Why I am a guardianship lawyer.
Marilyn was the aunt everyone loved. Family gatherings filled with laughter once she entered. Her choice of clothes for gifts was “eccentric.” Receiving a tropical shirt with a large fish on it was a sign of acceptance into the family.
Marilyn was the first to help when needed. When you asked her for help she did not ask why – she asked how. For a month she drove 40 minutes each way to spend all day with my wife while she was on bed rest with a one year old.
Marilyn was always a little flighty. Our families would gather at her house for Thanksgiving. Marilyn forgetting something was a Thanksgiving tradition. She would be looking for a dish that was right in front of her. Her keys would still be in the door. Everyone would smile and say “that’s Marilyn.”
As Marilyn grew older, the “little things” Marilyn forgot became more serious. A retired schoolteacher, Marilyn struggled to remember the name of the school where she had taught for 30 years. She would arrive late because she had forgotten to take the turn she had been taking for 20 years. I hate to think of the moment she heard the doctors say those dreaded words: “You have Alzheimer’s.”
Finally, the “little things” Marilyn forgot became dangerous. The stove would be left on. She would call frightened because she could not remember how to get back home. Otherwise healthy, Marilyn simply could not live by herself anymore.
After graduating from Notre Dame Law School, I spent most of my legal career fighting for my clients in court. I have always enjoyed the challenge of arguing for my client at trial, against skilled lawyers who are fighting just as hard for their clients. Ultimately, though, most of those cases revolved around money.
Watching Marilyn and her family struggle with Alzheimer’s made me realize the practice of law can be something more. True, the law cannot cure a disease. The law cannot stop a family’s pain as they watch their loved one struggle. But the law can help ease some of the burdens that fall on families trying desperately to help their loved one.
Guardianship is one of the most powerful ways the law can help struggling families protect their loved ones. Guardianship can help an Alzheimer’s patient get needed care. Guardianship can protect a child from a dangerous home. Through guardianship I can use my years of court room experience to help families help their loved ones.