Hometownie Hero

Will They/Won't They

For Observer columnist Mike Cavaliere, the new year is a time for rebirth, renewal, recollections — and reviewing the terms of his last will and testament.

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  • | 7:55 a.m. January 4, 2024
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For Rebecca's 34th birthday, I thought I'd really spoil her, so I gifted her drafts of our last will and testament, still warm from the printer.

“Seriously?” she asked, glaring up from the pile of papers I plopped on her lap. “Today?”

Mike Cavaliere

“Today!” I squealed, proud to have hit yet another birthday gift way out of the park.

It’s hard to be the perfect partner, but somehow, I manage. See, I was paying attention every time Rebecca passingly mentioned filing these documents, for years now. I listened, and through a process some call “thoughtfulness,” others “selflessness,” but I call “just being me,” I turned that listening into action. I punched “customizable will template – free” into Google then got down to business. You should’ve seen me, making executive decisions, bequeathing things left and right — my DVD collection, her 14-year-old car — and, oh, did I giggle every time I typed the word “bequeath.” Then, I presented these papers to my wife for her reading pleasure. On her birthday.

And they say romance is dead.

When you're a freewheelin’ bachelor like I used to be, the concept of "getting your house in order" couldn't be more irrelevant, mostly because you don't have a house. You might have a "place" or a "pad," sure, but no one wants those things after you're gone, on account of all the lava lamps and Batman memorabilia strewn about them. At this point in your life, death is all upside — you literally get to "ghost" Fannie Mae. But once you're married with dependents, wheelin’ is no longer free, and made-up words like "life insurance," “DNR” and "probate” suddenly start making cameos in your vocabulary.

"If I croak tomorrow, who will take care of Winnie the Pooch?" I asked Rebecca later, figuring date-night sushi was as good a time as any to face our (and our dog’s) mortality. “I’m giving you power of attorney to make sure she's well taken care of."

"Wow, some responsibility," Rebecca said, mixing wasabi into soy sauce with her chopsticks.

"You joke, but Winnie’s grown accustomed to a certain lifestyle! I can't have her end up in some pound.”

"Course not."

“Can you imagine?” I asked, clutching imaginary pearls around my neck. “My dear, sweet golden girl, fighting in the yard … doing pullups off the bars of her crate ... dealing kibble. She’s not built for that life!"

Rebecca took a sip of wine. "And do you have any thoughts about — oh, I don't know — your human dependent?"

"Becky.” I stopped to gaze soulfully into her eyes. "Of course I do." I rubbed her back. "But first thing's first."

Later that week, we signed the documents then put them on my desk, ready to get “notarized” (which is another made-up word). And today, 18 months later, that’s exactly where they remain — untouched.

Occasionally, Becky and I dreamily reflect on that abandoned project. "We really need to get those forms notarized," we say. But how? Where? Is a notary a person or some kind of antique telephone? God only knows.

We sometimes relay our procrastination to my parents, who offer ancient wisdom (they're in their '60s) on the matter. "You really need to get those forms notarized," they say, and we nod seriously, the same as real adults do, the mustached type you might see in TV commercials about “the diabeetus,” or in the supermarket buying prunes, or in TV commercials about people who don’t like prunes so their doctor recommended Metamucil and now everything is so much better, thank God.

“Indubitably,” we respond. “We will — and toot suite!”

But we never did. Maybe because finalizing those papers would mean finalizing former versions of ourselves, the ones who thought they'd live forever. It would be like a written confession admitting that we had lived — the mother of all mortal sins, punishable only by death.

Still, Rebecca and I are, indeed, real grownups — so mature that we pronounce it “mah-tour.” So, 2024 is the year! We’ll get these papers filed, for sure. Yep. No doubt. Consider it done.

Now, if you can just run a quick refresher on this whole “notary” business, we’ll be on our way....

Mike Cavaliere is the author of The Humorist: Adventures in Adulting & Horror Movies, available now.


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