Monday, March 16, 2009

Grandma Anne Misses the Funeral

We were pretty appalled when we learned that my uncle planned to leave town without even attending his mother's funeral, which decision we assumed he had made after hearing that he was not named in the will. But this kind of behavior, as bad as it seemed to us, wasn't really a surprise.

What did surprise us was my Grandma Anne's decision to return home with my aunt and uncle to continue her holiday with them, also missing the funeral.

Grandma Anne has money issues. She is stingy - mean, even, with her funds. When my Grandma Eveline died, she got a credit for her return flight, and drove back to our town with my aunt and uncle. She had been going to return by plane within a day or so of the car trip, so she wasn't technically out any money, and had in fact saved some by getting the credit. She could easily have stayed in town for the funeral, even if my aunt and uncle left early, since that would have meshed with her original travel plans. I don't know whether the credit had an expiry date, but I assume it could be used within a reasonable amount of time.

Instead, she decided to go back with them, presumably so she could use the airfare credit on the return ticket after spending some more time with my aunt.

I had very strong feelings when I heard about my Grandma's plans. I think I was genuinely disgusted. During the short time my Grandma Eveline had lived near us, my Grandma Anne had become acceptably chummy with her. They sometimes met when they were out on the town, spoke, and were getting along better and better. I have a picture of the two of them, arms around each other. They had been smiling and joking, enjoying their great-grandkids.

In addition to that, my mom has put up with a lot of crap from my Grandma Anne. A holy helova lot. Was it too much to ask that Grandma Anne attend her hostesses mother's funeral? She could just have recognized my mom's sorrow, respected my Grandma Eveline's memory, and been there.

She didn't send a card, and she didn't send flowers. She wasn't at the funeral. She wasn't kind to my mom, and she didn't even respect, just a teeny bit, the memory of the dead. I can think of no excuse that covers that kind of neglect.

It makes me think hard about the influences that formed me as a person.

Fight with Grandma Anne

Grandma Anne had already planned to leave town with my aunt and uncle before my Grandma Eveline's (my uncle's mother's) funeral. We know her well enough not to expect big changes of plans once she's made up her mind. Still, they had to try.

My brother and Doug were over at my parents' place unwinding from all that was going on, with my Grandma's sudden death, all the arrangements that were taking place, and the brewing conflict with my aunt and uncle. My Grandma Anne came upstairs to talk to them, and was completely lambasted by my brother.

There was no justification for my Grandma's decision not to attend the funeral. My Grandmas had become friendly with each other during the time they lived in the same town. Even if they weren't friends, my Grandma Anne should feel inclined to attend to support my mom, who is, after all, Grandma's daughter-in-law and hostess.

In addition to that, there were no financial or scheduling reasons why my Grandma couldn't stay with us. She had missed her flight back home, but gotten a credit for that ticket, and driven back with my aunt and uncle. She had planned to be back within a couple of days of my Grandma Eveline's death anyway

My dad did his best to hold his tongue - no mean feat, if you know my dad. Dwayne was the calm, level-headed one. The message was that Grandma still had time to change her mind and stay for the funeral. I don't know why my Grandma resisted this idea - what reason she had in her own mind that she wasn't saying - but she didn't budge. Dwayne said that my Grandma was doing the wrong thing, and that he was "disappointed" in her. Grandma Anne said something in response to this, and my brother told her, "you should leave now. Go!" meaning that she should leave the room and go back to her Granny suite downstairs. She did.

She called my dad shortly after that incident saying that she was in a very upsetting situation. She had a heavy heart about leaving, but she had "already promised" that she would accompany my aunt and uncle back to their home, and could therefore not break that obligation.

What about her obligation to honor the life of Grandma Eveline, who had become a friend? Or the obligation to honor the passing of a family member? Or to offer sympathy and support to the people who had committed their love and life's energy to help the deceased? Or to express solidarity with my parents, her hosts, and particularly my mom, who is the most affected by Eveline's death?

None of these trumped Grandma Anne's decision and "promise" to go back home with my aunt and uncle, support their poor behavior, and extend her holiday in a more temperate climate.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Will Changed Things

We all felt a spell of relief when we heard my uncle's response to having been written out of the will. If he hadn't expected anything, and was coming to town anyway, then maybe we would experience some kind of reconciliation with my aunt and uncle.

Things with my family are never this simple.

My brother didn't realize it at the time, but he got the first hint of my crazy family's intentions when he spoke with my Grandma Anne, once she was back in her Granny suite downstairs from my parents. When he asked her when my aunt and uncle were intending to leave town, she said they were all leaving on Saturday. John said this didn't make sense, since the funeral was set for Tuesday, but he didn't think my aunt and uncle would stay in town for a full week after that. My Grandma said that in that case, she didn't know what they were planning.

It turns out that my uncle had arranged his own private funeral for himself, my aunt, and my grandma Anne at the morgue on Saturday, and planned to leave town without attending the viewing or the funeral.

This, they did.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

"You're Not In The Will"

My dad was having a fit trying to figure out why my aunt and uncle were coming to town so soon, before the funeral was set, and when they knew no one would be willing or able to see them. He expected that they were only interested in Eveline's will, and these suspicions seemed to be confirmed when my uncle requested a copy of the death certificate and the will, for his own "completeness."

Maybe some background to explain the family conflict?

My dad and my aunt, being siblings, are very similar personalities. One difference is that my dad can pull away from a situation (as he did from me recently) enough that re-engagement is a possibility later. My aunt thought she could suck up to Grandma Eveline, ingratiate herself, and be able to get what she wanted that way. (Grandma Eveline was a "queen bee" type, and tried to control both my aunt and my dad, who are both her in-laws. Confused yet?) She ultimately got completely offended by my Gran, who certainly wasn't an angel, but probably didn't warrant such an extreme reaction, and so was born the profound and everlasting rift between my uncle and his mother.

In addition to all this, my aunt and my dad are on terrible terms, especially since my Grandad, Grandma Anne's husband died. Grandma Anne came to live with my dad almost immediately after her husband's death, and has lived with my parents for 12 years. She visits my aunt for holidays, and every Christmas. Grandma Anne tried to take the senior role in my parents' home, berating my mother and generally creating a very tense homelife. In the end, my parents decided to move Grandma Anne out of the main part of the house and into the Granny suite downstairs, which has a separate entrance, nice big windows, a new kitchen, full bath, and a sauna. Grandma Anne was so offended by this that she complained to my aunt, who called my dad threatening legal action if Grandma Anne somehow lost her home during this transition. My dad hasn't had anything to do with my aunt since that conflict, which was two years ago.

My aunt, uncle and Grandma Anne were in their second day of driving to our town when my uncle requested digital copies of the death certificate and will. My mom explained that we didn't have the death certificate yet, and that it wouldn't be appropriate to send a copy of the will, since my uncle wasn't names anywhere on the document. He was neither beneficiary nor executor. At the time, he said that he wasn't surprised, and hadn't expected anything.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Informing the Errant Son

At that early morning tea, which was so sad for my Grandma's passing, and so annoying with my dad, I offered to make the call to my uncle informing him of his mother's death. I offered to do this so that my mom wouldn't have to weep on the phone to the errant son, whom I had never witnessed expressing any affection toward Eveline.

I called and called, and emailed with lots of different ways to get in touch with me. I finally got through, and relayed my tearful condolences, and the tale of Eveline's passing. Days later, I learned that my uncle had resented hearing the news "second hand."

Because Eveline's death had been very sudden, we were informed that we wouldn't have the death certificate for a few days while the circumstances were examined. My uncle, who lives a two-day drive away, called my dad the day after the death, and asked if he should come over. My dad said to wait because the funeral wasn't set at that point, and he planned to take my mom out of town for a few days while my brother and I sorted out all the details. The next day, they set out for our town anyway.

At this point, I should clarify that my other Grandma, Anne, was staying with my aunt and uncle. So, the three of them, my aunt, my uncle, and my Grandma Anne were headed for our town, even though the family rift meant that no one would be entertaining them, my parents would be out of town for three days, and the funeral wasn't even set yet, but we expected it wouldn't be for a week. On the way over, my uncle called my mom and asked about the will. He's classy like that.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Is everyone's family so full of drama?

Dad and I are talking again. I don't expect it's permanent. We weren't speaking to each other for about three months. So, what happened? Grandma Eveline died.

I got the call early in the morning to go to the hospital, although it was already too late for Grandma. Dwayne and Doug picked me up, leaving John and the kids at home so they could sleep. We went, hugged my mom - hugging my dad was awkward. He was in between me and my mom, so I felt annoyed by that. He suggested that we all head to my parents' place for tea, and we talked for a bit. Without discussing it, Dwayne and I divvied up the responsibilities and took on as much as we could to spare my mom from having to deal with it.

During that morning tea, my dad brought up our conflict for the last time. We were at the exact same place, as people tend to be after nothing has been discussed or resolved. It became heated, because the solution was obviously that my dad needed to stop criticizing and accept some limitations in our relationship. I almost had to leave, but I stayed, and my dad shut up, and things have been better ever since.

John is very skeptical of this peace, because he suspects that my dad will get comfortable with me again later, and start berating me again. I'm on guard for it, and I think I'll be able to handle it.

John is also skeptical because Grandma's death has raised a much more powerful conflict back to the fore in my dad's life. Grandma had two children, my mom and my uncle. From early in my uncle's marriage, there has been a rift between him and Grandma Eveline. My uncle refused to so much as visit Eveline, even when she traveled quite a distance as a tourist in their region.
It was so bad that when Eveline planned to move closer to my parents (and me) to be close to family during her last years, he called her and begged her not to do it. He was afraid that if she moved close to my parents, then my other Grandma, Anne, who currently lives with my parents, would be forced to move in with them. He would have preferred her to die alone at a great distance, where no one could have spent time with her, or helped or comforted her.

Grandma Eveline was a forgiving person, and she did love my uncle to the end. However, she recognized how much my parents had done for her in helping her relocate, buy a house, get medical care, and all the rest. She re-wrote her will making me executor, and making my mom sole beneficiary. My Uncle, who would never speak to my Grandmother, had no idea that this had happened - although I'm not sure how surprised or upset he could really have been.