Wednesday, October 18, 2006


    1. A fundamental social group in society typically consisting of one or two parents and their children.
    2. Two or more people who share goals and values, have long-term commitments to one another, and reside usually in the same dwelling place.
  1. All the members of a household under one roof.
  2. A group of persons sharing common ancestry.

So many ways to define a family.

The family that is upper most in my mind right now, in terms of inheritance is a patriarchal family....they all were ruled by the father, dominated more like...and even in the 18 years she lived past his death, his wife rarely made a decision about the family home, or property that she thought he would disagree with. In fact she never even made a new will, but kept the same one he had created for them both so many years ago.

In a sense she was the matriarch of the family, as she was indeed the tie that bound them all together after his death.

But now she is gone, and in the less than 2 weeks that have has become clear how very weak that rope was that bound them together....small skirmishes have already developed. I am hoping a full out battle will not develop....but I think it will.

In this partriarchal family the male progeny inherited the land, and the largest amount of money, which he is then supposed to distribute to his sisters in the manner he thinks is best.

What I have seen occur in the past week is the first born child (a woman) has decided that even though her baby brother inherited the family home...she has the right to make the decisions on how this home will be used. She has decided that it will be for her use as she sees fit...she wants to use it for a vacation home, a holiday home....her brother (and his wife) have other ideas. Her sister says she will never return to this home for a holiday celebration. They are now arguing over who spent the most time with their mother in recent years (they all live far away). They each are gathering all the items they gave her as gifts to be returned to themselves. Listing who spent the most money on her. Going back years in their memories, I have heard them say to one another, "Since you inherited this from our grandmother, I should get this now."

It has begun, this home is next door to me.....daily I have seen cars and vans belonging to extended family members pull up to the back door, eventually be filled with whatever they can carry away. 5 times now I have been asked to go through the house, and to choose those things I would like to have. 5 times I have refused. There is one item this family matriarch told me she was bequeathing to me upon her death....I did not ask for it, but it was something she wanted to give when it comes down from the wall upon which it has hung these many years I will accept it....but already there are those trying to put strings on this small inheritance of son...her great-grandson said that the only remembrance he wanted of this woman was the very same item she bequeathed to the time of his request he had no idea she had already promised said item to me.....all of the female members of the family have known for years....I suppose because she spoke of such things to them more than the males....although my husband...her grandson knew....anyway I told my son "no problem babe, it is yours, when you have a home of your own, and wish to hang it on the wall, just ask."

2 days later, I was told by my mother-in-law that her another of her grandsons had requested the very same item, she then proceeded to tell him that when Aunt Sunny was done with it, I would gladly hand it over to him. Did she ask me before she made this grand gesture? I told her that my son (also her grandson) had requested it, and I then let the matter drop. But I am wondering, if I choose to place it upon my wall will it become an item of contention every time an extended family member is in my home. This particular item hung by the chair that was habitually used by Gram, there are very few photographs of her that do not include this particular wallhanging. I cannot store it away somewhere, so what will I do with small question of many that are now spinning through my mind.

As I stopped by my home today for a quick lunch, another van and car were pulled up in her driveway, being loaded with items that once belonged to her. They say they are only taking away the small items that have sentimental value, or the antique items that they do not wish to become a part of the final estate appraisal.....but arguing over who will get possesion of her recipe boxes?

Many families go through very similar circumstances when the eldest of the family dies, and each family handles it differently. My wish is that I did not live so close by, it is so very difficult to watch. I find myself averting my eyes when I pull into the driveway, not leaving the house once I am home, and if I do have to leave I once again try my best not to look across the way. I keep asking myself how much worse it will get before all is said and done....

I am not sure if it is because I am who I am, or if it is because I am not a blood relative, but I seem to be the middle ground.....I keep getting phone calls, or visitors telling me of the things that are being said, of the secret phone calls between brother and sister, between Aunt and niece. I listen, I do not advise. But, I have asked many many times three simple questions to each who come to me..."Is this really that important?"......"Do you not have her in your heart, in your memories, why do you need more"....."Why do you take offense at someone else desiring an item that was special to her?"

I mainly get a version of this response...."She did not want her life sitting in the driveway for sale."

That is not going to happen unless they cause it by their greediness. My husband who also is co-executor of the estate luckily agrees with me so far....but my fear, the one thing both patriarch and matriarch hoped to avoid was this family infighting, this greed, this division of the family.

I know it is avoidable....but somehow I think things will become much worse as time moves on. I have suggested fair ways to disperse contested items, but so far have been ignored....and what it reminds me of is when a group of toddlers are all together wanting to play with the same toy....who will win....the one with the loudest scream? the strongest? or in the end will the toy have to be taken away to be played with by none? In this particular case put up for auction to the highest bidder, in turn causing exactly what she did not want, her belongings up for sale.

I am wondering.....perhaps the ones who do it right are those who when they start thinking about the end of their lives.....give away their worldly possessions before death, before their family is divided by things.

Everyone is in such a hurry to clear away this wonderful woman's life....why can't we just take some time to breath, to grieve?


Fiona said...

Oh Sunny!!!

This tore at me in so many ways....because it's hurting you, because it's hurting the memory of who was obviously a wonderful woman and because it stirred memories in me of my father's passing.

It's true, the 'property' of a person can destroy relationships and can invoke such feelings of hurt and greed and everything negative.

I ended up with nothing of sentimental value that belonged to my father. It all went to 'the son'. Things that my sister or I would have liked to have had as a memory are all now in one place. And while it hurt that my mother chose to make him the sole inheritor of my father's history, it hurt just as much that he sat there and took it all.

But for me, like you, what I have is the most important thing...the memory of my wonderful father and no material item can ever even remotely compete with that.

Gives you a big big big hug. I think people come to you hon, because of who you are. And how you embrace them emotionally. I know this from how you embrace me Sunny.

Fiona said...

Oh...and I'm leaving everything to my sister!!

But having said that, I really must get a will sorted.

I'd turn in my grave if it ended up split between my 'next-of-kin'.

Polyman3 said...

Man, I know this story well.
When my dad's dad passed away in the 80's, it was the same shit.
Besides his possessions to squabble over- my father being the oldest of 8 siblings was promised some heirlooms that he never saw.

Then the 2nd youngest bro.(the richest of the bunch) contested the will because he felt he deserved the lions share of what money there was, while my Dad never even had a new car in his life.
Oh pity the lot of us- Needs, greeds and passions.
Good luck S. you are most deserving
of all.

LePhare said...

Sunny, it's a story that's been told so many times. I bet the vultures were circling while the body was still warm. As I said on one of Fi's posts, there's only me but my wife is one of five.

If anything happens to my mother-in-law, we all know who will be first at the house. My wife wants nothing, not even a photo. She has all she wants in memories, something that no one can take away.

The more I hear of human nature the less I want to join.I hope it all works out right for you.

Fiona said...

"She has all she wants in memories, something that no one can take away."

Exactly - and the rest of it is 'things' which in the overall scheme don't mean diddly-squat, unless they inspire those memories.

Sunny Delight said...

It is indeed a part of life and death that we all do not handle very well...when I lost my own grandmother 28 years ago, there was nothing of hers I desired, I already had it...the memories of her and I together, a few letters she had written to me as a child, and some photographs...what more do we need than to cherish them in hearts and memories?

I have found myself screening phone calls in recent days, because I cannot listen anymore to why one is more deserving than another.

I hold out hope that the bitterness will not cause years of took my mother's brothers and sisters almost 10 years to get past their feuds from the battles after my grandmother's death....

And yes Fi make that will, then you at least can hope for the best I suppose.....

Fi, Poly, and Lephare...thank you for the kindness your words here helps more than you know.