Stepfamily Issues

Personal stories about stepfamilies, childhood and general family issues.

December 21, 2006

the inheritance

Hilda, a 70-year-old widow, has had several confrontations in the past with her daughter and son-in-law over money - specifically the remains of her husband's modest estate - and with failing health she's pained that these confrontations resolve nothing, leaving the road ahead increasingly uncertain for her.

"Our second last confrontation over her inheritance was very bitter, and I was hospitalized shortly after," explains Hilda. "After that, I didn't expect to hear from her for a long, long time - if ever. And that was okay with me because my daughter knows she has my blessing to cut loose, be free, live her own life, mind her own business and take full, adult responsibility for every decision she makes. At 35, you'd think she would have done that long ago, wouldn't you?"

"I didn't want her calling me out of 'duty' with an eye on her inheritance - that would be abhorrent," says Hilda. "It's not a requirement in my will that she must perform any duties in order to inherit and she knows that."

"If she's caught between pretending to care - which I'll see through - and accepting that she doesn't care," explains Hilda, "then she should be smart enough to let go and give me the right to live my last days in peace - and for eighteen months that seemed to be the case. I never heard from her and I was happy."

"I believe that when a mutually happy relationship can't exist between two people then freedom is truly the greatest gift each can give the other," says Hilda. "That may not be everyone's idea of the perfect gift - indeed, in today's crassly materialistic world, I'm sure it isn't - but without freedom what do you have?"

"Shackles and abusive relationships, that's what," sighs Hilda, "full of abuse, pleas for forgiveness and then more abuse and pleas of forgiveness until you're dead inside and the only person you need to forgive is yourself for putting up with it. And that would have been the most pessimistic outcome of the mess I found myself in with my daughter and son-in-law."

"At the time, I rationalized that if she disregards everything I told her and hassles me again then it will mean she has deliberately and willfully decided to abuse me," says Hilda. "Whether or not her husband encourages her in this vile act, the fact remains that the responsibility will be hers alone. It will be a decision she has made, coldly, cruelly and deliberately knowing full well how it will affect me. In wanting to destroy me - wanting to stress me to death - she will provoke me to protect myself."

"It will mean that she wants me to formally end the relationship - to tell her to get out of my life completely," sighs Hilda. "She will want to be able to blame me."

"In wanting me to end the relationship - cowardly bleating that I 'deserted' them by refusing to give them financial control over my life - she can feel self-righteous about her innate goodness and blame me for things for which she refuses to take responsibility - there has to be a payoff," sighs Hilda. "That payoff is 'lack of guilt' for what they intend to do to me next."

"Well, after eighteen months of peace - believing that my daughter had seen the light and was content to leave me alone," explains Hilda, "she turned up and put the bite on me again!"

"Apparently, she's pregnant again and wanted to put a proposition to me. I begged her not to continue but she disregarded my wishes and raved on about wanting to move to a bigger house and in order to finance this move she needed me to sell up, give the money to her and in return she would pay my rent somewhere else."

"I sat there speechless," says Hilda. "I didn't recognize the woman speaking to me from across the kitchen table who was arranging my life for her benefit - dancing on my grave, expecting to reap the full rewards of her inheritance, before I was even dead!"

"In the past she had put various financial propositions to me - using me or my house as guarantor or collateral for a variety of their financial enterprises," explains Hilda, "but I always said no, believing that she and her husband had all they needed to make it on their own. And the last time she had put the bite on me - eighteen months ago - I had made it pretty clear that if she hassled me again I would be forced, by health concerns, to end my relationship with her."

"I was deeply offended by her behavior this time around, and my heart was throbbing so fast that if I had to bear her presence for a minute longer I would surely have dropped dead," explains Hilda. "I had no alternative but to tell her to leave and never contact me again."

"She left defiantly and without any concern for my health."

"My first thought was regret that I didn't tell her this years ago and so spared myself this final humiliation," sighs Hilda. "But despite my insight into her total selfishness, I always held out hope that she would gain compassion in her maturity."

"Unfortunately, my hope was baseless and now that I have formally ended our relationship I am well aware that such ends do not necessarily stop the hassling - it just makes it anonymous and vicious," says Hilda. "If my daughter's intention is to stress me to death in order to gain her inheritance sooner than she is entitled to it - God help me - then the road ahead is truly bleak."

"In a David and Goliath type of struggle - such as that which I might be up against - a vulnerable old woman doesn't stand a chance," says Hilda. "but I do have a David-like sling-shot of some sorts. It won't save me from being hassled to death, but it will stop my daughter profiting from it."

"Her inheritance is nothing except my old house, falling apart at the seams, but it is nevertheless on land worth a bit of money," says Hilda. "If she blatantly continues to hassle me - or if strange things start happening, indicating subversive hassling - then I will immediately change my will, leaving everything to a charity with a proven record of being able to beat the relatives of the deceased in a court challenge."

"And, as my health fails, I will also run up ridiculous debts using the house as collateral."

"In effect, I will ensure that she gains nothing but hassles and debts from my untimely death," says Hilda. "And, having sorted out my plan of action for the worst possible scenario, I now don't feel as much as a loser as I first did when I thought of it."

"When my back is against the wall and death is imminent, and those who wish me dead appear to be winning," says Hilda, "I will continue to refuse my daughter the satisfaction of a win-lose victory. If she does not want a win-win relationship with me, then she will have a lose-lose one."

"And, in the event of my dying a violent death." says Hilda, "I will make sure that my doctor, lawyer, minister and friends know what is happening. Even if she were innocent - and my violent death was a random event, performed by a stranger with no knowledge of her - she would have a hard job convincing the police of her innocence."

"No matter what she has done, or will do, I will never hate my daughter," adds Hilda. "In my heart I forgive her, but in my head I am steadfast in doing whatever I need to do in order to live out my days in peace."

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