06 January 2015
Five Million Dollars To Disappear
How much are your family relations worth to you?
I wonder this because I watched my wife's sister, Dee (not her real name) playing and cuddling with her only grandson, whom she was denied access to for a couple years. He is now back in her life on a regular basis and both of them seem to be very happy about it.
I asked her, when her grandson, A-boy (not his real name) was gone home with his father, "If someone offered you a million dollars to never see, and never communicate with A-boy ever again, would you agree to that deal?"
"No," she replied, without having to think about it. I should have bumped it up to five or ten million because of inflation, but It would not have mattered. My sister-in-law is not wealthy. She is divorced and does not own a home. She is employed, though, and makes enough to rent an apartment, and afford a car and to clothe and feed herself, but she doesn't have a lot to spare.
Five million would mean a lot more to her than to Mick Jagger or Warren Buffett. It would allow her to buy a modest house, a new car and even retire. She could visit distant relatives that she doesn't often get to see. It would provide a cushion from some of the uncertainties that come with aging.
The money is all pretend and merely a thought experiment. It is a lot easier to spurn the invisible monopoly bills and make the noble choice, because no way is one ever going to be so tempted. But what if suitcases of the real notes were piled on the stained green shag carpet of your hovel? What then?
Dee would still refuse the deal.
She loves that little boy, but does she feel that way about all her blood relations? How do you feel about all your blood relations? Your parents? Your siblings? Your children and grandchildren? Are they all priceless?
Would you shun one of them for riches?
You might just be shunning one of them right now and not getting jack for it. There are family members who have been severely wronged by a close relative, and have vowed never to speak to him/her again.
I remember putting an alarm system in a rural house for an older couple twenty-some years ago. I asked them why they were getting the security system. They were as old as I am now and had a thirty year-old son. It was because of him. He was an alcoholic and regularly broke into their home to steal guns and other valuables and liquor, to feed his habit.
They had spent fifteen heartbreaking years listening to his promises and lies, and many anxious sleepless nights, and a lot of money to try and get him sober. Their only contact with him, now, since they no longer gave him money, was in cleaning up the messes he left after his break-ins. I suspect they'd finally given up hope that he would reform and hence the burglar alarm. They were just worn out.
Would you give up hope? And would that make it easier to forever close the door on a prodigal and get five big bundles for it?
What if someone offered you the same amount of money to restore relations with the offender, would that be the same kind of deal? Are you a worse person for shunning for money, or un-shunning for money? Or is it just flip sides of the same coin?
What if the converse happened? What if you so disliked a brother that you offered him five million to disappear out of your life? It might be cheaper just to file a restraining order, but the idea is similar.
Do you have any obligations to associate with family members? Are families so sacred that selling off partial participation in them is a form of blasphemy?