Some people become paralysed by overriding concerns. With me, alas, concerns have never truly been able to override whatever it is that I’d rather be thinking about. I have the remarkable ability to face important issues and promptly park them on the least visited floor of my mental multi-storey. Often I lose the ticket altogether and have no idea what it was I parked, let alone where. A Fiat 500? A unicycle? Impending total kidney failure? Taxi!
Some might consider this a good thing. Others might view it as a fatal character flaw. I don’t know. I’ll think about it later.
In the last week or two however I’ve been caught unawares. Ambushed by thoughts of the long-range future, you could say. One of these came about when I went to St Michael’s House for an evening’s light entertainment on the subject of making wills and provisions, specifically for children with disabilities. (This has been covered properly by South Dublin Dad last September.)
And just in case the subject matter wasn’t hitting its gothic quota, the Dublin 11 weather obliged as if it was doing a screen test for Wuthering Heights or maybe an Agatha Christie whodunnit. It was an extremely inhospitable, storm-lashed night. Winter-stripped branches lunged at us as we ran across the flooding car park. Rain barrelled down, drenching all and sundry in the dozen steps between their cars and the school assembly hall. Short of a few streaks of lightning and a creaky olde inn sign that read ‘The Last Will & Testament’, the scene was well and truly set for a powercut of an evening’s entertainment.
I expected a dozen people to be there maybe. Not 130 rapt parents in a warm and inviting assembly hall, listening intently to solicitor John Costello from the firm of Eugene F Collins as he gave thoughtful insights on the subject of providing for your disabled children after your death. He was clear, concise and gave excellent and unbiased advice. Legally unbiased, that is, in the sense of looking for your business. He wasn’t. He has other vested interests, both with St Michael’s House and in having an older sibling with disability.
So why did it rattle me? It’s not as if I haven’t thought about life for J after we’re gone. Well, in one soft-spoken piece of advice, Mr Costello said that you couldn’t expect a child’s siblings to be their primary care givers once you’d died.
That was all. Nothing earth-shattering. Unless, like me, you’d constructed a neat little rapid-fire solution for the future (the boys will take care of him) and then stuck it on the back burner of complacency.
You can’t expect a child’s siblings to be their primary care givers once you’ve died.
Simple. And of course, absolutely right bloody on. Jacob won’t be a baby forever, a hardly-any-burden-at-all bundle of joyfulness. He’ll be a grown man, well capable of offending his brothers’ wives’ in-laws. More capable of offending them, possibly, than the next man. I don’t know. How the hell am I supposed to know?
You think I want to be bothered with this? I had it all neatly stacked. The boys will take care of him. Mr Costello very kindly went right ahead and drove the stunt car through my deliciously neat stack of stunt cardboard boxes. You can’t expect a child’s siblings to be their primary care givers once you’ve died. Dammit.
Then last week, as if to reinforce all that, our young man uttered his first word. Aptly enough, it was More. My heart skipped a beat, as you do. He wasn’t asking for more food either. He wanted more Wheels on the Bus. Bouncing on my knee was ending too quickly, he felt obliged to tell me. Well we could sort that out. He ended up close to puking by the time the Wheels finally coasted to a stop. But he did keep asking for mah. So it was his fault really.
And now I have to think some mah for myself. Mostly around the area of a Discretionary Trust. Because, according to the man who pulled my head out of the sand, that’s the thing to do for someone with a disability of the learning type. It removes the issue of inheritance tax, it won’t affect the individual’s disability allowance the way ordinary inheritance would and it’s not means tested. And I can’t expect Jacob’s brothers, who God willing will have long lives and trajectories uniquely their own, to be responsible for him all his life. That would be the easy way out.