There are moments in your life, as you look back, you can say “That was it! That was a pivotal moment!” For me it was my fathers’ Green Box.
My father was the patriarch of our family. A depression baby raised in rural Missouri, the city boy just could not adapt to the slow pace of grazing cows, plowing corn and balancing on the railroad tracks. The city called to him so deeply that at the age of 14 he ran away.
Kansas City had all the draw a young country boy could possibly imagine. Yet his naivety was short lived as the streets drew him to the dark side to survive. Street life gave him an edge that made him look much older than his years. At 16 he lied about his age and entered the Army to serve his country. By the age of 20 he had 4 years of service completed, was newly married and a baby on the way.
At six foot two and 200 pounds, he was an imposing man. Loud and opinionated,, always looking for the next greatest deal or scheme, he dreamed of his lottery ticket one day making him a millionaire.
I still remember the day dad was diagnosed with colon cancer. By the time it was discovered, he was already in stage four and declining quickly. One day while sitting next to his bed and visiting, he whispered, “I don’t want you kids to worry about mom when I am gone. I have taken care of things. In the top of the closet, way back on the right and covered by a blanket is a green box. Mom does not know about it. I have placed an envelope in there that takes care of everything. There is a $50,000 life insurance policy, and a policy on the house and car that say in the event of my death, the house and car are paid for. Mom will be alright, don’t worry.”
Dad ruled the roost! You did not challenge him. It would never have entered our minds to doubt him. I helped my mom take care of him throughout the 5 months of his disease, along with the help of Hospice. He had always worked nights and slept days, so many nights were spent in an imaginary fog as he sat on the side of the bed driving himself to work. Nine days before his 64th birthday he took his last breath.
Losing a parent is not something you are ever prepared for.. None of us understood Medicare, Medicaid, homecare, hospice it all seemed so foreign and far away. Creating a long term care plan, writing a will, talking to my own parents about their wishes, well that was not in my view finder. Little did I know that Dad's Green Box would so drastically change my career path and influence my life.
At the urging of my sister and brother I gently took down the Green Box from the back of the closet. Opening it slowly I saw inside a large manila envelop. Slowly I opened the tightly sealed envelop and began reading aloud as my family watched on.
There, in fine print, my eyes caught the words ‘EXPIRATION DATE’.
There is no describing the pain I saw in my mothers’ eyes as I tried to explain that the life insurance policy, the policy on the house, the car all expired when Dad turned 63.
The Green Box has become my constant reminder to ask questions, to dig deeper, to find resources and answers, before it is too late. Thank you dad for that very late lesson.