A Former Client called today.
Her ex-husband, from whom I divorced her about 10 years ago, passed away. Frankly, he lived a lot longer than I would have guessed. While we were going through the divorce process, I never expected him to make it to the next meeting or court date.
The poor man had a serious alcohol and drug problem. Not the glamorous Phillip Seymour Hoffman, millionaire by day/junkie by night kind of problem. He had a 1920s hobo kind of problem. He came to court with the tops of his shirt collar frayed and holes in the bottoms of his shoes. He looked 25 years older than his age, and was not above drinking absolutely anything that might produce a buzz. I believe he sniffed gasoline and glue when he could not access alcohol.
Sadly, he almost never had a problem accessing alcohol. While they were married, in a gesture of goodwill, his wife helped him purchase a bar. It was the local dive where he spent most nights drinking, and they were able to get it for a good price. She thought that they could make a go of it, since he was always there, anyway. She would cook food and manage the finances; he would manage the bar.
In retrospect and from a distance it is easy to see this as a bad idea. Do not give your diabetic uncle a bakery, either.
It turned out to be an even worse idea than you might have thought. They lost everything – the bar, their house, their credit, their life savings, their relationship, and ultimately, his liver. The divorce was short and painful. He promised to look for work, she promised to keep their kids functioning. They have stayed in touch all along, and she made sure that the kids always visited him when he was in a position to see them.
This is the part of the telephone conversation that made me smile. It turns out, she followed the best piece of advice I ever gave her. I told her to keep a life insurance policy on him. She told me today there were months when she had to decide between the $50 premium payment and using that money for groceries, but she always followed my advice, and maintained that policy. She said she heard my voice in the back of her head, saying, “He cannot help you while he is alive. Give him the dignity of helping after he is gone.”
So, she called today to tell me that after all of these years, and everything they have been through, her Husband is helping her pay off some debts and buy their daughter a used car. It’s not much, but it is more than he has been able to do for them since I met him; and I honestly believe it would have made him happy to do it.
What We Love: If your lawyer gives you good advice, follow it. If it works, let your lawyer know.