Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Make It Stop

I hung up on my grandma once this summer. It was the day after I arrived back in Seattle after my uncle's funeral. The previous evening I felt a surge of emotion that had me going to her for comfort. It was all too much at once. I couldn't go to my mom because she was generally in a foul mood. She had taken to only screaming rather than talking, and was utterly taken over by fury due to the circumstances of Jim's death and the secrets he hid.

Each day of family being around became too much for me. My dad's other brother came over to Jim's place to "help" with a little cleaning and sorting of documents. For some reason he brought his wife and mother in law who proceeded to rifle through all the kitchen cabinets and park directly in front of the china cabinet. They were clearly staking their claims. They stayed for about an hour looking through things and clearly trying to find something specific. I assume they didn't find it. My cousin took my uncle's hard drive and came back claiming there was nothing on it at all. When he returned he also brought his wife, and asked her what she wanted. I couldn't believe it. I knew they were contemplating divorce, and did in fact divorce about a month after all this, but hey take what you want from the dead guy! It's only my grandmother's heirlooms, but what the hell. Might as well have a free for all.

I couldn't figure out how a dead man's home, which he didn't want anyone inside of in the first place, became a party of sorts. My uncle with his entourage was just going to sweep in and blow us away. Even my aunt was going through old tax documents and claimed that since she used to be an accountant she could help with his late payments. She boasted about how she had to look all of them over and she would have to go to the IRS with it since she believed he stopped paying taxes years ago. Of course when they left the place, she didn't take anything with her and didn't even bother to help with a thing. She just wanted to see the information.

I was sickened. I felt my blood absolutely boil throughout that day. My dad's face was stony and I could tell he could have reached out and strangled his brother if not for all the witnesses. But what could we have done? I've replayed this event in my head over and over and I wish I said hey get the fuck out right now, or only my uncle and my cousin are allowed in here and no one else, or hello? He just died in here a week ago why are there so many people in his place? I didn't invite my relatives from my mom's side over there during this time. I certainly didn't claim to be of use and then walk away. How did I get stuck with family like this? Who the fuck do they think they are?

During the funeral itself I listened to my cousin talk about how he was very close with Jim. I don't know if he wanted to one-up me or what but I got that feeling. He was saying that he intended to come into Chicago for the 4th of July anyway and was going to stay with Jim. Really? He was going to stay with our uncle who could barely walk across his own tiny kitchen, couldn't catch his breath, and was living in filth? They were so close that he didn't know of our uncle's recent hospitalization which had my dad spending the night at the hospital? Come on. I like my cousin, I really do. Or, I want to like him very much. He is my only cousin on planet earth and we do have a great deal in common, but then.....I don't know if I like him at all. We're pretty much strangers. And after listening to him talk about how much he loved Jim and will miss him and how close they were, I really wanted to punch him in the face. At the funeral he endlessly talked about himself and how amazing he is and branding and product recognition and social media marketing and entertaining account managers and blah blah blah. I admire that he is very successful and he is happy with it, but I don't know how to talk to him and I admit that he makes me uncomfortable. I'd rather be cousins with his ex-wife.

We briefly talked about why I gave up on Jim long ago and my aunt and cousin totally didn't believe me. I could see it in their faces. It was a classic case of ignore the problem and it doesn't exist. My cousin did agree that Jim probably just hated women and that was all their was to it. Of course my aunt claimed that he wasn't so bad and she never noticed him treating women badly. In fact, didn't I know that Jim was in love with her sister and wanted to marry her? Oh sure. Of course he did.

I confronted her about not being invited to my cousin's wedding. I was talking about how I didn't understand why we are always the black sheep in this family and why everyone treats my dad so badly. I told her we were pretty shocked about not receiving an invitation. What happened next was pretty beautiful. First she claimed that they did not send any invites and they just called people. She was sure that they called my parents. I told her they didn't. Then she got my cousin and said: she thinks we didn't invite them! He said oh no you were invited. We just didn't have your address. Couldn't you have sent it to my parents? They've been in the same spot for 25 years. We did! We sent them invitations. They didn't get it. Oh well it must be V's fault. She was the one in charge of all that stuff. (V was my cousin's wife) That's it. Blame it on the wife.

And then there was the vase. It was decided that my cousin and I would split everything in the china cabinet between us. Our parents agreed on this, but then my uncle changed his mind. He kept asking my aunt what she would like. She claimed not to want anything but then said that she wanted the crystal paperweight. And she wanted my grandmother's bible, especially since it didn't mean anything to us. Then my uncle wanted porcelain flowers. Then he wanted the vase that the flowers were in.

What? I don't think I am the normally the type to behave this way but as far as I'm concerned all that shit is mine. Mine. I allowed my cousin to take what he wanted but that was the deal. My aunt and uncle already have all the crystal and porcelain and silver they want. I never received any heirloom from my grandparents because guess what. My uncles and aunt STOLE it all after their passing. I didn't get a piece of jewelry or a book or anything that I could have kept for sentimental value.

The way this happened was that after my grandmother passed, my dad was not welcome in his parent's home. My uncles refused to let him inside claiming that he was a bad son and a bad Catholic and he didn't deserve anything. Of course the only uncle left claims that he had no idea about this and wasn't involved with it. It was between my dad and Jim.

This was a bold faced lie. Jim told me that my grandmother didn't have any jewelry and what she did have they gave to the church. Total bullshit, as we knew that she liked amber. Years later he found some old costume earrings and a rosary with marble stones that he gave me. The earrings were total junk. And, about ten years ago before they moved to the west coast, my aunt invited me over saying that she had something to give me. It was a sweater my grandmother hand knitted in the Celtic knot style. She said that she had several and didn't have room for them all but that I could have this one. It was too big for her anyway. She told me that she was going to keep the one my grandma wore the most often for sentimental value. She also showed me a porcelain bird in her china cabinet that she claimed my grandmother asked her to keep safe.

So, everything went to the church except for the things my aunt wanted? Am I to believe that my grandmother would rather her daughter in law have these items over her only granddaughter? Specifically, these very girlie items which could be given to my future family? Is it really because I was some heathen child and should I have been a Catholic she would have cared about me? Once I found out about the sweater and the bird I realized that there might have been several things that were taken from me. Seeing some of them in Jim's place made me territorial. And crazy.

There is no doubt whatsoever that I don't really care for china cabinets or porcelain or crystal. A lot of it is tacky anyway, but I couldn't get over the principle of the whole thing. My aunt and uncle agreed that it was all to be split between my cousin and I, and then they proceeded to lay claim to things. My uncle consulted a lawyer he knows while in town and started making demands of my father in the way to handle things. My dad refused outright and when my uncle tried to become a joint executor of the will, he was shot down due to living in another state. What a shmuck.

So when my uncle had gone back home and called reminding us that he wanted that vase, I went into a fury. It was decided that we would conveniently forget about it, or send him a smaller one. Frankly I did like the vase and would have put it to use, but the vase became this symbol for everything wrong. We started to argue about the stupid vase. My grandma said not to give him the vase. My uncle said that the other uncle will respect me more if I decide that it's mine. My mom said that I should cut him with: "I'm sure Grandma J would have wanted me to have it."

The experience sent me into tears and I went to my grandma to seek help. I just couldn't understand why he would call just for a stupid vase, on my dad's birthday no less, and still make demands. It had me wondering once again how I share DNA with these people. In the end, my dad caved and sent the vase over. And this is what I don't like about my dad: sometimes he can be a doormat. I'd like it if he took a stand more often. There are certainly things worth being entitled about. I can't figure out why he would let his brothers treat him like that all those years ago. Wouldn't you just shove them out of the way? Get into a physical fight? Get a lawyer so you are protected from them? Or never talk to then again, funerals or not? Other times I think he just doesn't like confrontation or doesn't want to be bothered or maybe just doesn't want to sink to such a level over something so stupid. Who really cares about the vase itself? There will be other vases and other knick knacks that might someday end up in a garage sale anyway. I guess it was the turmoil of being around these awful people and drudging up old memories and ugliness. Maybe the best thing to do is wrap up the dirt and send it away.

It was all too much. The day after I hung out with Grandma I was leaving to go back to Seattle. I noticed my mom acting very strangely around me and hugging and kissing me too much and asking if I was ok a hundred times. I drank a few greyhounds in the airport and had a decent sleep on the plane. I called my mom when I arrived and she said that she was worried about me because Grandma said I was hysterical about the vase. What? I was upset about my uncle and what a lousy person he is and all of a sudden I am hysterical? That is ridiculous.

I called Grandma the next day to thank her for her help, and tell her that she shouldn't have told my mom about our conversation. She immediately wanted to talk more about it and argue that she had to tell my mom because I was so miserable. I told her that I cried for maybe two minutes and just wanted to talk, there was no reason to tell my mom I was hysterical. She kept going on and on about it and I got even more upset that I bothered to tell anyone my feelings at all. I told her I didn't want to talk about it anymore and she completely freaked out. She screamed and screamed at me that I was a baby and I couldn't handle anything and I never told her not to share with my mom and I was a baby and didn't I know what a child I was and what kind of a child is 32 years old and on and on. I couldn't get in one word and I pulled the phone away and then she was still going on. Out of nowhere a very clear thought in my brain said: "MAKE IT STOP," and I hung up the phone.

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