Be careful where you fling your meat.
Last night I got smashed and stayed up until 4am. It is rare that I get drunk. There was good occasion for it though. Last April my aunt announced to my mom that she wanted to sell the house. The house we’re living in. The house she co-owns with my mom.
They’ve owned it for over 7 years and the 5 years my mom wasn’t living in it and they had it rented out my aunt didn’t notice, apparently, that she was losing 20k a year by owning it (she really isn’t – but that’s a complicated thing to explain so I won’t). It wasn’t until my mom announced that we were all going to move back to California and live in this house that my aunt first discovered what a burden it’s been to her for the last 6 years. Mom convinced her that it’s a terrible time to sell so we moved in and lived here happily until this past April when Aunt L discovers again that she’s losing thousands of dollars a year owning it and wants to sell it.
My mom didn’t want to sell it.
A couple of notably stupid assumptions on my aunt’s part both stunned and angered me. The first is that she thought that since she put in a lot more money into the house than my mom did that she’s entitled to ALL the money made from selling it. She actually believed that. So in her mind she would sell it, my mom would be homeless, not have a penny from the house, and Aunt L would get a few hundred thousand dollars for it and bemoan the loss of the rest of what she spent on it. She later claimed she wouldn’t ever make my mom homeless. She was incredulous and bummed to discover that that’s not how selling property as a co-owner works. So she had to swallow her lumps and accept that my mom would be entitled to a third of whatever they might make by selling the house. She still insisted that she wanted to sell because she’s practically going broke owning a house she’s not living in.
She clearly needs a new accountant and to take a lesson in how things in real life work.
Also – I should note that she’s a very wealthy woman and will never have to face the situations that her less fortunate sister faces all the time. And making a couple hundred thousand dollars off this house is more important to her than the well-being of her sister. Nice.
The rent for the mortgage was completely affordable to us. It’s what made it possible to move back to California.
We were going to make it damn hard for Aunt L to sell this property. She would have had zero cooperation from any of us. She was forcing an ugly situation until a good friend of Philip’s suggested he might be able to help us out. He was looking for a property to invest in and thought he could buy my aunt out giving us time to get our credit back up to par, save money for a downpayment and eventually buy him out giving him profit on however much the house appreciated in value during that time.
It has taken our friend a tremendous amount of work and headache and several months to make this happen but he did it. As of yesterday our friend is a 50/50 owner of this house with my mom. My aunt no longer has the power to put my mom in a horrible situation. She got some money and should now find a new accountant.
So I celebrated by getting smashed. I am paying for it today. This is why I rarely get drunk. But it was worth it. I had to do it. I have been in a constant state of stress wondering how the hell we would be able to find a rental big enough for the four of us, two large barking dogs, and 4 cats. I’ve been stressing over my mom’s future, her security, and feeling angry that my mom’s family has once again shown their true asshole colors. It’s like my asshole grandfather all over again. The sin isn’t that they’re wealthier than we are – the sin is that they look down on us (particularly my mom) for the choices we’ve made and the fact that my mom has needed help from her family on more than one occasion. Her family gives help but not without then feeling superior to you for the rest of your life. That’s a sin that’s hard for me to forgive.
All summer I have been remembering a lifetime of slights delivered by my oldest first cousin. When we were kids she told me she was cleaner than me because her nose was shiny and mine wasn’t. Never mind that it could also mean her nose is just oilier than mine, but it was clear from the beginning that she thought herself a much better person all around than me. It continued for pretty much our whole lives. The digs against Californians (“land of fruits and nuts” she loved to say) I took with pretty good humor because I like fruits and nuts well enough and I would rather live in the land of the freaks than the land of the bigots. It was this same cousin from whose mouth I first hear the racist expression “raghead”. Not when we were kids, either. She used this expression 14 years ago and I hope to God she has since come to realize what a shameful and hateful word that is and has excised it from her language and her small heart.
This same cousin has made numerous digs to my face about how irresponsible my mom is and furthermore crowed loudly about how she and her siblings and her mom will never have to work a day in their lives again if they don’t want to because of the trust funds their father set up for them before he died. She shoved that in my face knowing that none of us have a penny beyond what we need to buy food and pay rent (a situation that hasn’t changed much). I hated her for that meanness of spirit, for her condescension, for her pride over something she didn’t actually do anything to achieve herself.
Over the years I have carved any bad feelings my cousin and aunt have caused me to feel out of my heart. I have carefully scraped away the feelings of hate for their casual disdain of us and our messy lives because they are family and no matter how assholish your family is YOU TRY TO LOVE AND FORGIVE THEM.
I’ve already been through all of this with my racist asshole of a grandfather (who I loved in spite of his racism and the million times he disowned my mother which was a minor sport to him). He helped pay off my student loans – for which I was honestly grateful – but I never actually asked for his help. I had actually told him to fuck off for being such an asshole to my mom (actually what I said to him) and told him what a scumbag he was and his response was to tell me he really wanted to do something for me and thought helping me pay off my loans would really help me out. I would have paid them off myself over time in spite of how hard it was at the time but he seemed so contrite and sweet and like a normal grandpa for once I accepted his offer. Once I accepted it I realized that it was a trap. If you accept money or help from anyone in my mom’s family you essentially give them the right to wipe their shoes on you. Or at least that’s what they think.
My other two cousins, by the way, have never said this kind of shit to my face nor given any indication that they feel superior to their Californian relatives. Maybe they feel the same way as their sister and Aunt L do – but at least they’ve never made us feel it. I like them quite a lot but in writing this and in disowning my Aunt, which I have done, I will likely lose them too. That’s the price to pay to get assholes out of your life. Sometimes you lose their loyal loved ones too.
This summer was brutal not just because my mom almost died twice, but because of what my aunt was forcing us to go through. I couldn’t talk about all this house stuff because I couldn’t risk messing anything up for my mom. So I’ve kept my mouth shut.
The loan funded on Monday and so last night we celebrated. My mom will never have to move from this house. Our friend B and his wife have made a good investment while simultaneously helping us in a huge way. Meantime we don’t have to move from a great situation. Our rent is going to go up by $800 which is pretty brutal but it was the only way we could stay here and now our rent will actually be pretty much what most people are paying for what we have – so it’s totally in line with the rental market. Can’t complain about that. If I have to get a job to pay the extra rent after all – I’ll do it. But it may not come to that and we’re already budgeting ourselves a little better and I’m optimistic that I can make enough extra money from my shop that this will work out well.
I was really sad at first to realize that our friends treat us better than some of our family does. But then I realized that this has been true my whole life and for all the bad shit that we’ve gone through – this is the good karma coming back to us – that we have made so many loyal and thoughtful friends who go out on really big limbs to help us out. This isn’t the first time our friends have done extraordinary things for us and it may not be the last.
Instead of being sad about what my family isn’t capable of I am feeling tremendously grateful for our large circle of wonderful friends who are very much like I believe family should be.
I’m also grateful for the family members I still have in my life who are awesome.
It seems that the underlying message of the summer was about sisters. How you treat your sister. What you put before your sister’s well being and how to become a better sister myself.
I don’t think I’ve ever needed my sister the way I needed her when our mom was hospitalized this summer. I really needed her and she was there. She was there with me through the whole awful ordeal. She took weight off my shoulders to her own discomfort. She solved problems, she forgave my outbursts of depression and anger and she took care of the goddamn puppy even though she’s not a dog person. She cleaned and ran errands and visited mom twice every single day. She dealt with paperwork and made sure our mom was getting the best care possible. I have never felt so close to my sister as I do now because of what we’ve been through together with our mom.
But even before this summer I think we’ve always been the kind of sisters who would never put money before each others’ welfare. I can promise that if my sister needs money and I have it to give – I’d share it. If my sister needs a place to live – I would always make room for her with us even though we haven’t got much room – that’s what you do for your sisters and brothers and mothers and fathers and aunts and uncles and first cousins.
That’s the kind of person my mom is and that’s the kind of sister she is and that’s the kind of person she brought me up to be. That’s why I will never let my mom live on the streets. Or at least I won’t let her live on the streets alone. We also don’t abandon pets who are part of the family too. When facing the possibility of having to find a place for all of us to live together it did look like an impossible feat and we joked about how we’d all live on the streets together with our posse of animals riding our shopping carts with us. If we go down, we go down together. If any one of us can hold the rest of us up – we do. Out of love. Out of loyalty. Out of generosity of spirit. Because that’s how you treat family. That’s also how you treat your real friends.
Because of the kind of family I was given – I have learned that sometimes you have to cut ties to remain a healthy person. I disowned my father because he consistently insults me, my intelligence, and is a bigot. I still wish him well but I can’t engage with people who only come into my life to make me feel bad or who treat my other family members like shit. It takes a lot for me to cut ties with family because I am loyal and I believe in forgiveness and accepting people for who they are. But as a person who has experienced abuse I have also learned that to maintain good mental health it is sometimes necessary to cut unhealthy relationships from your life in order to have a healthy life.
So this summer my family got smaller. I no longer consider my aunt family. Or my oldest cousin. They can congratulate themselves on being such great stable people who always make the best decisions* and never need anyone’s help – and they can do it out of my hearing forever more.
My mom has no part in this disowning, incidentally. She knows my feelings about my aunt and in no way endorses them. She thinks I’m being too harsh. But she’s the one that let my grandfather hurt her again and again and again. She forgives and forgets better than anyone else I know. My mom has been making excuses for my aunt all summer. She has consistently tried to see things from her perspective. Because that’s the kind of person my mom is.
My mom loves her sister.
It’s going to take me a long time to forgive my aunt for what she’s done, for the way she thinks about (or doesn’t!) her own sister. For her selfish disregard for how her actions and decisions affect others. I know that I will forgive her because I believe that forgiveness is a big part of our ability to evolve and mature as people. My aunt, like me, is only human. But forgiveness doesn’t mean I have to have people in my life who look down on me or my mom. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to allow yourself to be vulnerable again to those who’ve trampled you in the past.
And if some day my aunt finds herself in the dreadful position of having no resources and needs help and I’m in a position to help her? I will help her. Because that’s the kind of person my weird-ass awesome mother raised me to be. If my aunt ever needs something from me that I have to give I will give it to her. And I won’t think less of her for asking or needing help. But I will not let her back into my family circle.
Because she doesn’t deserve a place in it.
That is what I’ve been holding in my chest for 7 months without the ability to speak. Without the freedom to act.
So last night I stayed up until 4am and drank way too much. I listened to different versions of “Halleluja” and got emotional and stupid with my celebrating. We don’t have to move from this house. My mom will never have to move from this house and she has a co-owner who is fair minded and honest and a good friend to us.
Today I am drinking gallons of water and realizing that this is the true beginning of the new chapter I kept mentioning. I kept waiting for it and wondering why old shit kept coming our way. This was the thing that had to happen for the true fresh start that moving back to California has offered us.
I have so much other good stuff to write about and tell you about (the book is SO CLOSE to being published in e-book format!!!!) but that will have to wait another day or two. Right now I need to clean this house. This house I don’t have to move from. This house whose location is PERFECT. Whose garden can now be planned in earnest. I need to clean this house and then I need to organize myself to get some new products made and put up for sale so that I can remain self-employed and help take care of this house that we get to live in.
I’m so tired from all the anxiety and waiting and family shit and sadness and uncertainty and threat of moving and my mom’s recovery and her health insurance troubles.
But right now, right at this minute, I couldn’t be happier.
I am feeling a lot of gratitude.
*Er – well – my aunt’s decision to invest in a house and spend way more on it than she could ever hope to get back and that (apparently) she couldn’t afford to own (*bullshit*) could be called a really stupid decision. But whatever. She probably still thinks she did all that to “help” my mom which is a convenient way to look at it.