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Dorothy Wilhelm: It’s just a twinge in the hip, but OK, I’ll get my papers in order

My son posted a picture on Facebook of either his elbow or knee, I can’t tell which, turning several vivid colors, apparently damaged in a surfing accident. Either that or it’s an abalone sandwich, heavy on the ketchup. Hard to be sure, but I’ll tell you, mothers hate to find out things this way.

I’d tell you more about it, because readers write that they like to read about my family and what they’re doing. I’d be glad to share, except that my children let me know that they don’t want to be written about — managing at the same time to be annoyed because they’re not all mentioned in an equal number of stories. This does not even taken into consideration the scorekeeper who complained about being left out of the fireworks story or the one who says, “Mother, it didn’t happen this way at all.”

Summers were much simpler when the children were little. We couldn’t wait to get down to the beach and bury the kids in the sand, even though they always managed to dig themselves out and find their way home in no time at all, no matter what we did.

Just a couple of weeks ago I was doing some outdoor tai chi. I had just taken my sword out of the car, as any grandma would do, and I was trotting gracefully across the wide expanse of green lawn, practicing the ancient, traditional moves such as “Look for Snake in the Grass” and “Don’t Scratch the Subaru,” well known to all tai chi practitioners, when suddenly with no advance warning, I felt a terrible twinge in my left hip. “It will go away in a minute,” I thought. But it didn’t. Suddenly I need a cane or walker just for ordinary activities. I’m not liking this at all.

I’ve been working with a physical therapist. “Well, you’ve been using that hip for nearly 83 years,” he explained helpfully. “You can’t expect too much.”

When my oldest son visited, he asked me to show him where my important documents are, the things that he might need if “anything should happen.”

This was not an unreasonable request, but it made me just furious for two perfectly good reasons. One, I didn’t like the idea that he thought “anything” was about to happen, and two, I didn’t have any idea where my important papers were. I wasn’t even sure which papers were important. So I did the sensible thing and yelled at him for quite a while, He just sat and smiled at me pleasantly. Having spent great chunks of his life in the engine room of a Coast Guard icebreaker, he doesn’t scare easily — though heaven knows I tried.

He said at last. “Now, Mom, if you don’t do it, we will, and you won’t like it.”

While I was heartened to think of him and his siblings working together on any project, I knew he was right. I wouldn’t like it. I have come to understand that the only way to really be in control is to have things ready for the day when you can’t be in control. So I made a few half-hearted steps toward getting everything together, but the going was slow. Then I found a wonderful tool. It’s a cheerful, good looking workbook called “In case of Emergency, Break Glass!” by Mary C. Kelly, Ph.D., (Mary@productiveleaders.com, 719-357-7360.).

What Kelly, a retired Navy commander and international leadership trainer, has done is create a friendly, easy-to-use guide that covers questions from “In the event of an evacuation or natural disaster, can you grab all of your important papers within 90 seconds?” (My answer, no.) “Does your family know the specifics of your wishes?” (No) “Who takes care of the dog or cat if you don’t make it home?” (Maybe they’ll die first.) It’s a little like having a no-nonsense daughter stand beside you as you work.

Kelly has used her own experience of personal loss along with extensive career experience, and she doesn’t miss much. There’s even the opportunity to suggest a cash bar for your funeral reception. I’ve got to admit, I would certainly have missed that one.

So I’m getting papers in order. It’s not so hard, when you have the right tools. The next sound you hear will be breaking glass.

Dorothy Wilhelm is a professional speaker and writer. Follow Dorothy’s blog at itsnevertoolate.com. Contact her at P.O. Box 881, DuPont WA, 98327. Phone 800-548-9264, email Dorothy@itsnevertoolate. com.

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