Friday, May 8, 2009

Family Quarrels

My sisters and I are entering an age where death is more prevalent among our elders (grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles etc.). Many of them have already died or are somewhere in the process of planning for that inevitable day unfortunately.

So my topic for today is "their stuff". What to do with it. And I'm not talking about useless bottles, unwanted rugs, old clothing. I'm talking about the stuff we DO want. That EVERYONE wants.

When my grandmother (dad's mom) died a year before I was born, his sisters "swooped" (isn't that the word everyone uses in this scenario?) in and absconded with all of the highly desirables before her children even made it there. Her children did not have the chance to inherit things like personal china, special furniture, sentimentalities. I don't own a single item of hers and unfortunately neither does my dad. I was visiting my great-aunt (grandma's sister) two years ago and she showed me the china she had taken, and there were a number of Ethan Allen furniture pieces that she owned as well. I plan to offer to buy the china when my great-aunt starts her will. The question is, was it fair of the sisters to do that? Was it right? I can't imagine doing that to my sisters.

There has already been a bit of contention about what items will go to whom when my other grandmother, Marilyn (my mother's mom) dies. She's been very open about her will and it's created a lot of conflict. I think I might ask to be taken off the will and after everyone receives what he/she wants, I might pilfer through the remaining to merely get a token of her after she passes.

My mom also has begun, in small part, to list her more precious items. I know the items she intends to give to me but I wonder how my sisters will feel about it. I don't know what they're receiving.

Similarly, in the past several years, occasionally she (and my grandma, Marilyn) will offer up items of worth that they no longer need. These items usually go to whomever has most recently expressed an interest or a need. Sometimes when the other sisters find out about it, there is hostility, and if not hostility than occasionally jealousy. There are fairness issues among about a zillion other things to consider. I recently received a dehydrator (the one I was talking about in my post a few days ago) from my mom. It has been in my family since I was a young girl. My mother didn't ask my sisters if they'd like it - she offered it to me first. It was a loan but yesterday she retracted the loan and then gave it to me. She said I should share it with my sisters. I plan to if they want it.

In thinking about the dehydrator and a number of other things that have been given to me and my sisters, I wonder about the fairness of it all. I know life's not fair but I know that this particular issue in many families has created such conflict that it has ruined relationships. My sisters are my best friends - no single item that any of my relatives own would be worth jeopardizing those relationships that are my most prized possession.

I've decided that from this day on, if something is offered to me from my elders, I will request they ask both of my sisters first if they would like it. That way they don't know that it has been offered to me first. Everyone will feel like they were asked first. Then, if they both turn it down, I will feel like I received it justly and no one will be angry. I think I'll even go back to my mom and grandma's wills and ask them to do the same thing.

3 backward glances:

Christy said...

Sad but true. I have heard how these types of issue have ruined relationships. If I were the one dying, I'd like to be able to leave my things to whomever I feel would appreciate it most...not meaning to cause conflict but using my best judgment. Maybe I'd have to explain my every decision. WOW! That makes is awfully complicated and kind of takes the fun out of it...if fun can even be used in a scenario like this.

Melissa said...

The only thing I know that my parents have in the will for me are my two little sisters if they die before the girls turn 18 (they are 15 and 9 right now). There was a lot of conflict with my husbands aunts and uncles when his grandparents passed away. It is really sad that people have to be greedy during a time like that.

julie said...

I have nothing from either of my Grandmothers. My Dad's mom made all of my cousins the most beautiful quilts when they were married, and sadly I will never receive one, but I will always have the memories of her that I hold so dearly to my heart. I am happy just knowing that both of my Grandmothers are watching over me and cheering me on through the life that I am living. While I am sad that they won't be here physically for the special moments in my life, I know they are here in spirit. Material thing are just that, material things. We leave them when we die, but what we take with us are our memories and our love and THAT is what is most important!