flopped, as one does at the end of a long week, on the couch and opened up the envelope. I quickly scanned the cover letter on Dad’s official and very serious law office letterhead asking that I look over the following forms. It was signed, “Very truly yours, Dad.” I pulled out the sheaf of papers behind it.


So here’s something I should do before I’m 30: Pick someone to pull the plug on me should (God forbid) I end up on life support.

I guess now that I’m almost 30 I should have Very Important Documents like this. Everyone should, really. And obviously, if anyone is going to help me with these Very Important Documents, it’s going to be my dad. Even though Dad has told me numerous times that I don’t need the Very Important Documents of, say, a Last Will and Testament.

“You don’t have anything,” he always replies calmly when I implore him please, pleeeeease can I have a will? Pleeeaaaaaaaasssssseeeeee, Dad? “You have debt.”

Maybe he’s right. But I don’t think he understands that should I die there is going to be major in-fighting over who gets my hair products. And my recipe collection. So you know what? Fine. Don’t write my Last Will and Testament for me. Go ahead, let the mayhem ensue. What will I care? I’ll be dead. I’ll just be watching from the Hereafter as friends and family furiously search and search for my oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe that they will claim I drunkenly willed to them on Arbor Day in 2006. And in the Hereafter I will laugh and laugh, because they will never find it. And do you know why they won’t find it? Because I’m taking it with me.


I scanned over the document, then immediately got on the horn. When Mom answered, I didn’t even say hello.


Let the record show that I do not ever overreact.

“Not that I know of.”


“Technically, Mom, we’re all dying.”

“Well, true.”

I explained to Mom that I had gotten these papers from Dad out of the blue, and that I had to fill them out and why was he sending these and did she know that Dad had appointed himself in charge of pulling the plug on me? But I still had to pick a #2 person to do the job, should Dad, for some reason, not be able to.

“So should I have you as my secondary?” I asked.

“You could,” Mom said.

“I feel like I should pick one of my sisters,” I said.

“Yes, but how well do you really know your sisters?”

There was a moment of quiet as we pondered.

“Anyway, is Dad there? Can I talk to him?” I asked.

“No, he’s at the hardware store.”


“Yes. And then he’s going to come home and watch the Weather Channel.”

“Fine.” Heavy sigh. “Can you ask him to call me when he gets home?”
I hung up with mom and sat for about three seconds on my couch debating who should be my #2. Who would be my Danny Zuko, if Kenickie couldn’t drive? I can’t lie, it wasn’t a hard decision. My sister, Elizabeth, was the obvious choice, the decision made simply on the Maid of Honor Principle.

Somewhere along the line it was decided among the four of us that when marriages occurred, Nancy would be Annie’s maid of honor, and vice versa, and I would be Lizzy’s maid of honor, and vice versa. So, applying that same formula, if I fall into a (God forbid) coma before I’m married, Lizzy will pull the plug on me, and if she falls into a (God forbid) coma before she gets married, I will pull the plug on her. But just like with Maid of Honor duties, you can’t just assume, so I thought maybe I should out of courtesy ask my sister to go ahead and let me die before I signed her up for the task.

Except she didn’t answer the phone.

So I called another sister instead.

“Oh, hello. Do you think Lizzy would pull the plug for me? Like, if I was in a horrible, unrecoverable coma?” I asked.

“Oh, sure,” my sister Annie replied, without hesitation. “She’d probably try to kill you before you even went into a coma.”

“Cool. She’s going to be my #2, then.”

We hung up. I debated calling my dad on his cell phone to talk to him about all of this, but thought maybe he wouldn’t want to talk about such matters at the Ace. So I put in a movie and made some dinner instead.

Lizzy called back a few hours later.

“What did you want?” she asked.

“I have a very serious question to ask you,” I replied.


“If I go into an unrecoverable coma, will you pull the plug on me?”


“Okay. But only if Dad is incapacitated.”


“Annie and I thought you would say yes.”

“When did you talk to Annie?”

“Earlier. She said you’d probably try and kill me before I even went into a coma.”


So I had my people in place. Very Important Things That Make People Squirm were talked about, even though my dad never called me back. I’m all grown up! I can make important decisions on my own! Hooray!

So I called Dad again the next day.

“You didn’t call me back yesterday!” I shouted down the phone.

“I didn’t know I was supposed to,” he said very calmly. For the past 40 years, there has been anywhere from one to five women shouting around him, sometimes at him. He is immune.

“I called, and Mom said you were at the hardware store, and I said for you to call me back. IT WAS A MATTER OF LIFE OR DEATH!”

“No, it’s not.”

“Oh really? How is it not? How is whether or not I want the plug pulled on me not a MATTER OF LIFE OR DEATH?”

It’s like I can hear my dad rolling his eyes over the phone.

“Dad, did you send me these forms because I’m almost 30 and need Very Important Documents like this?”

“No. We were talking about it when the girls were at the house last Sunday. So I sent out papers to you and all of your sisters and brothers-in-law.”

“Well that’s pleasant conversation to have over corned beef sandwiches.”

He ignored that. “You just have to decide what you want in case something happens.”

“Well that’s why I’m calling! So I can make sure I fill out the forms correctly!”

“Well, pick what you want, and then call Mary and tell her.”

(FYI, Mary is my dad’s secretary. A very kind, nice, and patient woman.)

“Well I don’t want to be a vegetable, Dad. I told Mom yesterday, just pull the plug.”

“So you want the first option, no life support.”

“Yes, I would like Door #1.”

“The first option.”

“Yes. Door #1. I don’t want to be a vegetable, Dad. That is no way to live. Like I told Mom, just let me go. I’ll come back and visit, don’t worry.”

The cacophony of eye-rolling and eyebrow-raising is astounding.

“Then just call Mary on Monday, and she’ll fill in the information for you and send you the document.”

“But I have the document here.”

“That’s just a draft.”

“What do you mean it’s just a draft?”

“Does it not have the red ‘DRAFT’ stamp on the side of it?”

“Well, yeah, but what do you mean this is just a draft? You’re saying I have to go through this all over again? With the ‘official’ document? I don’t really want to go through this thinking process again. This is all very taxing on my mental faculties, you know.”

(Long pause from Dad. Very long pause.)

“I’m just going to leave that one alone,” he finally said.


Anonymous said...

I would watch my back around Elizabeth at Christmas time, if I were you. She might be drunk with her new power and try to suffocate you with a pillow in your sleep, under the guise of "putting you out of your misery" or saving you from your worthless life. You'd better be sure those documents specifically talk about said plug to be pulled.

Molly said...

I'm guessing that one of my relatives sent this in, though I can't be sure which one. Whoever it is knows enough to know that Lizzy will be drunk at Christmas, though I'm not sure if it's going to be on power.