Saturday, July 25, 2009

Lying Parents

I guess it’s just the way things are. Parents have kids so they can mind fuck ‘em every which way. I try to be honest with my adult daughter, to not make promises I can’t keep. I only wish my father had done the same.

My dad died in 1996 from complications of chemotherapy for treatment of acute mylogenous leukemia. He was 67 years of age. He did not expect to die, and left his multi-million dollar estate as a class A clusterfuck. He created a copy and paste “will” before he went into the hospital, I assume trying to save a few bucks. He’d had previous wills drawn up by actual attorneys; I saw one a couple of years before he died, and the only reason I saw it was because I was one of the executors. I had to sign some paperwork associated with that will, and I never read the will nor was I given a copy—my dad told me that there was no need for me to see it, that his estate was being left to his “children” (at the time me, my brother, and sister, and one of his stepdaughters, who was in the process of being “adopted” by my dad, God knows why. Well, actually I do know why now.), but that he wanted income from certain family investments to go to his widow for the duration of her life.

There was real estate that he was leaving to his children (including a subdivision of property that was owned by my dad’s family before I was born), and he intended that each kid received one lot to build a home upon. The income-generating investments, an apartment complex built in 1972–73, a mobile home park, built before my father married his second wife (not going to call her stepmother, because that assumes she’s acted anything like a mother to me, which she hasn’t), and a water company that provided water and sewer treatment to about 5,000 homes, were to stay in a trust, with the widow getting the income.

My paternal grandfather, my father and his brother were farmers. My grandfather was born in West Virginia, and worked in the coal mines as a youth. He came to California in the 1920s, and got work as a barber. He married my grandmother, who was born and raised in the same small community I grew up in. Her family’s claim to fame was her father James McCoey, who was active in the community. My grandmother made much of telling us kids that her father donated the flagpole in the city’s cemetery, and that’s why he was buried underneath it.

When I was very young, my dad and his brother used to run a few head of cattle on a 350+ acre ranch they bought in the early 1950s. I have a vivid memory of being in the barn after a cow had delivered a calf. I was maybe 3 years old at the time.

I’m not sure when exactly they got into farming, but they leased a couple of different ranches from something called “The Land Company.” The property owners lived in Southern California, and the rural roads that lead to and bisected the ranches had names like Hobson and Lagomarsino. The acreage my dad and his brother farmed was Hobson Ranch.

Only I don’t remember my uncle actually working … apparently he had some sort of nervous breakdown and was unable to work. So my dad did, working 12+ hour days while his brother stayed home and started to dabble in real estate.

As kids, my dad and uncle would drag the six of us (my siblings and I, along with our three double-first cousins) to the ranch to weed crops. The ranch was right off the freeway, and I was teased too many times to count for being a “farmworker” when classmates’ families drove by on the freeway and saw the six of us, all blonde, weeding and thinning crops. We were saving money, you know, sacrificing for the future. So said my dad and uncle.

We never went on family vacations. My dad said we had to sacrifice things like that for the future. So while classmates’ families went away during Christmas vacation or even had summer vacations, we didn’t. I think I was probably 11 years old when we had our first family vacation—but with my dad’s brother’s family, one of their business partners and his family (4 kids), and eventually my mother’s brother (2 kids at the time). The vacation consisted of a winter outing, and between the 3 or 4 families, they’d rent a house at Squaw Valley or Alpine Meadows and stick anywhere from six to eight adults AND 10 to 12 kids into a three- or four-bedroom vacation house. There is no way that “vacation” was any fun for the adults—I remember my mom and aunt doing not much more than cooking and keeping clothes dry for us kids.

That was the “family vacation” for about three consecutive Januarys. Throw the kids and dogs into a station wagon, load up one of the farm pickups to take clothing, rented skis and toboggans, and foodstuffs from coastal central California to the Sierras. We did get to miss school, though, because my dad and his brother made sure to not rent around Christmastime—to save money for the future of course!

The first “vacation” where we stayed in an actual motel happened when I was 12. Of course it wasn’t just my family; my dad and his brother’s family came along, too. We stayed in three rooms across from Disneyland (my dad and mom in one room, my aunt and uncle in one room, along with my 6-month old cousin, and the six of us older kids [four girls, two boys] in one room with two beds).

That’s just the way it was, my dad and uncle told all of us kids we had to sacrifice for the future, so they could invest in real estate and be financially secure someday.

I believe they started buying properties when I was 13 or so. The first was acreage off of I-80. They sold that and reinvested in a pair of good-sized lots in Fremont and in Watsonville. The lot in Fremont is now a multimillion dollar office building. The property in Watsonville is housing. My dad and uncle didn’t develop it. My uncle’s pipe dream was putting himself and my dad into position as investors for a world-class hotel in Monterey, on Cannery Row.

That property is now a parking garage.

In 1972 they decided to build a 26-unit apartment complex at what was then the edge of town. It was the nicest apartment complex at the time it was built, with a swimming pool in the courtyard, and covered parking. To save construction costs, my dad and uncle would drag us kids to the property and we had to clean up for the next week’s construction. I was in high school at the time. We’d go in and pick up nails and scrap lumber and cut-up sheet rock and sweep the concrete foundation so things were nice and clean for the builders. We weren’t paid, because “You need to pay into this, because someday it will be yours.”

Again, it was humiliating work, especially for me, a high school junior. Classmates would drive by, stop and honk and get out and laugh. I endured it because this was something that belonged to my family.

Eventually my uncle's family started taking vacations on their own. I believe their locations of choice were Catalina Island and Palm Springs. My family, of course, didn't do vacations. Gotta save for the future, you know!

Fast-forward to adulthood. My parents divorced when I was in my mid-20s. My mom just wanted out and let my dad keep pretty much everything, he threatened to hurt her and he told her if she took her fair share, there would be nothing left for “the kids.”

Cautionary hint: If there are sizable assets between a couple, and they divorce, the woman should get everything due her, and not let the husband tell her she’s harming her childrens’ future. ‘Cause she’s not. She’s harming them by NOT getting what’s due her, because the man will have enough to look attractive (financially) to other women, and then we have the “new” family who is now worthy of inheriting those assets.

My dad married a woman with three daughters. They became his second family, the perfect family. My dad was in the process of developing several properties, and always assured me that I needed to be patient, that he’d make sure I’d receive the acreage from the 350+ acre ranch, just like his mother had wanted. He built and sold houses, built a mobile home park that paid for itself quickly, and became a wealthy man.

His new daughters benefitted greatly. The family went on vacations a couple of times a year. Hawaii, Mexico, Ireland. One of the girls went to Russia; the youngest (the one who was "adopted") I believe got a trip to Hawaii when she graduated from high school. When the middle and youngest girls turned 16, they received cars. They never worked in the fields or cleaned up after any construction crews. No sacrificing for the princesses, no siree!

When my father died, long story short, his wife (of less than ten years) of course inherited the beautiful 5,000 square foot home he’d built for her, with only $40K left on the mortgage. She also inherited the family home, the house I grew up in. She promptly sold that off, keeping every dime of those proceeds. I knew my dad wanted her to receive the income from the apartments and the mobile home park, so no fighting there. But the bitch got greedy, and she ended up pretty much owning everything: basically 50 percent of the 350+ acre ranch, and she quickly sold off those lots, grossly undervalued. Her extended family bought several of them.

When the funds were dispersed, she received 50 percent of the funds; the four “heirs” each received ¼ of the remaining 50 percent. To do the math, she received $200,000 from selling an asset that was part of my family from before my birth. She had written in the “settlement” that I was never allowed to buy property or live on the development, because she was delusional enough to believe I was going to have her killed! Where she got that idea, I have no idea. I was never anything but nice and respectful toward her while my father was alive, and even afterwards.

The estate attorney’s fees were over $250,000. The estate paid for the widow’s attorney’s fees. My brother and I scraped to pay what little we could afford to an attorney who rolled over and played dead—$8,000 that took us two years to pay off after the estate was “settled.”

Oh, need I remind my readers that during the 1990s, I was unemployed and unemployable because of my on-the-job back injury in 1989. I never asked my father for a dime after I got hurt at work ... nor did I receive a dime, either.

Today the widow receives $10K a month from my father’s assets. (She also has his social security benefits, her teacher’s retirement benefits, and her own social security.) I earn … not a dime. Her daughters all own homes that she’s bankrolled. They want for nothing. She lives in her mansion on the hill like a queen. In the 12 years since he died, I received about $30,000, with 1/3 of that paying “inheritance taxes” and going toward my attorney’s fees. At the time of my dad's death the estate was valued at nearly $2 million, mostly in real estate.

I was supposed to receive my grandmother's sterling silver flatware (I am the oldest grandchild). I don't have it, I have no idea where it is. Shortly after my dad's death his wife said I could come up anytime and get it. Only thing was, she lives behind gates and I don't have the code. Nor would she pick up the phone if I called. Lying bitch.

I worked in the fields, picked up construction trash, and accepted the need to sacrifice while I was growing up because it would “all belong to us kids” someday. My dad lead me to believe my sacrifice was the right thing to do, that someday I would own something (even as partners with my cousins which was fine, we used to get along) and giving up things to ensure that future was the right thing to do.

I lie awake nights trying to remember one truthful thing my father said to me, one promise that he made that he kept. I can’t think of one. (Which explains the time of this posting; I am on such shaky ground financially, no matter how hard I try to get into a better situation, to work harder, to find more work. I want to get my daughter through college, at least through paralegal school, and perhaps be in a position to help her if she decides to do law school in a few years.) Did my father consciously choose to lie to us? I want to think not, but it’s entirely possible he did. Heaven knows he wouldn’t want to disappoint anyone except his biological children.

And people wonder why I hate my dad, why I’ve not gone to his grave, and why I moved away from that community. To see his golddigging widow and his precious second family live like wealthy people (‘cause they are!) while I have memories of working so my dad—our family—could have those things they all have now, is just too painful. And I was sick of explaining to people why, upon my dad’s death, I wasn’t all of a sudden “wealthy.”

And for the rest of my life, I am tied to his second family, those three girls who got the vacations we didn’t do because of “the future,” the girls who got the designer clothes while my mom shopped at Spiegel mail order because of “the future,” the girls who each have homes bankrolled on my father’s estate because he was able to lie to his kids and assure that the sacrifice was good for them.

I guess at least I have nothing to promise my kid, so nothing for her to sacrifice for. My father even promised college money to my daughter. That never materialized either. (He promised college money for all of his grandchildren. Only my deceased sister's kid got any money from the widow, because her father kissed the bitch's ass. I have no relationship to my sister's kid, and that kid has made it clear that she considers my father's widow "her grandmother" and the widow's daughters "her aunts." Hope she never needs any bone marrow ...)

My father was cold and selfish enough that he never once attended a single swimming competition that my daughter participated in—she was his only grandchild who took after him in the swimming ability department. He was chock full of excuses why he never could make it. But if one of the stepdaughters did something, you bet he was right there, beaming!

I wish I could retrieve one positive memory about my dad that didn’t end up having strings attached. And I know it’s not cool waiting for karma, but I pray that I live long enough to see my father’ widow pay for her greed and cruelty.


Sprocket said...

Just leaving you a note here to let you know I read your story.


design by