Friday, November 13, 2009

Family Feud

It's getting so the only time I hear about my dad's side of the family is when one of them wants to persuade me to gang up against another. We used to be very close, all of us. Dinner every weekend on my grandparents' farm, weeks and weekends at each other's houses, three day long family reunions with barbecues and hootenannies and camping around the bonfire every year that drew relatives from all over the US.

My grandmother was the glue that held them all together, and apparently my dad was the woodclamp, because since he passed away, things have gone downhill, and aunts and uncles on either side of the feud will take one of us aside from time to time, and say "this never would have happened if your dad was alive." As if this is all somehow our fault. Now keep in mind, these people are in their late sixties to late seventies, they're all healthy, living and working on small farms or in small towns in wholesome southern Indiana.

It's not that they fight about any one thing, they've been at each other's throats for over a decade now. Uncle L asked Grandma to give him power of attorney so he could help her with her affairs, but Grandma didn't like Uncle L's wife, so she gave POA to Aunt K. Now you can't say anything nice about Aunt K around Uncle L or he'll throw you out. And Uncle M will storm out of his own house if you don't watch it. That killed our rompin stompin gun and beer totin family reunion hoedowns.

When my grandmother wrote her will, she literally implored my aunts and uncles to get along, that she wanted them each to have an equal share of her earthly goods, and that she wanted them to care for each other and be glad for each other. Well that went to shit before she got a chance to die. They fought over who visited her most, who took her furniture when she moved to the old age home, who cut her lawn, whether one was stealing the farm or the other was abusing her somehow. They called the cops on each other, once from my Grandma's home.

I used to visit all of them every year when I came back, but the last straw was when Uncle L's wife told the whole family that my brother was a rich millionaire who was trying to steal grandma's farm by having Aunt K hold an auction for it across state lines where the rest of them couldn't bid on it. And yes, they've known my brother since he was born, and no, he's not rich. All he ever said was he wished the whole family could pitch in and buy the farm together so we wouldn't have to lose it. Aunt K had to sell it in anticipation of grandma's nursing home expenses. By now she was in her late 90s.

The winter before she passed away at 99, Uncle L started litigating to take over her care from my aunt, then when she was gone, he tried to get executorship of the estate, from Grandma's trusted family lawyer. He lost. He filed criminal charges against Aunt K and got her thrown in jail for a bit, but she got out. She used her POA to buy all of grandma's furniture right before grandma died for a dollar and sold it all and kept the money. She put a registry book in grandma's old age home and hid it at the nurses station, so that it would look like the rest of the family never went there. He sued the estate and accused Aunt K of hiding funds. Aunt M's son in law became his lawyer and they all decided the estate owed him and every other lawyer a yearly stipend.

This went on from 2005 until the present. My sisters, brother and I stayed out of the fighting. We didn't want to choose sides, we loved them all, and had reason enough not to trust anyone's version of events. Since our father had passed away, his portion was supposed to go to us, split evenly.

We don't know why the estate didn't just release the funds to us before the war started. We don't know why we're being made to give up our portion of the estate to pay for the lawyers our aunts and uncles are lobbing at each other. We just assumed there was some kind of lien on the estate until Uncle L and Aunt K settled. We figured they'd just waste the whole estate in legal fees, because some of their actions were aimed at the estate and its executor.

Then last year the court assigned a mediator, they hammered out an agreement, and three of the siblings signed it. They kind of forgot to invite me and my siblings, and worse, they forgot to make sure Aunt K signed it. She didn't. There was a hearing yesterday, and my cousin's husband tried to get out of having the estate pay the mediator, since he never notified us of the meeting, and never ensured Aunt K signed the agreement. But that was the only matter the judge wanted to hear about. He ordered the estate to pay the mediator, told the bunch of remaining family members to work it out, and left them. Aunt K never even bothered to show up.

My dad, the oldest, was born at home. They all lived in a farmhouse Grandpa built himself out of the former corncrib. The original farm house had burned before they bought the place. It was the Depression, but my grandparents made enough through farming and factory work to support five kids, and take in cousins on the weekends. Grandpa even hoarded nickels to buy his nieces and nephew ice cream of a Sunday. Every night, on the top floor where all the bedrooms were, the whole family would recite the rosary together before bedtime, telling the beads as they lay in bed, loud enough for each other to hear.

They woke up before dawn, milked cows, fed pigs, and headed off to school together. They all came home at the same time and did chores till supper, then played basketball/did homework/worked on their hobbies till bed. It was a good life, they all admit it.

I'd really like to just get it over with. My sister told the judge she was willing to give up a chunk of our share if we could just get out of it and never have to deal with it again. They're acting more like little kids than we were allowed to in all my childhood.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.