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Friday, May 21, 2010

JJ: Towards the End -- A Fairy Tale

Once upon a time there was a man who had a business that gave him a comfortable income, great respect, and world-wide fame. He was written up in books and magazines and in some circles was a household name.

He had a long and prosperous life, helping others and building up his business.

Things changed for him, and not for the better, in his later years. For most of his life he had been a success but he'd told me, years earlier, that the one failure of his life was his marriage.

I guess he was vulnerable, and that led to problems.

He got involved with a book dealer, a lady some years younger than he was. It started as normal book hunting, developed into a business relationship, over time became a friendship and then much more. They spent many, many hours together at his shop. She cared for him and catered to him, taught him to use a computer, and eventually helped him sell off his library over the internet.

Things went fairly well for them until the winter day he fell and broke his hip. When he was hospitalized things fell apart. In one of those epic moments of bad timing his family came in while his friend was there, and wife and girlfriend had a major confrontation. Read that as catfight, two women who both stated they loved the same man. Well, at least one of them did. Maybe.

The whole family got involved, threats were made, and the family got its way, mostly. As a result, and a compromise, his friend was allowed to visit him one day a week at his shop, on Sundays.

He went downhill after the accident, mentally and physically. He started losing money at his business, partly because he lost track of current costs and was billing customers from a twenty-year-old price list. He had hired a helper/trainee, since he was no longer mobile enough to operate his business, and this was an added drain.

The family found out about his money problems and stepped in. I guess he was many thousands of dollars in the red and a lot of money he should have had was gone. He had raised his family to believe that profit was more important than most other things, so blame and recriminations started flying like lies in a political campaign. People he had helped or worked with or done business with over the years were accused of stealing from him or not repaying loans. There was infighting in the family, too.

It was what G. George Ostrom would have politely called a Goatrope. A term starting with "cluster" would probably have been more appropriate.

I am a little hazy on subsequent events, as some of the accusations landed in my lap -- one of his children thought I owed the man a lot of money. I went to him, asked if I owed him anything, and he gave me a receipt saying all debts were paid in full. Then I withdrew and tried to be an uninvolved bystander.

Later on, the relative apologized, saying they had found where the money had gone and I wasn't involed. I don't know the details of that or what they found because I guess I didn't care. I still stayed away.

When things got worse, financially and maybe mentally, the family shut down his business and placed him in a rest home. I lost track of him after that.

The shop contents were sold and his collections yard-saled off. He'd always been afraid of that happening and had been parceling out his possessions because he felt that it would be easier for his family to divide up his money than his things when he died.

The problem is that he didn't die. Years have passed and he is still waiting for that to happen, and in the meantime he is not living happily ever after.