I grew up with a houseful of siblings. Siblings that consisted of BROTHERS that lived to torment the baby girl in the house. Now don’t get me wrong, I fully understand their jealously, considering I was the house Princess. We would fight and argue over the slightest thing, and nine times out of ten, my daddy would instruct the boys to “stop picking on the baby”. Oh the life of being the baby girl, daddy’s little girl.
One particular day, my brothers decided to seek revenge on me for always getting them into trouble and being the tattletale that I was. They had found a baby garden snake during the day, and somehow kept it hidden until bedtime. I climbed into my bed,snuggled to my teddy bear named Roy and started to go to sleep. Suddenly, I felt something. Something slithered across my legs, wiggling the covers and blankets. I screamed bloody murder. My mother came flying into the room just as I kicked the covers from my bed, landing the snake to slither across the floor. My mother screamed, startled by the sight of the creature. One of my heroic brothers came in, captured it, while laughing hysterically.
“Who brought this snake into the house?” My father’s voice boomed, demanding an explanation. No one confessed.
“It was David, daddy. I saw him playing with it.”, I offered.
“Is not”, David shot back. “Is too,… is not.. is too..did not, did too”…the bantering back and forth continued until dad had heard enough. Since none of us confessed to anything, dad began lecturing for over an hour, about being kind,respectful of one another and most importantly, about being a person of integrity.
“Boys, I understand playing a joke on your sister. Jessi, I understand why your brothers pick on you.However, I expect you all to be honest and take responsibility for your actions, regardless of your motives. Kindness, respect and honesty always. No matter your reasoning, no matter your purpose, intent or motive. Am I clear? Now go to bed and we will discuss this in the morning.”
“Yes sir”, we recited in unison.
The following morning, Jacob confessed to the sin. Not David. Jacob. His punishment? Pulling weeds around the church for two weeks. His punishment had nothing to do with his actions, but for not taking responsibility and for allowing another to be blamed.
Why am I sharing this childhood story today, you ask? Well, because I have a resident’s family who has yet to learn that childhood lesson. The resident, 94, moved into my facility with dementia. He had a son, and a 63 year old girlfriend. After his death, both the son and the girlfriend produced wills, dated within days of one another. I have listened to them shout back and forth of who had the will changed, who forced the resident to “sign his name without knowing what he was doing”, who did what to who, and who is the proud owner of 7000 acres of South Carolina real estate.
“He left everything to me” the son exclaims.
“He did not”, the girlfriend screams back.
“Did too!…”did not”……on and on it goes.
Me? I am being flooded with lawyers phone calls, subpoenas and demands for medical records. The son insists that I must honor his POA and “do as he says”. The girlfriend’s legal beagles are emailing, faxing and filling my desk with legal documents. So, I sit at my desk, allowing my mind to drift back to where kindness, respect and being responsible were taught, expected and consistent with humanity. I reflect on how the people in the 90 something age bracket survived so many horrible life events, from wars to Presidential assassinations…. leaving behind a great legacy…..only to be remembered for how their will was written, rewritten, changed and debated.
As I sit here….I hear my father’s voice. ” I expect you all to be honest and take responsibility for your actions, regardless of your motives. Kindness, respect and honesty always. No matter your reasoning, no matter your purpose, intent or motive. Am I clear?”
I think I will shove all of these legal ” he said,she said, did not, did too, is not, is too” documents to the side of my desk. I will look at them again tomorrow. Am I clear?