Circling vultures


What a sordid year this has been. And, just when you think it must be settling down, it gets even more sordid.

For the last 24 hours odd, while I’ve been cooling my heels away from ‘home’, at my sisters, at the Cheeses, tooling around the suburbs of Melbourne trying to kill time, the hillbillies have ransacked my mother’s home – or is it the Huns? They’ve emptied the cupboards, the drawers as I’ve been informed, have cleared the shelves, taken things from the walls.

On Thursday night I walked out of the place with it neat and tidy, with just a pile of things on the dining table arrayed for easy access. Despite my displeasure at being evicted I had even taken the time to vacuum the place for my ‘guests’. It’s how I was brought up to be.

Last night I got a call from one of mum’s dearest friends, who had been called over to the house to see if she wanted anything. She described the scene to me, much as I detailed above. It looked, she said, as if someone was in the process of moving out. She went on to tell me of all the things that had been ‘acquired’ by the Huns, quite outside the terms of our agreement. I was shocked, angry, and though I was out with friends for the next few hours, felt my every thought shadowed by this news.

I don’t need to go into any detail, but the basics. We had requested some items extraneous to the will. We had been instructed to itemise what we wanted. We did that, with the understanding that the Huns would do the same. After much wrangling, as I’ve previously noted, we were given permission to take all but one thing on the list.

The Huns were visiting to collect their bequests, and theoretically to pick up the things on their list. What’s transpired in fact is that they’ve pretty well helped themselves to anything not tied down. At all times we, my sister and I, have been reasonable, and acted with restraint. There are many things – mostly quite small – I’d like to take away from mum’s home, but I’ve chosen not to. We could work that out later, I thought, like civilised people; and if it’s not on my list then I’ve no right to help myself.

As my sister says, what’s the point of us being decent and reasonable if we lose by it?

That’s what’s happened. The Huns have helped themselves regardless of whether the items have been listed or not. As I said, they’ve gone through every cupboard, every drawer, have emptied the shelves. It’s awful, but what makes it worse is that they’ve done it in collusion with one of the executors.

There’s an executor we haven’t heard from for over a month. It’s become clear that throughout that period she has been in close communication with the Huns. Not even the solicitor acting for the estate was aware of this. In effect it means that the Huns have been given a free hand, without the same courtesy being extended to us. In fact we – who have done nothing, made no representations, asked for nothing unreasonable, have in fact been fair throughout –  have had no courtesy given us. And we’re the children!

I’m disappointed with the Huns, but to a degree I understand. They are self serving. Greed is an unsavoury quality, but not so uncommon that it is unknown. The executor is another story.

It’s hard to explain how bitter I am at her actions. Her role is to represent the wishes of the deceased, and to be impartial. Well mum would be horrified by what’s happened. Mum was very particular about everything, and the undignified jockeying for profit would break her heart. So much for love you think, and affection, as the vultures descend on the carcass. As a mother she would be angry at the treatment meted out to us, and the blatant favouritism we’re victim of. And she would feel mortally betrayed that a friend of such long standing would not just permit it, but be actively complicit in the proceedings. It’s an absolute disgrace.

This morning I went out with the Cheeses, and another friend, for breakfast. I talked, I played with their daughter, but I felt gutted. How do these things happen? How can people be like that? As my sister asked, what profit is there in doing the right thing when others won’t?

I left them, feeling lost. I had no home to go too, and a full day to kill. I called my friends, but couldn’t get through to any. The clutch of women I normally have about me have dispersed over the last 12 months, coupled up some, others interstate, and the rest gone dormant with my quiet social life or unwillingness/inability to commit. I felt forlorn, a grown man driving the streets looking for something to occupy me, someone to connect to..

Then I got a return call, from the yoga teacher. She’s lived in Barcelona for 6 months since I last saw her. We met for coffee. I began to tell her of some of the things happening. Then I recounted mum’s last days. I went to tell her of mum’s last words to me and found I didn’t have the breath to speak. I looked out the windows as the tears came to me. She clutched my hand, it’s ok, she said, but I had to get it out. I gathered myself, I breathed deeply and repeated her last words as the tears continued to come.

Once upon a time I’d have been horrified at such a breakdown. To be clear it’s not something I welcome today, but I’m a lot more accepting of it now. I’m changing. “You need to be a better friend to yourself,” the yoga teacher said. I nodded my head. She’s a kind, sensitive person. I felt no shame at showing my emotion to her, let it out, she said. She stayed with me for much longer than a quick coffee, concerned, caring, a good friend.

It’s a measure of how deeply affected I am by this sordid imbroglio that my emotions are so near to the skin now. Like no-one else, I think, I think of mum, who she was, her legacy, our memories of her. She doesn’t deserve this crap. It’s just wrong, but maybe I should just let it be, as the yoga teacher says, let it wash over me and live my life.

She’s probably right, and I probably should stop fighting. It’s not about the things, they count for little really. It’s about respect and decency. In the end the profit in doing the right thing is the right thing itself. It’s not about gain, but about what is just and true. If you’re a believer in karma, as I am, you believe that the things will even up over the journey. Besides, as I said to the yoga teacher with a wink, it’s the privilege of feeling superior. Can’t be it if I’m in the muck with the rest of them.