Playing bad

On Thursday last week I received a very offensive email related to the ongoing rubbish about mum’s will. I read it and I felt the anger swell in me like like an over-ripe peach. It was as angry as I have been for many years, and before I knew it I was tapping out a response. The words tumbled over each other so keen they were to be said, but it was less the angry rant as you might expect, and more blunt rebuttal. With it written I paused. In point of fact I was in an awkward position. And, taking a deep breath, I thought it likely prudent to pause before hitting the send button.

So, what was so offensive? There were a number of things, most of which I don’t want to go into here. Put it this way, something was demanded of me that was unreasonable. The reasonable requests we had made were dismissed high-handedly. An entirely innacurate accusation was thrown at me. And, to top it off, the email ended with a threat – basically toe the line, or we can do this to you.

I’m not sure what I was most angry at. A week before I had come to a reluctant agreement to settle everything, but with two modest provisos. They were accepted after 24 hours of think time, and we could move on. It transpired then that one of the conditions was not possible (allegedly), and the other, as I discovered, was later deemed to be unacceptable. That was rich enough by itself, but the rejection was put so starkly that it was impossible not to be angered by it – on top of which we were told to stop ‘interfering’ – when all we are doing are exercising our rights to negotiate. We’ve accepted less from the will than we are entitled to, just to make the peace, and the small requests we’ve made – which amount to giving mum’s friends the opportunity to pick a keepsake from her belongings – are perfectly reasonable, even moral. It seems ridiculous they should cause a fuss, to the point that they threaten my eviction.

Still, it’s a conundrum. My instinct is to bite back hard. I resisted that. I sought counsel. Some thought I should just ignore the email, others believed I should be conciliatory. I’d be happy to ignore the email if I thought it wouldn’t be taken as a sign of acceptance, and because I really want to press the point. I tried a conciliatory email, but it doesn’t come naturally to me. (That’s a couple of things maybe I should look at in my workshop: too combative. Tends towards the blunt, rather than the diplomatic. Has a tin ear for ingratiating language.)

That night I was so angry I could barely sleep. The next day I was hardly better. I challenged myself to be what I am always calling ‘the better man’. Put yourself second. Let go of the ego. Turn the other cheek. I believe in being the better man, but giving way to this, does that really do me credit?

For all the things in the email to be angry at my mind settled most heavily on the threat. It’s fair to say that outrage has been a constant companion these last few days. It seemed so low and feeble to resort to bullying. Play good or we’ll toss you out. It offended my sense of justice, and is cowardly. Worse than that was the morality of the situation. It was made clear that this house, my mum’s house, was now in the power of others to dispose of as they were entitled. And that included me. Behave, or else! That may be the legal position, but the moral position is very different. Regardless of the legal state, this is, and will remain, my mum’s home, till the day someone else moves in. And I am her son, and more than that – I am here as she would want me to be. I know that, as do the others close to mum who knew her mind and heart.

This is what offends me about so much of this process. Mum, who is at the centre of all this, is so often forgotten, or disregarded. The legal process is given primacy over moral right. There is no flexibility, no consideration of the woman at the core of this, she is forgotten. Which is one of the reasons that I made that condition – it’s a hard thing to dismantle a life, but it can be done with dignity. That’s what I want. If we can share her things around with the people who loved her, rather than dumping them in a mini-skip, then surely that’s preferable? But no, the legal precedent holds sway, the rights and duties of those involved are protected.

The irony in all this, is that for once it is not the hillbilly’s who oppose this, but rather the sour, hard-faced bitch of a solicitor, and an executor who has turned hysterical and who is keen to preserve her rights in the process. The other executor, the one who brokered the agreement on his own initiative, is excellent – reasonable, clever, and knows how to use his charm. Unfortunately he’s been put back in his place, and the charmless others protect their patch. My contempt for them is absolute.

So, what do I do? Common sense says that if you get in a bar fight and someone pulls a knife on you then it’s time to run. The situation is little different here. They’ve raised a credible threat against me. Maybe I should just call it quits. I just can’t do that though, not even after four days of contemplation. Rightly or wrongly it’s not who I am. I know if someone pulled a knife on me I’d be so enraged that I’d charge him. Stupid maybe, but that’s the wiring.

I won’t accept this then. I’m tempted to challenge them: pull the trigger. I know karma is on my side, and think ultimately it’s an empty threat – the other executor would never agree to it. I’ve been tempted to withdraw my consent to the deal – why not, considering it was contingent on conditions that were accepted, then reneged on? That’s not the way though, no matter how much I want them to pay.

Best, I think, is to quietly represent my claims in a reasonable manner, ignoring the threats and the ultimatiums. I’m serious about how this should be conducted – she was my mother, not theirs – and am unwilling to let that go just to be pragmatic.


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