Courage at Twilight: Three Old Cars and a Pocket Watch

Dad went to his father Owen’s house soon after Owen died.  Living so many years alone, Owen had accumulated hordes of stuff which filled the house in choking piles and stacks.  Dad emptied and cleaned the house, taking truck load after truck load to the dump.  He felt that cleaning the house was a way to give his father deserved dignity after death.  Owen’s brothers had told Dad that the house and everything in it belong to them, not to Owen or his children.  Dad had acceded without argument, and had asked if it were acceptable for him to clean the house, to which they agreed.  Owen did not have a will, so Dad appointed himself personal representative of the paltry estate.  Owen had a small life insurance policy, the proceeds of which Dad gave to his mother to pay delinquent utility bills.  Owen had owned three old cars.  Probate law at the time allowed for the disposition of one car without going through probate.  Dad spoke with the clerk of the probate court, explained that Owen’s only assets consisted of these three junk cars, and asked if he really needed to go through probate court to get rid of them.  After a moment’s reflection, the kindly court clerk suggested the law could be read to allow for disposition of all three cars without involving probate, so long as the cars were disposed of one at a time.  So, dad quietly sold the cars.   A new law student, Dad mentioned this procedure to a law professor, who thought it a novel legal interpretation.  Owen’s horse Bomber and prize-winning bull terriers had long since been sold.  Left to Dad was Owen’s 1907 Elgin pocket watch.  I have seen and held that watch—it is a work of art.  Left to us now of Owen are the photos and the stories, which I am grateful to have.  Though grandpa Owen died three years before I was born, I love him through those stories and photos.

 

 

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