It’s all because of our bi-monthly teacher’s brunch that I’m sitting in my living room on a Saturday night, preparing to make a will. We met at Laurel Johnson’s house for the first time since January, all wearing face coverings until brunch was served. We sipped mimosas and talked about our fears of returning back to school when the subject came up. Everyone except me had made their final arrangements, citing coronavirus, the birth of children, or divorce as their motivations. I almost avoided being noticed until Laurel asked, “What about you, Steph?” and all the teachers’ eyes turned to me. I tried to defend my disinterest; I was only 27, and I hardly owned anything of significant value. They commiserated when I reminded them that I had no kids and no serious romantic partners, but it was clear they thought I was being naïve.
Ever since then, I haven’t been able to shake this feeling that I am unprepared and behaving a tad unwisely. In the classroom, I am constantly trying to teach practical life skills (not an easy feat for a math teacher whose students do not value algebra and trigonometry as “life skills”). If I expect them to take this pandemic at least somewhat seriously, I need to do the same in my personal life. Few tasks seem more serious and more morbid than writing one’s own will.
That is why I’m sipping an unsweetened iced tea and searching for will templates online. As ads for legal services flash across the top of the screen, I realize I’ll also need to make living will so my parents don’t keep me hooked to a ventilator for a decade—and I know they’d try. I make a note in my planner but decide to save that pleasure for another day. I find a free standard will template from a site that seems reliable. The document’s Times New Roman font and formal, single-spaced paragraphs remind me of the papers I had to write in my undergraduate years. I wonder if student teachers are also preparing their wills. Perhaps it could be a graded assignment for one of their courses. It would certainly make them second guess their career choice.
Once I save the blank PDF form, I decide to make two lists, one of all my assets, and one of my family members and dear friends. I consider every item hidden in every nook in every room of my rented home, and when I’m done, I wonder if it’s normal to feel this idiotic while creating a will. The two most expensive things I own are my car and my computer. I haven’t decided who my witnesses will be, but they’ll surely mock me once they notice the “DVD collection” and “refrigerator magnets” portions of the will. However, those custom magnets cost money, and not everyone will appreciate the hilarious obscure mathematical references for the treasures they are. I decide to leave these to Mr. Morales, the calculus teacher down the hall whose room is decorated with math pun posters.
Most of the list is easy to divvy up: my car will go to my cousin Angie, my laptop to my best friend (who can destroy all evidence of embarrassing search histories, such as but not necessarily including “How to hold a cigarette like a pro” and “How to heal a gross fungus toenail”), and the TV will be donated. A majority of my belongings are actually to be donated to the charities of my choice, which Poppa will not understand if he sees the will. I can see it now. Momma would organize the donations and pack them in the truck, and Poppa would grumble about how “that folding chair could’ve been sold for five dollars.” Momma would shush him, unwilling to hear any more negativity about her daughter’s wishes.
When I’m finished, there is only one name left that I haven’t used. Caroline, my sister’s name. It’s glaring at me in bold typeface, mocking me. I know that I’m not going to leave her anything. I knew it when I wrote her name down. In fact, it would be satisfying to die from coronavirus just so she could see how deeply she’d wounded our relationship. Then again, I know Momma would disapprove. I can see her reading a draft of my will and hear her soft voice saying, “She’s still your sister, Stephie. You don’t have to get along, but she’s still family. Why hold grudges at a time like this?” Her and Poppa would hate that I’d been pettier in death than in life.
I sigh and revisit my list of assets. There is nothing I’d trust her with except one thing. I smirk and quickly type, “Toilet paper, because you’ve been such a piece of sh—” and I backspace. I may be petty, but I needed to show some dignity and restraint in this legal document. Though if I die of coronavirus, toilet paper may still be hard to come by. It may be one of the most valuable things I have. I chuckle and sigh, contemplating what to do. Caroline will be furious if she finds out I’m donating most of my stuff to charity instead of giving it to her. “She’s giving this textbook about advanced math to that discount bookstore by her old university? I could use this.” The thought of her whining is, in my mind, reinforcement that I am making the right decision. I delete her name.
My phone alarm beeps, reminding me that I have a late date tonight. It must be 8:00 p.m., and I need to start getting ready. However, I know I won’t be able to concentrate until I get a head start on the formal document. My good humor at my sister’s expense is diminished a bit as I start filling in the blanks of the PDF.
“I, Stephanie Alisha Deveny, being of sound mind and body, do hereby declare that this is my last will and testament…”
(Will intro copied from http://definition.org/define/of%20sound%20mind/)