I would 1st like to wish all of you a very happy New Year. I wish for and your families the very best of health, wealth and all that you need and want, but most of all I wish for you all love. I have found that without love life seems just not worth living, no matter how much of everything else you have.
Happy New Year!!!
The house that I grew up in has seen its last year as it was and will one day in the very near future rise again out the ashes like a phoenix, as something new, hopefully with happy memories for somebody else. All but a signature has happened to make it a done deal and my Aunt now 86 years old and who has never in her adult life slept in any other house except when on vacation has told me she will sign away the rights to her house. This act will officially end the fighting over this house that caused two sisters, (my mother and my aunt) to war with each other in such a manner and to such a degree that the house grew ugly inside and outside and that forced a generation of kids to take sides and almost lose themselves to this war of wills. The mistrust, the constant bickering, the hurt feelings, the broken hearts and dreams of adult and child a like permeated the walls, the floors and the very air that we were forced to breath and share and turned us hard, brittle and devoid of softness and love.
As the walls and floors fell into disrepair our house began to take on the ugliness of its inhabitants and the joyful times, the happy times became less and less. My mother and aunt expected the fight to continue for the right to call the house their own by some member of the family to continue, after all we had been trained from birth to do just that. They had left us a legacy of the hatred and bitterness to maintain, but in the end there was little left to fight over except the memory of what used to be. The house like our family was all but dead. The house now stands an empty shell, all that is left of its former splendor and glory rotted away, being eaten by carpenter ants, the walls weakened by leaking plumbing and a foundation that is cracked right down the middle like our family that inhabited it. There are so many memories in that house, some good, but mostly bad and some very bad. I found myself happy, sad and teary eyed all at the same time upon hearing the news of its imminent destruction, but in my mind I know that this is for the best for the whole family and hopefully will allow my aunt to find some peace of mind.
There have not been any major family parties, or gathering in that house since my mother’s funeral wake was held there and with her death there seemed to be no reason for the house to exist. My aunt with no one to push her to do even the most minimal of repairs let the house slip even further into disrepair and lived alone in a couple of rooms sharing the house with rats and the memories of times long gone by. I moved her on he December 6 2010 into a bright 31/2 room appartement that is sunny, clean and safe. It is a nice place to wait until the house is rebuilt and at which time my aunt will be returned to it to live in a fully restored and handicap improved 31/2 room appartement in the bottom address of the property, ( described in part one of the The Beginning Years / A Recipe For Failure / Page 1, found in my pages) to live rent and bill free for the remainder of her days. My aunt loves her little appartement, but finds it a bit lonely. The battle and test of mental and psychological wills that spanned a 60 year period is now over and she seems to be searching for a reason to go on living. It consumed so much of her and my mother’s lives that I do not think she quite knows why she still gets up every morning and it gives me great sorrow to see her look for the argument and try to justify why and how it needed to be. We who are left will comfort her and keep her as happy as possible and try to give her some of the peace that for so long she has denied herself.
The feelings of every negative vibe that one can imagine and the threat of my mother’s to make my aunt suffer and that she would never leave that house, (her mother’s house), or acknowledge in any way that the house belonged solely to my aunt, and for my aunt to know no peace in that house until she set things right, or until the day she died, died with her. A 1st cousin is buying the house and renovating it totally and that is a good thing. He will gut it and start over from scratch. My cousin lived there for a time when things were not so bad and has only good memories of the house and maybe that will be reflected in the soul of the new house.
A brief history of the house and why my mother and my aunt decided to live the way they did as written by me in the book titled (The Beginning Years) found in my pages is titled, The Beginning Years / A Recipe For Failure / Page 1 , can be found below in italics.
There were two addresses on the same land deed, the first being the larger of the two, having ten rooms spread over two floors if you didn’t count the cellar as a floor. The second had five rooms and only occupied one floor. To me it always looked like it was created as an after thought, an appendage if you will of the first house. Since all of the male children played musical instruments well enough to be in local bands, the house was always full of music.
My Grandfather returned to his beloved West Indies, after he retired from the railroad. The house below was rented out to visiting bands, which were playing at the local nightclubs. The Avalons and The Platters were two of the popular groups to rent the smaller house from my Grandmother. Any family member passing through the city was welcome to stay at the house without charge as long as they said they were coming in advance.
My Grandmother became sick after my Grandfather left and never recovered. She died in her bed at home after talking to all her children. It is said that my Grandmother explained to them that the house was to be left in my Aunt # 1″s name because she was the oldest girl but it was never to be sold and was to remain in the family as a family house.
It was at this point that greed, jealousy, hurt and mistrust crept into the house. Its stench permeated every drop of air in the house. Whispers of a conspiracy were being alluded to behind every wall and closed-door in the house. The older of the children who had worked and contributed the most towards the buying of the house thought the house should be divided equally between them. The younger children who had cleaned and contributed in other ways thought they were entitled to something as well. In the end a deal was secretly stuck between everyone except my Mother. My Mother refused to allow any change in my Grandmother’s last wishes stating, “The only way I will leave this house and allow you all to violate my Mother’s last wishes for this house, will be over my dead body.”
My Auntie #1 in time paid everyone else what his or her share would have come to over time and declared the house hers although she would let everyone use it as a family house. My Grandfather died in the West Indies a short time after my Grandmother. Auntie #1 it is said started to write to him while he was ill. When he died he left to her all of his holdings in the West Indies. This in turn she shared with all of her siblings except (you guessed right if your thinking) my Mother. I guess she figured if she wouldn’t except a deal with the house then she shouldn’t get anything from my Grandfather’s estate either. My Mother was crushed that my Grandfather would leave everything to my Auntie #1.
My Mom was already suspicious of everyone in her family for the way they all conspired to rob her of her inheritance from her mother and now she had all the proof she thought she needed that the whole family was out to get her again. So she took up residence in the family home and served as a constant reminder to my Auntie #1 that she had not won and that she would never be free to do what ever she wanted to the house as long as she was alive. My Mother took the position that until she saw my Aunt’s will she would not contribute to any cost incurred in the maintenance of the house, fearing that the house would be willed to my Aunt’s daughter. My Auntie #1 on the other hand maintained that there was no need to show the will and my Mother should just trust her and chip in. They argued and threatened each other and drew the whole family into the argument, and all the while the house slipped into disrepair.
The House (Another Version of the Events)
Depending on whom you talk to most versions fall somewhere between my Mother’s and this one, the two versions I talk about represent two extremes of the same story. I feel that there can be found truth in both versions. This version is not all that different from that of my Mother’s in anyway that makes a major difference, except for a few points. In this version of the facts it is my Auntie #1 and my Uncle M who contributed the most financially to aid my grandparents with the buying of the house. Let us say for the sake of argument that they each over time put in a third of the money. All the facts leading up to my Grandmother’s death are the same.
Everyone swears that there was no deal made, secretly or otherwise. The simple fact of the matter is that everyone with the exception of Auntie #1 and Uncle M claims to have received nothing after their mother’s death by way of inheritance. Auntie P wanted a set of her mother’s pots, but even this was denied.
In this version everyone seems to agree that all the children were told what my Mother said about the house being a family house and not to be sold, but contends the house should have went a third to Auntie #1, a third to Uncle M and the final third divided between the remaining heirs. By right of heredity alone they would or should have been entitled to something. As this version goes, after my Grandmother’s death, Uncle M needed some cash and offered to sell his portion of the house to Auntie #1 for the money he had invested. Auntie #1 accepted the offer and with deed in hand announced that the house belonged solely to her.
At this point the two stories are very much the same, until the events leading up to death of my Grandfather. My Mother tells the story of how my Auntie #1, who had not really been close or really cared for my Grandfather because of the way he had treated her during and even after she was pregnant with her daughter started to write him when she found out that he was soon to die. All of what my Mother says in this instance may not be true; but I remember being told by my Auntie #1 that she thought my Grandfather to have been a mean man normally and a cruel man when he took a drink.
My Uncle H went to visit him and spent some time with him and tried to help him put his affairs in order. All my Grandfather was able to remember in the end was my Auntie #1’s letters and her reward was to inherit all that he owned. Uncle H was given the money he spent while in the West Indies as well as his travel expenses; everything else went to my Auntie #1. My Mother who always thought that she was his favorite was both hurt and disbelieving, leaving her to feel as though she had been duped again and was in the middle of a grandiose conspiracy.
As you can see both roads lead the reader to the same conclusion. Although both parties have moral merit in their arguments, only one has a legal leg. Neither will ever attain happiness, because neither is able or willing to compromise, but stand content in the waiting of each other out. In other words waiting for the other to die.
At first the house could be fixed with some paint, as their relationship could have been with a little fairness, compromise and understanding. The, secrecy, mistrust and bitterness of their relationship and the band-aid solutions and the cheap ways they employed in maintaining the house, but as the years past and the cheap way and the Band-Aid solutions became the norm, both began to reveal the ugliness of the spirit within. There came a time when the house would never recover, or regain its former splendor and the same could be said for their relationship.
The house was divided against itself and the house of S began to crumble. At first no one outside of the family knew what was going on, but when the house began to look really bad explanations were sought by all that knew and loved my grandparents.They knew just how proud they were of that house and how they hoped it would be a great thing for their whole family to share in. Everyone knew how ashamed and sad these two pillars of the community would be if they could see the family turning on each other out of greed and jealousy.With the passing of every year the house grew uglier and uglier until it began to reflect the ugliness that permeated the very souls of its inhabitants.
When talking to family members and friends from my Mother’s generation about how the relationship between my Auntie #1 and my Mother got to be in such a sorry state of affairs, that they could cause the house in the end to reflect how their relationship really was. What I found to be true is if I talked to a hundred people I would get a hundred different versions of the same story. As this book is intended to help me to look at my life, I felt that I would go with these two versions of what happened between my Mother and my Aunt #1 and the history of the family. If someone knows different they will be one of many and can feel free to substitute the family history with a version that suits their needs. After all this is exactly what has been going on for the last eighty years and if we are not careful, could go on for another eighty.
Thank God this chapter of our family history is over and hopefully we can all move on. I will be part of the process of rebuilding that old house and I am kind of looking forward to seeing the place that holds so many ghosts knocked down and rebuilt with a new way of thinking. I doubt if the memories will ever go away, but I hope that the lessons of what happens when a thing, or and object out trumps the love your of family and your sense of decency and fair play remain fresh in the hearts and minds of the next generation of this family, so that this never happens again in our family. We as a family were almost destroyed by it and in the end nobody was a winner. We have been given the chance of a new start, with nothing between us, or hanging over our heads at trying to be a family in the true sense of the word. I will do my best to see that our family finds itself again so that our children will know each other and we can reconnect in the spirit of family love and togetherness as it should have been always.
I would like to wish all of you a very happy New Year. I wish for and your families the very best of health, wealth and all that you need and want, but most of all I wish for you all love. I have found that without love life seems just not worth living, no matter how much of everything else you have.
Happy New Year!!!