Friday, December 21, 2012

The Unwanted Inheritance

I suppose it's my fault really.  I'm the one that reaches out and becomes transparent and writes publicly about my disappointments.  Sometimes I wonder if valuing transparency is something I got from my mother, the Tsunami Dorit, who is brutally blunt and often says anything that comes into her brain without filter.  She believes doing that is merely being honest and never learned the difference between expressing yourself and having verbal diarrhea.  Still.  You'd think that if I bothered to write my uncle a heartfelt and dignified letter that was sent properly through the mail, he would respond somehow.  He would say something, anything, even a hearty fuck you would be better than nothing.  I figure he never contacted me due to knowing he did something terribly wrong, and the ability to express this is impossible for the maladjusted person.

I suppose it means that I did my best to be a forthright and respectable person, and he is no longer worth having in my life.  Not that he was much anyway.  That makes me incredibly sad, especially during the holiday season but it's also a good lesson learned.  Last year was the first time in my life that my cousin called me on Christmas, but I do not expect to hear from him again this year.  In fact, if he calls I have a mind to tell him exactly what I think, and I would do it Dorit style.

How do you ever know if you're doing the right thing regarding these dramas and intricacies that come up?  Was it brave of me to walk away from the inherited condo, or should I have fought through the drama to make it mine?  Just recently I found the perfect couch set that I could have put in the living room.  And I found perfect curtains at a store I occasionally check out online.  I recently started to wonder if I could learn to make my own tile and create a custom color arrangement for the bathrooms.  Bathrooms that someone else now owns, and it will be likely a decade before I will get this chance again.  I did not ever imagine that I would feel this way.  I only thought: "get rid of it."  I didn't want to deal with ghosts and obnoxious family members.

If out of nowhere a series of events happen that make you just want to run away, how will you learn to take on difficult situations?  They will continue to happen, and in this circumstance things will only get worse.  My goal for 2013 is to learn how to make this funny.  I wish to spin my epic ongoing soap opera into comedy so that I can live a normal life.  Call it therapy, call it vengeance.  Either way, it's going out there.

If you inherit a circumstance that you don't want, isn't there a way to see the bright side?  Why do I wish I had it now?  I only learned that I officially dislike both sides of my family and am quite alone.  Since I am surrounded by unsupportive people, I always feel too attached to friends and unable to be sure of anything I do.  However, I am determined to turn this around.  

I must find it all funny, whimsical, and a laugh track ridden sit-com despite the dark undertones.  Here is a first attempt:


Dorit sits outside at a table, puffing away quickly on her third cigarette in a row.  Her daughter Aviva comes to sit outside next to her.


          What are you so upset about now?




         Well, it's nice out today.  We should hit the Botanic Garden or something.


        We've got a botanic garden right here.


        That's true.  My god.  How many of those have you smoked?


        Who cares?  Your father doesn't care.  He doesn't care about anything.  Your dad never stood up for me.  He let your grandmother and your uncle Jim were awful to me the whole time I knew them.


       How is it possible that you're so stuck on the past?  Let it go.  Move on.  That's the only option.


      Don't you know what they did to me?  And now we're stuck cleaning up after that asshole.  Your dad better get his share of this mess.  If he doesn't handle this right I don't know what I'll do.  I should just pack up and move to Israel.

       Of course.  You'd never face any drama there.


      Your dad is useless and lazy.  He never does anything right.  Your grandma used to tell people how embarrassed she was that her son married me right in front of my face.  Your dad never said anything.  Your uncle used to swipe his finger over the light fixtures to find dust, and tell me what a lousy wife I was for not keeping the house clean.  And look what he left us!  Piles of pornography!  Piles of that shit.  Everywhere.  And not just the stuff with boobs.  They call it hard core that stuff.  You have no idea.  


         I have some idea.  Ma, come on.  Give it a rest.  So they were jerks.  We can't do anything about it now. We just have to deal with the condo and move on.


Your Uncle Jim gave you rocks for your birthday.  Rocks wrapped up in a box and lots of paper.  Rocks! You were just four and started to cry.  And they laughed at you.  What kind of people are these?  They don't understand love. They don't understand decency.  Your uncle Jim was the worst.


         Ma, he's dead.  They're both dead.  How is it possible that you're upset at dead people?  What did they visit you in a dream or something?


        They were ashamed to take a picture with me even.  They told me the photos at your Uncle Baloney's wedding were just for family and made me move aside.  Did I show you the only wedding photo I have from it?  I had to ask someone to take a picture of me and your dad.  Only one photo of me in that beautiful dress!  My god.  And your dad never said anything to them.


           You're talking about something that happened 30 years ago.  Surely there is something better that happened in the last 30 years that can occupy your thoughts?


         Oh yeah?  I suppose you take everything so easily.  Well how would you feel if something from your past came up?  How would you feel if you heard from Voldemort?


        My ex?  I have heard from him.  He sent me a facebook message a while back.


      Oh really?  And how did you handle that?


      Well I was upset for an evening but then I realized that I could just delete it, and he was gone.  Just like that.


        He came here you know.  I talked to him.


        Excuse me?


       He came here.  He wanted to give you some stuff from the apartment.  He gave me a box but I never opened it.


       When was this?


        I don't know.  A year.  A year and a half ago.


       A year and a half ago?  Where is it?


        I don't know.  We were just going to throw it away.  We didn't think you'd want anything from that scum.


         WHAT?  I don't, what are you, why?  He was here and gave you a box of my stuff and you never bothered to even tell me about it?


        See, you are upset.  That's why I never told you.  I talked to him for a while.  Your dad came home and told me to get rid of him and that was that.


        I'm upset at you, not about some stupid box.  What do you mean you talked to him? What?


           He asked if he could talk to me and I said yes, so I brought him out here into the yard and we had lemonade.  He told me about what he is doing now, and he gave me his business card.  Do you want it?  It's in my wallet.


         You had lemonade?  Lemonade?  With Voldemort?  I don't understand.  I don't understand. How could you possibly speak for me?  What were you thinking?


        I didn't speak for you.  I spoke for me.  I wanted him to know how I felt about it.

{AVIVA stands up to leave but paces back and forth.}


       Oh my god.  You are a train wreck.


        See Aviva?  And now you think it's easy to let things go.  Terrible things happen all the time and we have to deal with unpleasant people.  And it still affects me.  I have a right to feel angry at them if I want to.  I have a right to tell people how I feel.  Your dad should have told his family how he felt once in a while.


       I don't think you get it.  In a normal world you're supposed to take the box and tell a person like Voldemort to have a nice life, and not engage in conversation at all.  You can't invite evil into your yard.  You can't possibly compare this to agonizing over 30 year old relationships with people who are dead.  I'm going to need one of those cigarettes.


       No you don't get it.



Monday, October 1, 2012

Friday, September 28, 2012

Betrayal. Again.

Dear Asshole Cousin S,

I want to be honest with you.  When I called you about your upcoming trip to Ireland I was completely appalled at your family and still am.  I sincerely cannot believe that you all are going to spread Jim's ashes without us, or without our knowledge of the fact.  You seem to be under the impression that it is L's responsibility to tell us what is going on and that is just ridiculous.  Your dad should have been forthright with us about everything and is purposely leaving us out either due to the fact that he owes my dad and I $5000 or because he simply does not care.  Or both. 

My dad and I did real honest labor involving Jim's place and saw that everything was dealt with properly, and you guys can't even tell us of your plans or promise to send pictures or anything?  We don't even know if you're doing any sort of blessing at the site, or if you're going to bury his capsule or anything.  We did all the hard work, but you get a vacation out of it and a chance to look like heroes to the family overseas.  We never said that we didn't want to go, it was just going to be a challenge to arrange it.  This was a perfect opportunity to come together and see this through, but instead you guys blew us off.  It's fine if you really decided on things last minute but a phone call or just any information would have been the kind and appropriate way to handle this.  Surely your family can't have such bad manners.

I could choose to write you all off forever due to this extreme insult but instead I am trying to gain an explanation and involvement in order to right this wrong.  I have sent your dad a very dignified and heartfelt letter expressing my disappointment and so far have been completely ignored.  I am seriously hurt and cannot believe your family has treated us this way.  There is nothing in the world we did to deserve such an ugly display of selfishness and arrogance.  

Maybe you think this is just between them, but not this time.  This directly has affected me and will determine the rest of the course for us as family members.   I figured I should clue you in.  Even if we are not close, I have been nothing but nice to all of you.  I have done my absolute best to be diplomatic and reasonable.  When we were younger I tried to be your friend and real relative, and you have never tried with me.  This will be my last olive branch.

I urge you to think carefully before responding in a rash manner; I will not entertain any ludicrous stories of the past or insults to me or my dad. 

Have a nice trip.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Letter Sent

Dear Uncle Baloney,

I am writing you to offer you an opportunity.  I hope you will take a few minutes to hear me out.  

It has occurred to me that throughout the process of cleaning out, repairing, and remodeling Jim’s home you might have been too far removed to understand what took place.  This might seem like none of my business to you, but I personally spearheaded the movement to fix up the place, designed the new kitchen, and did plenty of physical labor there.  In fact, I took three months out of my life to move home and assist my dad with everything that needed to be done, since you did not come to help.  

My parents cleaned up the aftermath of the death, meaning the bodily fluids and tissues that had seeped onto the floor and closets.  They had to wear masks and move the soiled mattress out themselves.  They sorted personal belongings, paperwork, funeral arrangements, thank you cards, and cleaning.  I helped with a great deal of that, as well as arranging the car donation. I called all the other condos for sale down the street, and my dad and I looked at each of them to compare and get ideas for what needed to be done.

The actual remodel was not merely some paint job.  We covered the entire paneling in the basement with dry wall.  We built a new wall to cover the exposed yellow brick and the hideous bars on the stairway, we tore out all the carpeting and linoleum flooring, we ripped out all kitchen cabinets, we removed and threw away all the shades and blinds, we painted each wall, closet, door, and ceiling with two coats of primer first, and then the actual color because the it was so brown from years of neglect and cigarette smoke.  Each window frame needed several coats of paint.  We installed new lights in every single fixture, a new bathroom mirror, and new cabinets.  

The new kitchen cabinets took us to 6 different stores, each filling out a floor plan with which to determine the best price and arrangements.  I added a lazy Susan fixture and determined that we could install a microwave with exterior exhaust that hung above the stove.  My dad and I did this all our selves.  He managed far more labor after I left, including installation of the new floor, several plumbing and electrical changes, the addition of a garbage disposal, a new stairway rail, and all touch ups.  He did not bother paying for a single bit of installation or repair from any service.  He saved money on the project in every way because he shopped around until he found the best prices, and he already had some useful tools and leftover tile that he replaced the tile in the entire kitchen with himself. He also advertised and sold the condo himself, without seeking help from an agency. The condo could in no way shape or form be sold without all our labor.

You are the recipient of half the money from the condo sale, due entirely to the efforts of my dad and I.  One week after receiving the money, you are claiming financial duress and have not paid my dad the full amount you agreed on for the work we did.  It’s not that you don’t have the money, it’s that you don’t want to pay.  You were agreeable for the project supply costs, but when it comes to the value of our time and hard work, you are purposely snubbing us.   You have created a situation where we have to remind you that we exist, and that you directly benefited from our labor.  If you and Dad had to split the cost of biohazard cleaners, actual contractors, additional supplies, tools, and a real estate agent, the cost would be far greater than 10 grand.  

Therefore, I am presenting you with the opportunity to do the right thing here. You made a gentleman’s agreement and I expect you to honor it. My dad has asked me not to involve myself between the two of you, but it’s not good enough for me to hear that you intend to pay him at some point in time. You also may think this is not my place to intervene, but I am personally insulted by your disregard of everything we have done to resolve this crisis.  It feels like an invalidation of all our hard work, and I am heavily disappointed to realize that you clearly don’t care about us.  We dealt with everything in a timely and efficient manner.  My dad has little to no faith that you will follow through, and that is just sad.

If you and my dad continue to live on two different planets, that is fine by me. I am the lucky one in all of this because I got to spend quality time with my dad and learn about all his amazing skills and his kind, patient, generous spirit.  We didn’t have to do any of this, but we did because it was the right thing to do.  You received financial gains because of us, and you are lucky to have a brother which such vision, ability, and talent. I wish now that I bought you out completely and my dad and I could have owned the condo together, since we were the ones who brought it back from a disaster to a beautiful living space. I even thought of living there while I finish my masters, since I chose beautiful fresh colors for the walls and had further ideas for the bathrooms.  We determined it was easier for everyone involved to let it go, but now I wish I didn’t.  It doesn’t seem fair how things turned out.  Each project we did was photographed and documented, some of which were even emailed to you so you could see it and feel part of the renewal.  Would you have done the same?

It is my sincere hope that somewhere in all this there is some brotherly love.  In all my 33 years on this earth, I have never heard my dad speak an ill word of you.  Despite Jim’s extreme dislike of us, and what we found out to be a rather sizeable amount of inheritance that he stole from Dad years ago, Jim was fortunate to have us in his life.  Maybe someday you will feel the same.  

My dad spent an entire 24 hours at Stroger hospital with Jim when he had his congestive heart failure.  He wanted Jim to give him a key so we could check up on him and bring him some food.  He was truly upset when he found no one had nice things to say about Jim at the funeral, so we spent many days working on the condo only remembering the nice things about him.  My mom remembered how kind he was to dogs, letting them drink not out of specific containers, but out of his own good dishware.  She remembered calling him when there was an emergency and how he dropped everything to help.  I remembered that he called to tell me that I looked pretty on TV when I worked for PBS, and that he came to all my high school theatre performances, and my ballet recitals when I was little.  Dad told me many stories I hadn’t heard before about what Jim was like in high school and how they once went on a double date.  He told me about how he was jealous of Jim for a time when he got back from the military, because Jim had a real job and a real home when my dad had a stupid job at Jewel.    

I often beat myself up over the fact that two weeks before Jim died, I thought of sending him a book series I read, but I didn’t bother.  My first assumption was that he’d be interested in the books, and he’d appreciate that I thought of him. But I changed my mind, deciding that he probably wouldn’t enjoy something that I liked.  What a giant mistake.  I certainly learned that when it crosses your mind to do something for others you should always go for it, because it’s the right thing to do. Even a small act of kindness can go a long way, and you just never know what lurks around the corner.  

Instead of focusing on our differences and intolerances, we may find that we have some common ground and shared experiences to move forward with.  It’s amazing that after such a sad dark time in a sad dark condo, you can clear out the dust to find and cherish the fact that Jim had a new pair of shoes from good old Uncle Dan’s.  

I hope this letter finds you well and you are enjoying your new home in Larkspur.  I hope you will choose to have a positive outlook on me, and our experience working on Jim’s condo.  This was really important to me and I would do it all over again.  


Your niece,


p.s. In the spirit of following through on plans, I do also intend to place Jim’s ashes to rest in Ireland within the next year.  I suggest we make arrangements by January 6 to take care of this, as I think we all believe it’s what he would have wanted.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Golden Delicious

I have come to an understanding. That is that my family situation is unique and extremely difficult. Everyone has a unique and difficult family, but I don't know if they all feel quite as suffocated and stuck and like they've been dealt a terrible hand. A few people I know feel this often and really get it. Maybe that's why we're friends while others slip away. Some think I am overreacting or allowing family to control my life. Maybe they're right, but they tend to have siblings or cousins or some ally on their side.

 Last year there was a death in the family and I had to deal with both sides of an ethnically and culturally diverse set of principles and traditions. There was endless arguing and power hunger and mistakes and shame. If I had the information that I do now one year ago, things would be different. It may have been my opportunity to end an ugly generational conflict, but I let things go on as usual so that I didn't have to get involved. I've even lost my voice. I couldn't write about these jerks anymore. They don't deserve me, so why do I dwell on them?

 This has been yet another year where I've tried so hard to run away and disregard and say they doesn't matter. Any of them. I hate them. I don't need family in my life. Family is overrated. But right now, at this very moment my grandmother is in a hospital bed. I've been cavalier about this recently. I've said that I don't want her to suffer. I've said that my mom and uncle would be different people if they didn't have this stress and burden in their lives. I've said that I've been lucky to spend 33 years with her. I've said that I know we have her on borrowed time.

And officially last Saturday my mom saved her life. I was going to lose my grandma last Saturday and the reality has hit home. I am not ready for it at all. It's one thing to speculate and decide what's best, but it's entirely another to know you didn't get enough time together. You will never get enough time together. The time you have spent recently is hard and sad and too much, so you don't do it. All you offer now is the occasional phone conversation.

So we talked about crepes. Apple crepes to be specific. She said she wanted to have crepes with me after she gets out of the hospital. My grandma has an amazing crepe recipe that I've only made a handful of times, with strawberries or apples. The pan I've used for years is destroyed by my careless messiness, and the last time I attempted the crepes they all fell apart or wouldn't stick or I couldn't turn them over. When I told her of my disastrous attempts she laughed and coughed and laughed again. She said that she had three pans that she wanted to give me so I could make them right. But I don't want her to give me pans. I want her to be better and show me how to do it. I want to be with her in the kitchen and listen to her explain and let her voice stay in my mind forever. There must be a way for her to stand up and show me all the details.

What I learned on the phone was that besides the lousy pan, I had used the wrong kind of apples in the past. I assumed they were Granny Smith, being that those are the quintessential American apple in all baked goods. But no, Grandma hates them. She didn't understand why Americans use them so often since they don't hold their shape or have enough sweetness without sugar. She said that Granny Smith only work in an apple pie because of the thickness of the dough and the amount of apples used. For something delicate like a crepe, Golden Delicious were the way to go. They didn't need anything but a hint of cinnamon and butter and a light saute on a small fire. They were a perfect apple for desert or breakfast. A Golden Delicious apple was all you needed for a rescuing delight. She knows these secrets better than anyone and without her, I would never know.

She wanted to get off the phone, because she doesn't understand how cell phones work and thought the long distance call was costing me a lot of money. I tried to explain that all it took was minutes, but she didn't understand me. I thought, please don't get off the phone. Please keep talking to me about golden delicious things. I don't want this conversation to end. I don't want it to end ever.