Sunday, July 20, 2014

Death ripples and the pain they cause...

This morning, a woman on RfM wrote about how she'd just found out her father had died.  She hadn't had any contact with him in many years because her parents divorced when she was 11 and there had been shunning.  She found out about her dad's death by reading about it in the newspaper after a family friend had seen it and asked if she was related.

This woman is very upset.  She writes that she tried to get in touch with her dad's family, but they wanted nothing to do with her.  And now she has this hollow pain that comes from losing a parent that she never really had a chance to know.  Actually, this lady seems like a very kind person.  She writes that she's angry and wants to lash out at her grandparents, who have apparently shunned her.  But she recognizes that they just lost their son and they don't deserve her anger right now.  I have to say, that is very grown up and level-headed thinking on her part…  It sounds like she's a fine lady whose father's side of the family missed out by not knowing her.

Also in the news right now is Casey Kasem, who died last month after battle Lewy body dementia, the same disease that took my dad ten days ago.  Apparently, Casey's wife, Jean, who was legally entitled to his body, took off with it without Kasem's children's knowledge or consent.  Naturally, a lot of people think Jean Kasem is crazy.  Maybe she is.  But she was Casey Kasem's wife for 34 years, which means she can't have just been some kind of gold digger.

I'm grateful I knew my dad and had a chance to see him.  I'm grateful that my mom and sisters and I all agreed on how Dad should be taken care of at the end of his life.  At the same time, as the wife of a man with two very estranged biological daughters who disowned him, these kinds of stories are very unnerving to me.  People usually blame the older adult or parent figure involved...

I'll be very honest.  If Bill were to die tomorrow, I won't be contacting his ex-kids.  They haven't spoken to him in years and don't call him "Dad" anymore.  They don't acknowledge him and, from what I can see, don't care about him.  And so, if he dies, I won't want them at his funeral, nor will I really care to let them know about his death.  I don't think they deserve it.  I think if you're a kid who expressly disowns a parent… or a parent who expressly disowns a child… you don't have a right to be involved when that person passes away.  You can find out about it like any other stranger would, by reading about it online or in a newspaper.

I have been Bill's wife for going on twelve years.  In twelve years, I've met my husband's daughters once… in 2003.  Eighteen months later, they pretty much wrote him off for good, despite his taking good care of them and their mother (and her husband and kids) financially and his repeated attempts to stay in contact with them.  He did finally quit trying, once they were adults.  As far as I'm concerned, they aren't family by their own choice.  They are strangers to me and they haven't been kind to Bill or his family.  All he did was divorce their mother at her request.

And yet, if Bill did happen to die and his kids later got wind of it and were upset that I didn't tell them, I'll bet many people would assume I was an evil stepmother or a gold digger or both.  But there is another side to the story that a lot of people never consider or even really care about.  Sometimes, it's the kids who behave badly, even if it's because they were goaded into it by their other parent.

I won't risk contacting Bill's kids, even in the unlikely event of his untimely death.  They would have to reach out to us first.  If they do reach out before Bill passes, I will let Bill deal with them.  I don't consider them family.  They have a "dad"…  victim #3.  They can mourn for #3 when he dies and leave Bill and me alone.  Bill's death would not be their business as far as I'm concerned.

Another thing I find distasteful when these kinds of discussions come up are the comments people make about greed.  Like-- "I bet they didn't tell you because they are afraid you'll want part of his estate."  And the reminders that children are heirs unless there is a will.  Bill and I do have wills and his kids have been disinherited.  We don't have a lot of valuable stuff and even if we did, I can't imagine they'd want it if they can't even lower themselves to speak to him on the phone.  Any money we'd have after all the bills are paid doesn't belong to them either.  I would probably arrange to donate it to a beagle rescue.

The sad thing about this is that I feel perfectly justified in cutting them out.  They cut Bill out; he didn't cut them out.  Besides, I didn't start this shit.  I know that the reasons people shun are complex.  I am certain that my husband's ex wife told his daughters a lot of lies and warped versions of truth in order to get them to hate him.  She wanted him to be punished.  She wanted him to pine for them.  It worked for awhile.  Now that they are hateful clones of their mother, they can stay strangers for all I care.  They felt that Bill hadn't earned the "right" to be called Dad?  Well, I don't think they've earned the right to be called his daughters and that means they aren't worthy to be informed when he dies.  If biological links don't matter to them, why should they matter to us?

I don't know why these kinds of stories make me so angry.  They send me to such a dark place, where I think about what I'll do in the event of a death.  For all I know, I could end up dying before Bill does.  In fact, I kind of hope that happens.  This is not something I look forward to dealing with.

I don't condone the way Jean Kasem is behaving.  It seems very bizarre to me and I wonder if maybe she has some kind of medical problem herself.  However, I do respect her as Casey Kasem's widow.  As for the lady on RfM, it sounds like her father wasn't such a good guy… but honestly, how would I know?  Maybe she was lied to the way my husband's kids have been lied to.  I don't know if I wish for her to find out the truth, though.  It could turn out to be very painful, especially if her dad was in a situation like Bill's and she finds out she was robbed of her father.  I hope she finds peace.  I wish I could find some peace, too.    


  1. Stories such as these seem to hit you hard, and for good reason. I wish there was a magic wand to make all the bad feelings associated with such stories just disappear, but there obviously isn't.

    I'm really glad you both have wills. I wouldn't put anything past bill's ex, and a will can prevent most of the damage she might otherwise have caused.

    iI'm not quite sure Jean Kasem is healthy, either. I really don't know much about the whole Kaesm situation, but it seems as though there was more ugliness than was neded. A widow of 34 years lost her husband. Yes, he was their father, too, but she cannot be a spring chicken any longer. it seems that a bit of compassion would have gone a long way there.

    1. Believe it or not, it's better than it used to be. Ten years ago, this bothered me a whole lot more than it does now. At that point, Ex was still messing with us a lot. I didn't want to be the wicked stepmom, but at the same time, I didn't want to let her run roughshod over my life. A lot of women would have let her do just that, which is the scary thing. Bill is lucky he met me post therapy.

      I think the Kasems could use some mediation. The way the media has spun this, though, makes most people take the children's side. That's what I find so worrying. There's no telling what the truth is. And I think years from now, when this becomes an issue for me and Bill, it could possibly be like this for me. That's why I hesitate to jump on the "Jean Kasem is a nutcase" bus. I don't think we know what really happened.

      The lady on RfM just seems really hurt. And she does seem like a very good person if she even gave thought to her father's parents. My heart just goes out to her.


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