Sunday, April 10, 2011

The April Mail

I do not bungee jump, nor have I ever.

I was confident about answering this question and one that referred to my rodeo habits (or absence of) when my husband and I sat through Round One of the application process for life insurance.

Despite being no stranger to the details of my own life, I gained a greater understanding of a few things that morning:

1) I am not a risk taker. I am ok with that.

2) My husband’s life, in a system that asks you to assign value, is worth more than mine. I am ok with that. Really, I am.

3) The novels in which a wife takes out a $20 million life insurance policy on her husband before pushing him off the deck of a cruise ship don’t make “paperwork” part of the plot.

The Luncheon of the Boating Party, 1881
Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Insuring a life, after all, is serious stuff. Could I compare it to insuring a home, a Renoir, the Hope Diamond? No, when assessing these objects, I imagine cholesterol levels are not part of the conversation.

Round Two: peeing into a cup.

Doing this at home and having your blood taken in your own dining room, while convenient, is actually not the kind of cross-association you want to have.

Round Three: more questions.

These were done by telephone and it was my mistake to answer them while loading the dishwasher.

“The name of my dermatologist? Hum, that’s a good one...”

I'd just been to him, but the pressure to be accurate and sort silverware was too much. I sat down and focused on the questions.

"Did I have an interest in getting an amateur pilot’s license?"

I could have kept sorting silverware and been able to clearly say, "No," to that one.

Still, randomness, fate, luck, and fear so often swirl in my head when it comes to thinking about life and death. Was it comforting or unsettling to examine life in the context of data points?

It didn’t matter. As parents, my husband and I needed to do this in the same way we needed to make our wills and designate guardians for our kids. It's absolutely painful to think about too deeply, which was probably why we'd delayed for as long as we had.

When did other people think about these things, I wondered?

According to one industry site, the best time to buy life insurance is in a person’s 20’s. Statistically, it’s a time of good health, lower premiums and marriage.

The actual “triggers” or reasons that propel people to buy life insurance are divided among several categories, but the most popular reason for men is marriage (24%). And, “Having a first child, or additional child” is the main motivator for women, (28%), according to a 2007 survey conducted by AXA Equitable.

The impetus that drove my husband and me from talking about life insurance to applying for it was a bit more serendipitous. We discovered that a new neighbor and friend sold life insurance.....We’d just been talking about life insurance.

What are the odds of that happening?

Probably good, but I still think of the story as an example of coincidence. And I realized as I was asked questions that fed into what must create a calculated analysis of my life and its risks, that I have considered most turns and outcomes as a result of something other than statistical probability or  even cause and effect.

That contrast was especially true when I thought about a time, many years ago, when an administrator assigning freshman roommates placed me with a young woman who would become my good friend and who would, nearly ten years later, introduce me to some guy she worked with.

He’s the guy, along with our kids, for whom my life is now insured.


This week, our mailman delivered two envelopes. One was thin; one was fat.

The thin envelope related to Round Two of the process: my lab work.

The fat envelope would tell me if my policy was approved.

We don’t always get letters in the mail informing us that the next phase of our adulthood is about to begin. Letters that remind us to slow down and take a look around because in a blink twenty years will pass.

And, eventually, if we are very fortunate, twenty more.

But then again, sometimes we do.

And, although I am grateful for the reminder that's come with this insurance process, this is one letter of acceptance that I will now try to think a great deal less about.

ps- It's a year ago today, as I post this, that my Grandmother Pat died. Although being with her near the end was emotional, and today's topic of life insurance is more technical, I see both as reminders to seize the day, the best we can.

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Tim Morrissey said...

"slow down and take a look around because in a blink twenty years will pass."

So true.

parenting ad absurdum said...

I am so aware of the passing of time since I had kids - there are moments that I want to wrestle to the ground to keep them. I get a little panicky over the speed my kids are growing!