Rant: On Wills and Making a Graceful Exit

I recognize that I am about to be petty.  This whole thing surprises me.

I have never understood the value of getting upset over a will.  It’s what it is, it’s what somebody wanted, move on.  I’ve never understood getting upset about it.

Until now.

Now I get it.  How to make a very long story short?  My partner met an elderly professor who was charming and funny and interesting to talk with.  He was gay, but had never managed to achieve coupledom.  He genuinely did not understand the mechanics of “couple.”

Fast forward.  I come into the picture, we meet and hit it off.  Perhaps he was a bit jealous of me, perhaps he’d harbored secret boyfriend ideas about my boyfriend.  But there was a good three decades-plus difference in our ages versus his age, and he was really more of the gay grandfather we never had.

Fast forward.  The professor and I both had heart trouble at the same time, despite the difference in our years.  We end up in cardiac rehab together, and bond a bit more.  As he gets older, I’m taking him to appointments and the like.  My partner and I find a stray dog and suggest an adoption.  The dog becomes the love of the professor’s life.

Fast forward.  There are some inappropriate gifts of sexy underwear the professor gives to each of us in front of others, suggesting we’re more than just his friends.  We’re not.  But my partner cools on the relationship with the professor.  It’s possible an inappropriate suggestion was made to my partner, who elected not to tell me because it would make me lose respect for the professor.  I get that.  But I also get that elderly gay men who’ve “missed out” on life sometimes get “ideas” late in life.  So do elderly straight people.  I consider it a cautionary tale, a human condition, and it’s a possibility for all of us.  It’s a forgivable offense.

Fast forward.  The professor is bedridden, there is assisted living and long-term dog sitting, and a full-time caregiver is needed.  At some point, my partner and I are added “in the will.”  It turns into an obsession with the professor, and almost weekly he adjusts his will depending on our behavior, like he’s still grading students.  The little voice in my head says “tell him to take you out of his will” because he’s basically suggesting I’m so creepy it’s the only reason I visit, which is insulting and demeaning.  But he’s sick, he gets depressed, I chicken out.  There’s not much money involved and the percentage is single digits, so it just doesn’t seem worth it.

Fast forward.  One day he has a long conversation with me.  He wants to know whether it would hurt my boyfriend’s feelings if he got less than me.  Would it cause a problem in our relationship, he wonders?   I say please don’t do it, give us the same.  He’s still carrying a torch for my boyfriend, but he’s genuinely concerned and says he understands.

Flash forward.  He dies.  We grieve.  Months later, two letters arrive from his attorney.  We’re in the will.  Two percentage points apart.  My partner gets three, I get five.  My reaction is — unexpected.

Why would he do that?  My partner and I have been together for two-plus decades, what was so hard about four and four?  But, instead — he has to make some kind of point.  At my partner’s expense.  For someone who missed out on life because he was too busy being “appropriate”, it’s a surprising sideswipe.

I was stunned by my reaction to — being disregarded, to being party to a slight, to a very, very small and very, very petty move by somebody I’d mourned.  Of course, my partner and I will put it toward our house, together, even if it just buys a switch plate.

There’s some kind of lesson here, something about making a graceful exit, about the pointlessness of making some points…and I can’t quite touch it yet, but it’s buried somewhere in this sentence:

It was an unfortunate last impression.

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