I have a 22-month-old grandson, Alex. It seems like yesterday he was born. Every time I see him he is different. In late September of last year my wife and I got to keep Alex for a week while his parents were on a trip. Then he was just a little over a year old. We had a pretty good idea about what all he wanted.
Recently, my wife and I desperately wanted to have some time with Alex, so we talked my son and daughter-in-law into “loaning” him to us for a week. But this time, in July of 2019, we knew we were dealing with a different person.
As the time came near, I think my wife and I both got more and more nervous. We knew Alex now had opinions; he was a lot more mobile; and half his life was no longer spent sleeping. Indeed, most of his life was consumed with zooming around.
We met my son and daughter-in-law in Salina, took “possession” of Alex (or perhaps he took possession of us), and away we went. My daughter-in-law, Caley, gave us a bag full of stuff for Alex.
I realized then how much this was going to be like camping. As with a camping trip, the biggest thing that you have to do is plan it, and then get everything set up.
We pulled out a crib, put it in the appropriate place, put sheets on it and got out blankets (it was the equivalent to his tent). We put in his favorite blanket, his Teddy bear, and the things he likes to sleep with (the equivalent of his sleeping bag).
We set up a video machine, so we could watch his movements while he was asleep and hear him if he became upset. We began planning food choices.
We started making plans for “entertainment”: there would be trips to the Sternberg Museum, the library, the municipal swimming pool, the county fair, walks with the dogs, trips to the park, playing throughout the house, reading books, and the like.
We had to child proof the house by putting locks on cabinets and by placing fragile things out of reach.
Finally, it was that first night. We got him fed, and kind of like camping, hoped that he liked what we fixed. We had spent the day rushing around trying to be sure he was happy, and not missing his parents too much. He seemed to be adjusting better than we.
After dinner we had our first bath. Caley had given us some pretty good instructions about what he likes to have happen. On knees, we played with him in the bathtub.
Finally, the ultimate test: rocking him to sleep and getting him into bed. We had one surprise when we picked Alex up. Caley announced that Alex was no longer on the bottle! We were not allowed to use a bottle.
But we got him to sleep, and kind of like that first day of camping, it was such a relief, yet still kind of a restless sleep that night as I kept one eye on the monitor and listened for Alex.
The rest of the week went great. Sure we had some small meltdowns here and there, but overall it was great. My wife had to carry the water during the day, but early in the morning and after work I was able to pitch in and spend a lot of quality time with Alex. I took a Friday off work, so he and I could just spend some quality time together.
It did remind me of camping. So much of the work of camping is just getting ready to go. You are packing food, bedding, and tents. You are planning for good weather, and for bad weather. You bring bandages and first aid kits, and then you venture out. Just like with camping there are bruises, cuts, bites and burns. As you go camping, your car is just full of stuff. You wonder if you need all of that or if you have overcompensated. But then, you are camping and having a great time.
Let me turn this to the law for a moment. A lot of times when I visit with a family, and we talk about what their goals are, some are very specific and some are general. Those decisions are not always easy.
But for many families the tough part is “getting in the weeds.” There is so much stuff that we need to gather together: deeds, bank account statements, investment information, titles, lists of property, and much more. In fact, I can tell you that most of the time that our office spends is involved in gathering information, listing that information, and getting that information transferred and/or titled correctly. Drafting of the actual documents is not the most time consuming thing. It is all the other stuff.
Why? Just like it is with Alex or with camping, you never know what is going to happen. All that stuff, and all the precautions that we put in the documents, is so that if something happens we are prepared. All the stuff we have to gather together is so that we do not have problems later on.
Planning can be exasperating. I understand that. For some families it is more exasperating than others. For many families, they just have never organized anything before.
I have to admit I was amazed at my daughter-in-law’s organization. Almost everything that we needed was in the pack. Oh, we still needed the “tent,” and some other camping tools, but most everything else was there available for us.
So, estate planning is like camping. A lot of the work that you do is just getting ready before you actually spend that first night. Do not get discouraged. With a good guide you will be able to get everything together, and enjoy the “trip.”
Randy Clinkscales of Clinkscales Elder Law Practice, PA, Hays, Kansas, is an elder care attorney, practicing in western Kansas. To contact him, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Disclaimer: The information in the column is for general information purposes and does not constitute legal advice. Each case is different and outcomes depend on the fact of each case and the then applicable law. For specific questions, you should contact a qualified attorney.