I’m glad Sting didn’t have a chance to talk to my dad before he died. He would have really queered my deal. Sting announced today that he wouldn’t be leaving his $300 million to his six children but intended to spend it instead; he said he expected them to make their own way in the world. He didn’t want his children to have the albatross of trust funds around their necks. I understand but wonder.
My father didn’t leave me a huge amount of money, probably what Sting spends in a day, but it was meaningful money.
“Tell her she’s out of the will,” he told my husband once when I had refused to come to the phone. This was at the beginning of what turned out to be a very long estrangement.
Each passing year, my husband would nudge me, “You should make up with your father, he’s not going to live forever.” I knew he was looking out for my emotional health at the same time he was wondering if I was still out of the will. Everyone has two tracks playing in their head at the same time so I didn’t judge him too harshly. But to me, it was a matter of principle. I would never reconcile with my father simply because of the money, suddenly show up after years away just when his penmanship was getting shaky. It struck me as unethical and also had the feel of blinking first. I didn’t like either of those conditions.
We did reconcile, at his initiation. This doesn’t mean he blinked first. It means something else but I’m not sure what right now. The reconciliation was gentle and grand at the same time and I loved the time of our peace for its own sake, not thinking ahead very much, although out of the corner of my eye I could see the slight smile on my husband’s face.
As it turned out, my father left me something in his will, an equal share with the others. There was nothing there that reflected the time of our estrangement, no deduction for bad behavior. I was glad for that. I didn’t need the money. But I needed to be there, be registered, exist, not be excommunicated.
I don’t know if my father thought about the implications of the money left to me in his will. Certainly, a lifetime of making sure that he wasn’t spoiling his children would not be turned on its head by a few dollars. If I hear nothing else in the echo from my father’s grave, it would be “no one ever gave me anything.” He made his own way, hard as it was. That’s what he thought we would do. “You’re on your own now, kiddo.” And that’s been a good thing, to have been told that, and to have it been true all these years.
Still, it meant something important to be an heir. Or heiress. My father left me stock in a utility company. For reasons I will never know, he was in love with this utility company. My investment counselor told me to sell it; invest the proceeds in mutual funds. And I did. Mostly. But I kept a chunk of it. Like an heirloom necklace, I’ll never sell it and I’ll never wear it. I’ll just have it. Because my father left it to me.
So I guess I understand Sting’s philosophy. It’s not his fault he’s worth $300 million. He’s still thinking that his kids are one their own. And they are. They need to make their own way. So do we all.
But it’s good to have heirs, I somehow look forward to that, and to be one as well.