Hildie S. Block and Caroline A. Evey

Caroline A. Evey

Inspiration piece



Life Insurance

Hildie S. Block


Howard Tao who speaks slowly and with a “cured” stutter’s affectation asks me when I will die.
That’s not exactly what he says, it’s what he wishes to ask, but can’t.
“And your parents?  Did either of them die of a heart attack, stroke or cancer . . . before the age of 65?”
Of those diseases?
They are dead though.  They never turned 70.  I don’t say this.
He asks the wrong questions.
He wants to hear good things.  It means money for him.  I know this.  A commission.  Continued employment.  A life.  A monthly check from us, against what we hope won’t happen.
It means “life insurance” for me.  I know this.  As much as it can be known.
The trick is only to answer what is asked.
I keep trying.
”Your height and weight?”
“Has a doctor diagnosed you with any of the following in the last 10 years.”
Wrong question again.  Answer is no.  Not in the last 10 years.
Keep trying, Howard.
“How much life insurance do you want?”
Long pause.  Bile rises in throat.  Burns.  Want.  Want.  Not sure I want this at all.
“How much . . . ma’am?”
“Life insurance.  How big a policy?”
“How do people usually –“
“Well, you take your income.”
“My income.  That’s my value.  My income.  Are you sure?”
“You know – if you don’t have a job, you do things that would need to be done, you know?  So you figure out how much it would cost for someone else to do that and you multiply by –“
“I multiply?”
“Yes, y ou take those things — you know child care and cleaning and things that other people could do and you multiply it –“
“I multiply it.”
My head was reeling.  My heart was shattering into a million trillion gazillion little pieces.  My value.  Multiplied by years I wasn’t there.  My life expectancy, by my weight.  My age.  When my parents died.
The wrong questions.
“Ma’am – your husband has filled a lot of this out for you.”
“He has?”
“Yes.”  My wifely duties, multiplied by sitters so he can go date and replace me?
“Do you want me to go over it?”
“No.  I don’t think so. “
“Okay, then, ma’am, let’s just keep going then, we are almost done.”
“We are?”
“Yes, I think so.”
“So I need to set up and appointment for someone to come out and take your blood.”
“Of course.”
“And you’ll need to sign.”
“Of course.”  Sign, in blood, the contract.
“And that will be it.”
“As soon as we figure out how big a policy.”
“That’s the trick, isn’t it?”
“That’s the trick.”
“I’m sorry, ma’am, I don’t understand.”
“How to value someone.  I mean, Howard. How much for your mom.”
“How much?”
“What do you mean?  How much would you pay for when she wasn’t there?”
“Ma’am, I’m not sure you get –“
“Really?  Isn’t that what you are asking me?  To prepay for? In case I’m not there?  Someone else?”
“Ma’am, this is just life insurance.”
“Howard, you are very young, aren’t you?”
“Not even 25 yet, right?  Your grandparents still alive?”
“Ma’am? Do you want to talk to my supervisor?”
“No, Howard.   I don’t need your supervisor.”

I took out a paper and pencil  and my calendar – started putting dollar signs next to the cramped and crowded, boxes – adding it up.
My life, my parents, dead in their 60s, the the things my doctors had diagnosed me with more than 10 years ago.
My hot pink calculator worked the numbers, straight to “E.”
My oversharpened pencil tip broke (have to mess with the electric pencil sharpener).  I took the pencil and broke it in half, cleanly in the middle.  Now I have 2 pencils.  That’s power.
The evening continued.  Dinner, homework, kids ready for bed.
“Did you talk to the guy?”
“The guy?”
“From the insurance?”
“Howard? “
“I don’t know his name.”
“Yeah, I talked to him.”
“He’s sending stuff.”
“Oh, good.  Check that off.”
“I don’t want to know.”
“The policy.”
“I don’t want to know the size.”
“Oh, I just got –“
“I don’t want to know.”
“Can you get the kids off tomorrow?”
“Yeah.  Why?  What’s up?”

In my head, I hear myself say my supervisor has called a meeting.  But I don’t say that.  It isn’t true.
“I have a thing.”
“A thing?”
“You alright?”
“I have no idea.”
“No.  Well, yeah, sort of.  Has to be first thing.  They said.”
It was that easy.  The thought in my head.  The supervisor.  I had to get out of the house – away from this to figure it out.  I could do it.  I just had to leave really really early.
And I didn’t need a pencil, or a calculator.  Of this I was sure.

I didn’t even need to set an alarm.  I sat straight up in bed at 3am, awake.  Grabbed some favorite, ancient clothes, an old gita shirt, clam diggers made of the softest cotton.  I didn’t need a magic bag full of emergency kid supplies, bandaids, tissues, restaurant toys.  I needed very little.
The math.
When my parents were 20, 25 years older than I was at this very minute, they were dead.
15 years ago, doctors had told me all sorts of things were wrong with me, but
for the last 10? I’d been fine – busy, caring for small children who insisted on growing every day.
I jumped into my car, and drove.  Somehow I knew if I could change things, this day, it would matter.
I drove, and I drove east.  To the ocean.  If I could get to the beach.  If I could get to the sand and the endless, rhythmic crashing of the enormous powerful ocean onto the sand, I knew it would all make sense.
I had time.  At this time of day where would be no traffic.  I have a meeting.  I smile.
As I drove, the fear fell off.  I left it by the roadside.
The numbers that chased each other through my head, slowed.
Over the enormous suspension bridge, I turned on music.  Beach music.  Seemed right.  The calypso steel drums.
It was still very dark, but my heart was reassembling, I could feel it.
The flat land of farms sped by me, the music drew me east.
I blinked, and I could barely remember why I was going to the beach, but I blinked and pulled into one of the new metered spaces.
I get out and walk straight for the surf.  The pink light is beginning to come up over the blue grey ocean.
I toss my shoes back toward the sand and away from the sea – two gulls caw.
I stare out into the sea for an answer.  I face the sun as it began to peer  over  the horizon.
In the next minute, the sun explodes over the ocean like a kaleidoscope of fractured color that exactly matched my newly reorganized heart – as if it were a mosaic of Indian mirrored sequins.
Just as suddenly as my heart shined and glowed and the sky sparkled, as if in a spasm, my arms met overhead, my left left leg lifted.
I smile.
A pod of dolphins lept by, joyfully billowing spray.  A celebration.
The ocean pounds, so much bigger and more powerful than me.
I know the answer.
The world is still.  Beautiful. The salt air felts right and restorative.  It is a place I could be in forever. A moment. Held in my heart and shooting out my fingertips.

It had been over 15 years ago – but the thing that had evened out the illnesses, time, meditative space. Breathing.  Maybe some yoga.
My supervisor.  Called a meeting. The message?   Greet the day. Salute the sun.
Arms up, overhead, left leg slides up the right leg.  I could hear the instructions clearly in my head.  Forward fold.
Plank.  Grasshopper, cobra.  Cat, cow.
Come up.
This is
Life insurance.



Note:  All of the art, writing, and music on this site belongs to the person who created it.  Copying or republishing anything you see here without express and written permission from the author or artist is strictly prohibited.