Friday, April 15, 2011


Last Monday I ran into a lawyer friend at the gas station and he noticed my engagement ring.  John is known for his bluntness, so when he asked, "What do you want to do something stupid like that for?!" I wasn't surprised.  I was, however, taken aback a bit when he then said, "You better not be selling that house of yours."  I told him I was indeed planning to sell the house and he rolled his eyes.  "Stupid," he said.  "Stupid, stupid, stupid." He walked with me back to my car and said, "I can think of three reasons right off the top of my head why it's stupid.  First, it's the biggest asset you'll ever own and you'll be selling it at a loss in this market.  Second, you don't need to sell it--it's not like you're moving across the country or hurting for money.  And third, what if you sell it and the sonofabitch you're marrying drops dead?  Then you're homeless.  Stupid."

I told John I would give his advice my careful consideration, took laughing umbrage with his calling AJ "that sonofabitch" (they don't know each other), gave him a hug, and promised to call him soon. 

And sometime between Monday afternoon and Wednesday night, that man who cautioned me against being stupid did the stupidest thing imaginable.  He took a bottle's worth of sleeping pills, washed them down with alcohol, and then went out to his garage and started his truck.  The coroner says the pills killed him before the carbon monoxide did.  John was 50 years old.  I met him 15 years ago when I worked for a lawyer in Kansas City and John was our opposing counsel.  He was so impressed with my paralegal abilities, and I with his firebrand courtroom style, that when he offered me a job I took it.  It was just the two of us in his office in my little hometown, and between clients and court appearances we argued politics, traded gossip, talked about raising kids alone (his daughter and my son are the same age), and went to lunch together every day.  John was the most difficult person I have ever known:  he called me four times a day, every day, the entire time I worked for him, to make sure I was on time for work and really in the office while he was not; he expected me to pick up his laundry at the cleaner's and his daughter at school; he would deliberately take the other side in an argument, even if he didn't actually hold that opinion, just to have something to fight about; and he fired me at least three times and then called me an hour later to say he didn't mean it.  John was also one of the most intelligent men I have ever met, was a capable attorney (he would want you to know he had a 100% acquittal rate at jury trial), showed almost unbelievable generosity to his true friends (of which there were few), was the best father I have ever witnessed, and had a keen wit and sense of humor.  I adored John.  I didn't tell him that nearly often enough.

So while his last act was stupid, John was decidely not stupid.  Neither is his advice.  I am giving myself another week or so to consider whether what I'm thinking now is wise or merely a knee-jerk reaction to John's death, but for now the plan to put the Kelly House on the market is postponed.


  1. I am so sorry about John.

    But I have had doubts about selling the house ever since you mentioned it. I didn't want to say I'm a cynical old crone and houses last, men don't necessarily. Because it sounds like you have a great guy.

    But, things happen to people. Years ago I tried to convince a co-worker that if he and his wife really planned on her not working outside the home and having no training to do so, that even though he was sure they’d be together forever, he'd better be insured up to the gills in case anything happened to him.

    His only life insurance was through his job. He passed away over a weekend while he was changing jobs and had no insurance for just those two days, and left a wife with no job skills and three small children to support.

  2. I am sorry about John. But you are wise to heed his words - and not even for the fact that something might happen to A.J.

    You can keep the house, and rent it out. It's a source of diversified income, all expenses become a tax write-off against the rental income, and yes, it's your security if you ever need it. Of course, you become a landlady, but there are worse things ;) And all of this really does depend on the rental vs. buying market in your area.

    Good luck with your decision!

  3. So sorry to hear about your friend - but I agree with keeping the house. My favorite quip about real estate - "God ain't making any more!". In this economy, we need every asset we can get, and cash isn't all it's cracked up to be.

  4. I'm sorry about John.

    I agree keeping your house is a good idea. There will be little if any social security when you retire. You will need other investments to live off of, I'm afraid.

  5. Yikes, I hope that isn't true about Social Security, Depends on who gets elected, I guess.

    I once did some number crunching with the info SS will send you, if you ask, about how much I had paid in SS taxes each year. If I'd been able to keep it and save it at 5% compound interest over the decades, it would be more than enough to pay the benefits I'll receive if I live to be 100.

    So all this stuff about it going bankrupt is for the political posturing, imho.

  6. Good grief. I am sorry to hear about that, it must have been quite a shock after just seeing him.

    Personally, I think keeping it and renting it out is the best option if you are in a position to do so.