Posts Tagged ‘greed’

Red Sky, oil on canvas, 91x152 cm (36x60

Red Sky, oil on canvas, 91×152 cm (36×60)

“Again I see you, but me I don’t see! The magical mirror in which I saw myself has been broken, And only a piece of me I see in each fatal fragment – …”

Fernando Pessoa, Poems of Fernando Pessoa

..The Story continues…..

It is nearly impossible to write about that 3-year period; even after 20 years the pain and agony of the betrayal of everything I knew to be true still brings tears to my eyes, my heart rips open and my breath quickens.

Pieces. I will give you the pieces and the main facts. I will try to be the observer and be brief.

The holidays were almost always spent in New Orleans. We would go there or my aunt and uncle would come to us. Thanksgiving or Christmas, we switched around. Then one day my uncle while watching the news grabbed his chest and died.

The pain of his passing was no less or greater than the death of any one individual on earth, but my aunt really never recovered.

Traveling to New Orleans, we buried him and I settled what little was left of his estate. My aunt had never written a check in her life, she had no concept of a budget or even where money came from. My uncle had given her everything she wanted, shielded her from everything else, and in doing so died penniless and in great debt. Through a great attorney, the IRS would not act on the 200,000 tax lien against house and property.  The arrangement was that at the death of my aunt the property would be sold and the IRS would take its due. Because of this lien, I was able to notify the debtors they would have to stand behind the IRS, and all consequently wrote off the 80,000 in additional debts. My aunt’s only income would be my uncle’s meager social security. However, his sister Nan was quite frugal and wise in her ways and came to the rescue, willing to share what she had and my aunt took whatever she could.

Two years later, Nan’s boyfriend of 26 years, clutched his chest and died leaving her his entire estate along with the unfinished estates of his 3 sibling and nearly one half a million in cash. Not only did my aunt’s eyes gleam, but also so did Capitan’s halfway around the world.

So it was a fateful Thanksgiving that my aunt came to visit us, and laid out a desperate situation and begged me to come to New Orleans and help. She feared that the “family” now stealthily control by Capitan though my first cousin, was trying to rob poor Nan blind.

Both of these women were in their 80’s, and I felt the obligation to aide where I could. January of 1994, I flew back to New Orleans to have a look for myself at the situation. What I saw was an unacceptable situation that needed to be righted.

I went back home, telling my husband I would only be gone for a month or two to try to put things in order. Within the first few days of my arrival the family went into hysteria. Driven by the unknown quantity of me, and the fact I was not under their control, they declared war. The lawyers of the family issued verbal threats on my continued health, written threats were received anonymously in the mail.

The situation was plain to see: here were two old ladies, one already going a bit dotty and the other, my aunt, filled with a bit of greed and jealously over Nan’s inheritance; and there were a bunch of vultures on the side calling themselves family, willing to help them both into an early grave so they could get their hands on all the property and the money.

The first thing I did was to go directly to a old friend of Capitan’s, a prominent attorney, whose name I remembered hearing when I was a child, and I retained one of their best estate lawyers. Both aunts then gave me absolute power of attorney and the family took one step back. Licked their wounds and planned the next attack.

Though the attorney and a good accountant we were able to settle all of the open estates and have a proper succession of Nan’s boyfriends family so everything was in Nan’s name with my aunt as the primary beneficiary upon her death. In the meantime they would both enjoy a comfortable living on the invested proceeds of the estate.

Everything seemed to be running smoothly. Nan was living in her boyfriends duplex, visiting her own house once in a while with a handyman/gardener to manage the grounds and repairs as needed. The property and house in Lacombe, La would just sit until the aunt’s were ready to sell. Bank accounts had been established and each aunt would receive a stipend of nearly $5,000 a month; I thought I could now leave, letting Nan and Patty get on with their lives and just visit occasionally.

Little did I know that while all this was going on, my beloved aunt was telling the family she had no idea what I was doing or why I had come down and just taken over.

Unaware of her conversations with the family, I filled her in on all the details and she told me everything would be fine and she would call if needed. Then I went to speak to Nan. We had coffee at one of her favorite spots and I explained to her how since everything was in order and running smoothly I would head back home and if she needed me I was only a plane ride away.

She broke into tears. She began to tell me things Patty had said to the family in her presence, thinking she did not hear or understand. “Since Clarence (her boyfriend) died”, she said, “I have been praying and praying for someone to come and help me. And when you came I knew God had sent an angel. I do not know if I can manage without you but if you must, go I will understand.”

We spoke for a long time, my empathetic heart breaking with each spoken word, knowing that staying was something I now had to do because deep in my heart, I knew what would happen without my physical presence to stand as guardian.

I looked into my souls mirror and saw the first cracks, but I looked away, my altruism taking hold, my “polyananess” ignoring the small red flags, I just knew this was something I had to do, had to fix, had to help, had to protect.

I did not even consider that there would be no one to protect me.