Richest Love

This past week was a whopper for Power Ball lovers.  If you watched the news, people were lining up for tickets in hopes of winning the big 548 million dollar jackpot.  Here in Indiana, 2 people won a smidgen of it by guessing 5 numbers of the draw and are now laughing all the way to the bank with 1 million each.

Who doesn't wish they were rich?  Just about everyone has at some time or another fantasized that they were multi-millionaires.  It's human nature.  Don't tell me you haven't picked out something yourself that you'd buy…if you were rich enough.  A fancy house?  A sporty car?  Tons of clothes?  An Escalade?  Oh, wait!  That's me!  I want an Escalade!  It's fun to dream and money opens up every bit of imagination the human brain can spare.

It also wrecks and ruins lives.

Just yesterday I finished reading a very interesting book, Mrs. Astor Regrets: The Hidden Betrayals of a Family Beyond Reproach.  The author, Meryl Gordon a New York journalist….gives us a glimpse into the life of a woman so wealthy and powerful it seems uncomprehensible.  Her life was like a fantasy.  The philanthropist/heiress spent the last years of her long life (she lived to be 105) giving away money as the chairwoman of her late husband, Vincent Astor's Foundation.  Because of Brooke Astor the city of New York was blessed in various ways.  She gave money to support numerous organizations, social causes and special projects.  It was her passion.

Brooke Astor was known for her fun spirited lifestyle and her generous giving.  She was well-known in high society circles for her lavish dinners, incredible designer clothing (she even wore fancy gowns to dinner at night) and her long friend list of Who's Who.  She was always covered in expensie jewels and spent her time shuffling between her private homes all over the place.  But guess what she wasn't passionate about?  Being a mother.

The book does a great job of painting a picture of a woman who was very much into herself.  Her only son, Anthony Dryden Marshall….was always kept at a distance.  When he was born, it was nannies that cared for him and raised him while she lived a fun and exciting life.  Her own happiness was what mattered most to her.  After she divorced his father, Dryden Kruser (who was a wealthy man but a violent drunk), she married Charles Marshall who was extremely jealous of Anthony.  This, just another reason to distance herself from Anthony who by now was a father of twin boys himself.

Once Anthony's first marriage fails, he neglects to see his own boys for long periods of time…when they did connect it was by appointment only.  The death of Charles Marshall was a shocking blow to Mrs. Astor who genuinely loved him. That next year she married the well-known Vincent Astor which began her plight as one of the world's most wealthy women.  Her marriage would only last 5-6 years before Mr. Astor would die and leave everything to her.

As I've mulled the book over in my mind….I've found myself feeling so sad for them.  I understand the praise and recognition heaped upon her for her philanthropic work but her relationship with her son and grandchildren leaves me  questioning.  How could she live the life she lived and not take a deeper interest in her son & grandkids?  Why would she be so stingy with her own family?

In the book, the writer tells about Anthony Marshall working for his mother by managing her money.  Over the many years, he held high profile jobs thanks to her pulling strings.  He also had access to her homes but the relationship was very formal.  By the next generation, her grandsons & their children….her relationship with them was distant and foreign.  Their visits (the very few they had) were strangely cold and formal.  They didn't even have the money to afford the clothes they would need while they were visiting her.  She expected everyone to be dressed in formal attire.  These folks were common people and lived very normal lives.  Stepping into her world….was like walking on Royal ground.  She lived better than a queen.

I cannot even fathom that behavior.  Who doesn't love their kids and grandkids enough to share with them a part of her bounty?  I'm not talking about handing them buckets of money and spoiling them.  I mean, who doesn't feel some sort of meaningful love and devotion to their family.  She was widowed for over 50 years by a man that left her a fortune.  Her family never knew what it was like to live the way she did.  They watched from outside the gates just like the rest of the world.  One of her grandson's lived a mile away from one of her favorite houses that she spent countless hours visiting.  Every bit of this story is sad.

What happens in the end is what the world describes as greed.  Her son Anthony and his third wife Charlene swindle their way into her will and take over ownership of their favorite Brooke Astor homes until one of his son's figures it out.  This opens up one of the craziest cases of fraud within a wealthy family and tears apart what little bit of relationship they had.  Which in reality, was none.

The way I see it — no amount of philanthropic work, no expensive art collections, no fancy homes on the water or on Park Avenue….not friends who are Presidents or Queens can take the place of being a mother & grandmother to your children.  God has given them as His gift and they deserve the best of me and not what's leftover after I spend all my time, energy & money blessing others.  Poor Mrs. Astor & poor poor Anthony, Phillip & Alec Marshall.  What a tragic life.

Money can do wonderful things.  It can also be the root of jealousy & evil.  So, next time you're tempted to dream of all you'd do with a big stack of money…think about the ones you love.  Would you give them up to be rich?

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