Ride home was teary, but cat a tonic

March 13, 2005|by LYN WIDMER

Thanks to our family cat, I am alive to tell the story of my first day as executor of my father's estate.

My father died on Monday, Nov. 22. My brother Hank said it was important for us to meet with my father's lawyer as soon as possible to understand the probate process.

Hank is an attorney in Houston and would be flying back home at the end of the week. I think he felt his role as big brother was to make sure I understood what would be expected of me as the executor.

Hank made an appointment for Wednesday, Nov. 24. I reluctantly agreed, even though I was an emotional wreck, my dad's attorney was a 90-minute drive away and rainstorms were drenching the roads.


I lasted a total of 15 minutes in the lawyers' office before I got hysterical and tearfully left the meeting. I was not interested in learning how to probate dad's will. I just wanted to be watching reruns of Seinfeld with my father, while indulging in our favorite treat: Eating handfuls of chilled, miniature peanut butter cups.

I was sobbing as I drove home. There I was, one hand on the steering wheel, the other soaking up tears with toilet paper pirated from the lawyer's bathroom. I was having a hard time seeing, and the driving rain made visibility even worse. I was on a busy interstate and cars were whizzing by at what seemed like 110 miles per hour. I knew I should get off the highway but I couldn't even make out the exit ramps.

This is where the cat comes in.

Cleo, our family cat, accidentally got locked in the car and spent the night in the back seat.

I discovered the miscreant as I prepared to drive to the lawyer's office. "Come get YOUR cat," I screamed to Teenage Daughter. On the drive in, I was so preoccupied with deciphering my brother's handwritten directions, that I barely noticed the odiferous tang of cat urine.

The drive home was a different story. I was inhaling deeply in between sobs so intense that my body shook. Every time I gulped in air, I also inhaled the ammonia drenched odor of cat urine. Cleo had unintentionally provided me with a feline version of smelling salts.

I started to gain control over my emotions and my driving. Cleo's overnight accident allowed me to make it home safely.

When I left the lawyer's office, he told me being an executor is difficult because it reduces someone you love into a series of numbers and accounts. I was not prepared to deal with that reality so soon after my dad's death. Now, four months later, it is still tough, but I am proud to say I am meeting my fiduciary responsibilities.

Occasionally I am overwhelmed with sadness as I update estate accounts or work on Dad's tax return. When that happens, I step away from my desk and grab a handful of chilled peanut butter cups.

I may be my Dad's executor, but first and foremost, I am his daughter.

Lyn Widmyer is a Charles Town, W.Va., ewsident who writes for The Herald-Mail. Her e-mail is

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