It’s pretty shameful that my husband and I haven’t prepared a living will or a legal contingency plan designating guardianship for our daughter–especially shameful because my father’s legal expertise is in estate planning.
That’s not to say we haven’t talked about it, because we have. We’ve talked about it a lot. We’ll go back and forth on between one or two family members who we could blindly trust to care for our daughter, always coming back and agreeing on one single person. Though we have large families, many of our family members make poor life decisions, struggle with mental illness, or are crazy-financially strapped with more kids than dollars. So for us, this macabre conversation is hardly the stuff of Modern Family.
But, as I said, we keep coming back to the one family member, and though we’ve never made it official, I think both sides of our family would agree with our decision. That is, until this weekend happened. Which is not to we had a terrible time on our weekend trip to semi-rural Arkansas. We enjoyed our time out there immensely. But once the thought popped into mind–“fun to visit, fun to leave”–there were no take-backs, and I nearly went into an existential panic at the thought of my daughter having to live out there among small-minded racists if the worst was to happen to us.
Don’t get it twisted, racism (or any ism) is not exclusive to rural towns in former (?) confederate states, our even where we live, but at least here in a culturally diverse neighborhood in Plano, TX, strangers don’t feel the need to remark upon the tomorrow-person features of my daughter, like they’re “with-it” because they have one black friend at their mostly-white, very-wealthy church.
Which, beyond the racism, is another striking difference in environments: the church thing. My husband and I don’t attend services anywhere regularly. Though we were both raised in evangelical Christian households, where we are now, it’s just not that important for us to have a daughter who can sit still and sing “I Love to Pat the Bible”–and I don’t think our family members would respect that. Even if they did, church is so central to that particular region, we’d run the risk of turning our daughter into someone else’s “outreach opportunity,” and the thought of her learning how to hate herself for being herself makes me physically ill.
Furthermore, I try to imagine what that transition would be like for a two-year old, a ten-year old, a fifteen year old–because, who knows?–and I think there would be a major culture shock, no matter what her age, and I’m not so sure if the guardians we had in mind would be able to distinguish between the many expressions of grief and qualities like “wilfulness” and “selfishness.”
So as the weekend came to a close, and the verdant landscape receded beneath the wings of our plane, I realized that we might have to consider asking our close, family friends here to in town to assume guardianship in the event of, and we would definitely have to make our wishes legally specific because of the drama that would ensue, for going outside the family. There would be hurt feelings, but at the end of the day, hurt feelings will have to take a back-seat to our daughter’s well-being.
I mentioned it to my husband on my ride back from the airport–not the cheeriest of topics to bring up after a weekend away, but hell, we were stuck in rush hour traffic, so when he asked me what was on my mind, I told him.
He didn’t miss a beat. “We’ll get on it then. It’s something we need to put into writing.” And then he squeezed my hand. “But let’s also plan on living forever–at least until she’s 18.”
I smiled at him. “You betcha. I’m glad we’re on the same page.”