During my dad’s illness, I experienced firsthand what had, until then, just been book learning: Financial planners are often at their best when your life is at its worst.
Almost immediately, my siblings and I found ourselves out of our depth on a number of levels. What to say about any embarrassing financial details that emerged? What happens when Dad doesn’t want a feeding tube, or doesn’t want one anymore? How do we honor his wishes, and when does the family need a lawyer to advise all of us? Will he starve? Will it hurt?
As we contemplated such things, pacing the cul-de-sac outside my father’s house in Boca Raton, Fla., the three of us repeated one phrase, over and over: “We just need to call her.”
My siblings and I had always gotten on quite well, but we feared a breakdown in overall family dynamics if we weren’t careful, even as we were desperate to act fast to protect our dad and his wife as best we could. The living needed at least as much help as the client who was dying. To the three of us, at least, feelings were going to matter just as much as finance.
But on the most primal level, we were simply reeling in those first few months. A.L.S. is an unpredictable disease — one that could progress rapidly and remain challenging for a while, draining away assets that took a lifetime to accumulate. We didn’t quite know which task to tackle first.
When Nonna’s memory fails her, she returns to familiar gestures. On a weekend afternoon in winter 2021, she offers me a piece of hard licorice...