Friday, September 23, 2011
Family of wills
The background: Before I was born my parents & my grandparents brought some property together, two lots, one for my parents to live on and one for my grandparents to live on. With the idea that when my grandparent passed both lots would be my father's. At the same time, my grandpa gave my aunt the house they lived in down here, figuring he then had given a house to both of his kids. He was a great papa and passed when I was 8, but I think he was not a great father, always making his son feel indebted and instilling a great sense of duty, while making his daughter feel un-loved and un-worthy of love. He loved them, he was a chauvinist and reacted from that ideology. My grandma did not have a great life but a good chunk of that was because she went out of her way to play people off of each other and hurt people. When grandpa died she changed the title on the property to include my aunt, did not tell anyone and then spend years, decades even playing on everyone's feeling and stirring up bad feelings. Most of that time she lived with my parents, drank way too much, and the whole time she hated my mother and resented that my aunt had loved her father more than her mother.
She got very sick more than six years ago, heart attack, renial failure, and congestive heart failure. My aunt was her power of attorney and found that she was deeply in debt, she began rapidly paying off the debt and got a bit aggressive about her mother's spending habits at the same time everyone found out about the property transfer. My aunt mistakenly thought her father had done it. My parents where crushed added to the shock was the fact that my aunt found out first and did not tell her brother. Dad and mom felt betrayed. My sister & I felt it too, added to which it caused me to really examine my grandmother's actions. I spent a long time trying to find a happy memory with my grandmother.
She ended up in a nursing home, which my aunt now mostly unable to deal with being in the same room as my mother liked. Then the nursing staff left her in a dirty diaper for most of the day. They held a meeting to discuss her situation and select one person from the family for the nursing home to deal with due to the conflict. My aunt arranged for the meeting and sprung it on my parents expecting to be named that person, but my grandma likes to cause problems and my aunt made the mistake of mentioning she approved of the care grandma was receiving (right after they talked about how bad it was that she had been left in the diaper.) My grandma shocked the room by naming me. I did not want the job, but have strong feeling against warehousing our elderly, and felt it was my duty to step in. I thought maybe I could even smooth things over between my parents and my aunt. My aunt and I were close, we had worked to together for years. Though things had gotten rough when I got married, 6 months pregnant and had a big wedding. My grandfather forced her to marry her first husband calling her a slut and a whore and threatening to disown her if she did not marry the man she was living with. She compared us and thought I was getting better treatment than she had, I was I had a much better father, and I would have told my grandfather off if he had said such things to me.
My aunt lost it. I mean completely. Told grandma she was dead to her. walked out and only talked to anyone through a lawyer for years. Threatening to sue my father and grandmother (whose health improved greatly when we took her home to live with my parents, she hated my mother to her dying breath but my mom is one hell of a nurse and a nag.) For her portion of the property.
Grandma died right before Christmas, and I am her estates' personal representative. The first time I had seen my aunt six years was in court this June. It went well as far as the functionality of distributing my grandmother's things. On a personal level it was aggressive, heartbreaking and awful. I had always hoped that I would get my aunt back when grandma passed. I left knowing that was unlikely.
I did nothing wrong during this mess except for agreeing to help my grandma. My sister did nothing wrong. My mother did nothing wrong, allow I will grant she is one of those people who never forgets a wrong done to her and can be hard to deal with at times, and she saved grandma's live many times. My father did nothing wrong, but feels badly for caring for his mother out of duty only. My aunt did very little wrong, she should have told her brother when she found out and she kept secrets that should have been told, she reacted very badly and childishly. My grandmother caused this mess and almost all the hard feelings involved, but she is not the one to clean up the mess.
My aunt is suddenly being very reasonable about offering my parents a way to keep the property, essentially offering them a loan of the money to own the property out right with pay back terms that are what he determines he can do right now. She only wants it set up legally. She asked for pictures of my sister's wedding and I asked if she was wanting to be our aunt again. She is not sure it will depend on how this all turns out.
My mother and sister are too caught up in their anger. I thought for certain my sister would see the value in this, my parents get their dream back and my dad who really has had a hard time with his mother's betrayal and his sister's abandonment, gets her back at least a little bit. Maybe we can never be the family we were, maybe we were never as much a family as we could have been, but what does holding on to this anger serve? isn't an uneasy peace better than a open anger. Maybe I am trapped by my desire to have my aunt back, and am willing to gloss over this a bit. My sister actually things my aunt should just sign over the property for nothing and that even if the intervening years of separation and anger had not happened she would be charging my parents. I don't think so but the situation is was it is and there is no way to determine which way she would have gone.
I don't know what will happen, I don't know what is supposed to happen. Everyone has choices in this, I guess I just realized that, maybe if I had called her after she threw her fit rather than waiting for her to apologize we would not be here. I don't know. But I do know I don't have to let my family's choice be mine now. I am not sure I am strong enough, and while I want my aunt back I know I am not the niece she really wants back, she has held the anger in her heart a long time and my sister was always her favorite. That hurts too, but my hurt is not caused by her but a reaction to her.