Family Broken Apart


#1

Alright, CAF, here's quite the pickle with no clear-cut solutions. Way back when I was wee, about a decade or so ago, my family moved across country.

You see, my mother was born out in this very city, and moved out west with her parents when she was about the same age that I was when we moved back. My dad's from out west orginally, but his family is small and the relationships are distant, so when my maternal great-grandfather (my mother's paternal grandfather) started to fall ill, as most folk do in their late eighties, a winter visit to this part of the country turned into a plan to move come fall. We did move, and we settled well, moving with my mother's parents right behind us.

Cutting out the bits that aren't relevant, Id like to cut to what I'm about to explain before I try to explain it: my mother's relationship with her parents has fallen apart over the last few years.

You see, both my grandparents were tradesfolk, living hard lives in industrial jobs, and I suppose my mother's childhood was less than idyllic, as it was for many people growing up in that time and in that class. Still, though, the family did alright. More or less when I was eight or nine, my grandfather didn't work for the mill any more, but spent his time as a hunting guide, carving antler, bone, and wood in the off-season. He's the one who taught me target shooting when I was young, and if he had taken it up nearly as young as I had, I swear he could have done it for a living. My grandmother, bless her, worked as a care aid and house keeper at the hospital in the next town over. She slipped a disk in her spine and has been in pain ever since, living on disability. My grandfather got into some sort of legal trouble related to the hunting, and he's barred from acting as a hunting guide.

The two separated for a time, and that's really when things started to sour. My papa remained at his parent's house, helping to take care of his father until he passed, God rest his soul, in 2002, and then helping his aging mother with the house. My nana made some rounds, serving as a live-in care aid and babysitter for one of the families of cousins. A few years ago she got some sort of major settlement regarding the disability. She moved in with us a little while after that, living out of the pantry we'd never used for that purpose anyway.

That house had been part of my mom's nonmonitary compensation, as general manager of a small EconoLodge on the next lot over. The hotel sold that same year, and the new owners brought in a new GM. Nana offered to pay the down payment on a new house, the first my parents would ever own for themselves, on the condition that we converted the first floor into an apartment for her. Since the only thing shared by the two floors was a first floor kitchen and the utility room in the basement, it was an easy conversion to make.

That house was awful. The more we tried to fix, the more we found wrong with it. I was sixteen and seventeen when we lived in that house, and a little more aware of what was going on around me. Before we'd even finished patching the holes in the walls (the house had been abandoned for some time before we purchased it), we had to reopen the mortgage. Mom and dad were hemoraging money every month. My mother was an agent for a high-profile records management company. My dad had returned to being a car parts salesman; a red seal job for which he has no passion but great aptitude. The house was killing us long before the bad wiring or mold would have a chance to. The next spring, Nana moved out, returning out to the countryside home of her mother-in-law and husband. Reconnecting with her husband improved her mood greatly and removed a lot of her vices, which had been a constant stressor for my mother.

A few months later, we moved to. My parents sold the house at a three-thousand dollar loss... not bad, for the improvements we'd slammed into it "under the hood", as it were. We could have done a lot worse had the buyers not been friends of my mother. I still go by that house every now and then for a barbecue or some winter coffee, and I'm struck by the change. It looks like a brand new building, now. Fresh siding, fresh drywall and pain on the walls, new floors... all the stuff mom and dad had wanted, but couldn't afford after replacing the roof, the insulation, the wiring, and the piping. But, I digress.

A few months after we moved out, Nana and Papa asked for the ten thousand dollar down payment back, on the logic that my parents had just made $60k on the sale of the home. Problem with that is that the house was the security of a $63k mortgage, leaving my parents three grand in the hole. Not a bad position, and certainly not the worst position they'd ever been in, but bad enough that we didn't have $10k lying around to return.

It started a row. Me and my mom were up visiting on a summer afternoon, the year or two before I went away for the first round of college. Mom, Nana, and Papa had gone upstairs to talk money, and I stayed down to look after my great-grandmother, and because it wasn't really any of my business. Well, it got made my business.

The fundamentals of the argument got laid to me later, but I'll offer them first for the sake of a logical progression. My parents were under the impression that the down payment had been a gift, as many other gifts had been given out of that disability settlement. No documentation had gone along with the payment. My mother had actually been given stewardship over the rest of the settlement, and it's my understanding to this day that the balance of the settlement had been returned after the fight. The fight itself started when one of my grandparents threatened legal action against my mother. The whole thing devolved into a screaming match which I had to step into, and I wasn't very pleased about that.

(con't)


#2

(Con't from the O.P.)

So that's how the whole schism started, I suppose. My mother cut off all contact with her parents. She talks about them, both now in their sixties and living off of the CPP they paid into while working and Nana's disability benefit, as deadbeats. When my great grandmother couldn't live in this old house any more, she moved into the city with her eldest daughter, leaving the house in Nana and Papa's care. Every now and then I still go up there with an aunt or an uncle, or my grandparents themselves, to spend an afternoon or a night or a weekend. The house is at least eighty years old, though my gut tells me that the structure itself is older. There's not a level or plum surface in the place. Well water, and a septic tank that I don't even know where the hatch is, let alone when it's been serviced last. It costs a small fortune to heat and the whole thing feels some days like it's ready to cave in. But there's memory here, and my grandfather does the best he can with all the handyman skills of someone who lived through the fifties and sixties with a steelworker for a father and fishermen for uncles. Improvements have been made, if not subtle ones. The building has little potential other than knocking it down and starting it over, but the land itself is gorgeous. As a matter of fact, I'm up there now, sitting in the livingroom whose floor has a dangerous-feeling twenty-degree slope, waiting for a computer that's as old as this fight to reformat itself so I can build it up clean.

Which in an odd way, is exactly what I'm trying to do. I tend to wax poetical, as some of you might have noticed by now, and the computer is a perfect metaphor. I know my grandparents want to put this fight behind them. There has been no mention of the money since that initial fight and both my grandparents have admitted it was a mistake. Even my mother, bitter as she is, does her best to bridge the gap, for the sake of her grandmother, who herself is ailing now.

I'm supposed to be asking a question, so here it is: what can I do, as a largely neutral party, to encourage this process along? I've been thinking of throwing some sort of a dinner or picnic lunch, but my grandmother can't move around too well with her spine all out of whack, and my mother's nerves are so shot that she can't sit in a room with my grandparents for more than an hour or two. My grandparents have changed so much since my childhood, and for the better, but my mother will always remember them the way my little brother will; a cold and callous man with a temper to make a bear flinch, and a manipulative fiend of a woman.

Short of leaking this post or one like it to my parents, is there anything I can do to help? Or am I a spectator on this one?


#3

quote="HerrZJA, post:2, topic:253056"

So that's how the whole schism started, I suppose. My mother cut off all contact with her parents. She talks about them, both now in their sixties and living off of the CPP they paid into while working and Nana's disability benefit, as deadbeats. When my great grandmother couldn't live in this old house any more, she moved into the city with her eldest daughter, leaving the house in Nana and Papa's care. Every now and then I still go up there with an aunt or an uncle, or my grandparents themselves, to spend an afternoon or a night or a weekend. The house is at least eighty years old, though my gut tells me that the structure itself is older. There's not a level or plum surface in the place. Well water, and a septic tank that I don't even know where the hatch is, let alone when it's been serviced last. It costs a small fortune to heat and the whole thing feels some days like it's ready to cave in. But there's memory here, and my grandfather does the best he can with all the handyman skills of someone who lived through the fifties and sixties with a steelworker for a father and fishermen for uncles. Improvements have been made, if not subtle ones. The building has little potential other than knocking it down and starting it over, but the land itself is gorgeous. As a matter of fact, I'm up there now, sitting in the livingroom whose floor has a dangerous-feeling twenty-degree slope, waiting for a computer that's as old as this fight to reformat itself so I can build it up clean.

Which in an odd way, is exactly what I'm trying to do. I tend to wax poetical, as some of you might have noticed by now, and the computer is a perfect metaphor. I know my grandparents want to put this fight behind them. There has been no mention of the money since that initial fight and both my grandparents have admitted it was a mistake. Even my mother, bitter as she is, does her best to bridge the gap, for the sake of her grandmother, who herself is ailing now.

I'm supposed to be asking a question, so here it is: what can I do, as a largely neutral party, to encourage this process along? I've been thinking of throwing some sort of a dinner or picnic lunch, but my grandmother can't move around too well with her spine all out of whack, and my mother's nerves are so shot that she can't sit in a room with my grandparents for more than an hour or two. My grandparents have changed so much since my childhood, and for the better, but my mother will always remember them the way my little brother will; a cold and callous man with a temper to make a bear flinch, and a manipulative fiend of a woman.

Short of leaking this post or one like it to my parents, is there anything I can do to help? Or am I a spectator on this one?

[/quote]


#4

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