Dear Prudence Presents: Getting It Done

Mother's is the day and mother is the theme on the roundup. Mom, mom, mom, whether surrogate or biological. The first letter writer and her friend Jane come from "poor, broken homes," so they ended up developing super close relationships with their friend Sally's mom, who has lots of money and welcomed them with open arms. They were part of the family, participated in all the holidays, and she even became Jane's legal guardian. The kids are pushing thirty now and still call themselves sisters, though they went through a rough patch a few years back. Apparently, Sally "can sometimes be a spoiled snob (but we love her)," so there was a big fight followed by about a year of not speaking. Things are square with the friends now, but back at square one with Sally's mom, who reacted to the fight (that didn't involve her) with a full social media excommunication and they haven't spoken since. Now, Sally wants to involve them in a nice present she's putting together for Mother's Day – "a video featuring all the folks 'mothered' by her mother. (Sally's mom collects broken people and views herself as a savior of lost souls.)" The problem here is that from their perspective, Sally's mom took their super close relationship and threw it in the trash can for no reason. Like, they were supposed to be family, and there she is rushing to slam the door in their faces as soon as they start a stupid fight with her "real" daughter. "We don't know how to tell Sally we don't want to do it, but maybe for the sake of our friendship, we should suck it up and smile for the camera."

Prudie says to start sucking and start smiling. I would have told them to stick to their guns and torpedo everything in the name of hurt feelings and wounded pride – shitty advice, but that's how I roll. Prudie is actually pretty insightful here, talking about how as they get older and their perspectives change, they stop seeing Sally's mom as just some selfless Mother Theresa type, but as someone with "her own emotional needs to fill by being the 'savior of lost souls.'" That doesn't have to be a cynical or unhappy realization, just the deeper understanding of someone that comes with time. Anyway, doing the video is a great way to start patching things up, and refusing to participate is a great way to make the separation permanent.

Next letter comes from "an 81-year-old widow with two daughters, Ann and Bea, who are both around 60." It's will time, and now that she's thinking about how best to divide up her worldly goods, she can't help but note that Bea has been a much more dutiful daughter over the years. She really appreciates all the good stuff she does for her, and perhaps more importantly, she just can't fucking stand Ann's husband. He's a lazy, lying braggart with no manners that thinks he's King Shit.

He was here recently and asked many questions about my things (furniture, paintings, silver, etc.) and took offense when I refused to give him any information. He wanted to know the provenance and value, and didn't even pretend otherwise! He took photos of many items, even after I told him to stop. When I told Ann his behavior upset me, she wouldn't acknowledge how rude it was to so obviously anticipate my death.

The cataloging and the photographing is so tacky, and a classic example of stupidity masquerading as wisdom. He might think he's being smart here, but if you're going to horrendously offend an old person, there's got to be a better time than right before they sign the will. Plan A is now to outlive that bastard so he doesn't get any of her stuff, and Plan B is to will them "a cash sum that equals about 25 percent of my estate, with the house, its contents and remaining assets to Bea." Prudie says that barring unusual circumstances, estates ought to get split fifty-fifty. One kid visiting more or less often isn't the sort of thing that needs to be punished or rewarded with money, and sibling jealousy and bad feelings is a shitty legacy to leave behind. That said, she says it would be fine to leave the actual contents of her house to Bea alone, and to let her decide what, if anything, Ann is going to get.

Fairness is a moving target though, and you can split everything as equal as humanly possible and still leave everyone feeling like they got screwed. Also, some people will pull the absolute wildest shit and never even admit to themselves that it was anything less than fair. Like, doing a straight-up heist on grandma's house that leaves your relatives looking at the bare walls like "Fuck, should we call the police?" When I was in Iraq, I had a life insurance policy that would pay out half a million, tax free, if I got killed (I survived, if you're wondering). I had my brother as my beneficiary, and he and his wife split up not long after I got back. I remember feeling very offended at the thought of her going after half of that dough, which she definitely would have done with no qualms whatsoever. Fairness is one thing, but I didn't like her and she didn't like me, and just the idea of her throwing up MY money, P. Diddy style, bugged the crap out of me. The best advice is to just let that stuff go, but some things, like the thought of this lady's greedy dumbass of a son-in-law carting her stuff straight to the antique man and not even getting a good price for it is just too much to ask someone to bear.

The next letter also deals with end-of-life planning for an octogenarian, though this one comes from one of the old lady's four children. She moved away after splitting up with their dad, so they haven't really known her since they were kids. She's pretty much destitute now, and when she kicks off, the letter writer figures they ought to split the funeral bill four ways. One of the kids is refusing to chip in, so if the pool goes down to three, should the wealthiest sibling be the one to pay more and make up the difference? Prudie says that you can probably find a "bare-bones cremation" (kind of an ugly metaphor) for $500-$1000, so either way it's not going to break the bank. No urn, no service, and just dump the ashes in the toilet. Happy Mother's Day!