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March 10, 2009 by 8junebugs

Over the last three months, the Middlebury Volunteer Ambulance Association received donations in Mom’s honor totaling $760. I find this tremendously comforting. I think she’d be glad we selected them for support.

I found out about the total and the names of the generous donors because my grandfather’s wife sent me — sent all of us — a copy of the personal thank-you letter they received from MVAA. I don’t know for sure why they received the letter, having had nothing to do with the decision or the arrangements. (I do have an idea, though.) I am chalking it up to some of my least favorite Rules About Small Towns, like the one about how, once you’re a kid in a small town, you’re never really an adult in that town until your generation is the oldest one left. Some folks seem downright startled when you swoop in acting all adult and making decisions or demands.

And reading contracts. At least one person was visibly perturbed when I read a contract and questioned part of it. With all due respect, I want to make sure I understand (even if you don’t) the clause indemnifying you against legal action if you give me someone else’s “cremains.”

Forgive me — I am the type to quibble over fine points. Blame all those pesky law classes and the lawyer boyfriend.

My grandfather’s wife said in her note that she will be sending out thank-you notes to the individuals on the list. Reading that pitched an internal battle between “It’s not your place — it should come from KidBrother and me” and “She is, as always, being nice and trying to help, and it’s good enough that it comes from the family.” When it comes right down to it, the locals on the list will appreciate a note from her and Grandpa more than one from me, and I can write a note of my own to the donors from outside Addison County.

That said, I do wish she would call to ask about the donation from a business associate in New Orleans before she sends the note. Seems like she’d want to know how to address it, having only the company name. But then we’re back to the “shoulds,” and that pitches the battle all over again. (I also wish she would remember that my last name changed four months ago.)

What am I really worried about? That she’ll speak for us, on our behalf? That’s expected up there. That she’ll say something inappropriate? Definitions of appropriateness are regional. That someone will be offended that they didn’t get a note from Mom’s kids? Clearly, their receipt of a note from someone else is out of my control. Grandpa and Marie wanted to have a larger role in the proceedings, and now they have it. With our family history, I should perhaps be grateful that it’s this and not something that would require a more official response.

The most effective argument against taking a stand on who should do what is knowing that I will never live in Vermont again, much less in the town where I was born. After all this and with Mom gone, I’m not sure how much I’ll be back there at all, once the estate is closed. It hasn’t been “home” in a very, very long time.

Also? Taking a stand about whose place it is to handle what puts me in a fight I don’t need to have. I care less about it than they do, and I care for reasons outside their frame of reference. The ROI for “battling octogenarians for the right to write thank-you notes” just isn’t worth it.


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