Money, animosity, and a currency of pain

My kids refer to their father’s wife as “that woman.” When the rare occasions arise that they speak of her, the term surfaces and along with a rarcor reserved specifically for her and the situation their father left behind. About anyone or anything. They can dislike their jobs and their bosses, but their tones are tinged with distaste or frustration, never such angry venom.

There was a life insurance policy, which benefitted them. From this there was correspondence back and forth, between attorney and young adult children. There were specific bequests in his will, which resulted in additional correspondence. Because my kids cannot cope with her. They will not tolerate or bear her irrational anger with them or the drumbeat of verbal abuse she unleashes whenever they must communicate directly. While I am most definitely biased and hearing only one side of the story, I am hearing it enough from their paternal grandparents and siblings as well, people I have know for 40+ years and who have never treated me with anything other than kindness and respect. These are not angry, money-grubbing folks eager to take or steal the few things my spouse left behind. The items they desire – photographs, books, gifts or souveniers from happy times – these things hold no value to anyone else. Yet she holds them jealously, guarding them as if they are priceless artifacts worth millions. Her preferred currency is hate and discontent, maintaining a high-level of conflict and anger, casting them as the evil-doers and she the innocent victim in this family drama.

In the beginning, I urged them both to try to rise above her pettiness and muscle through it to get what they desired of their father’s things. It really was not a lot – my daughter wanted photographs or at least copies of photographs taken through the years, my son strongly desired a set of Toliken books given to his father as a gift – yet the his widow refused to grant access or to provide them with the items. She claimed so many things I find it impossible to reconcile with the girl and boy who grew up into a kind-hearted, responsible people. It has been over a year now, and the kids have had no interaction with “that woman” in more than 6 months. The pictures my daughter wanted remain in her vault somewhere, and it is a painful topic to broach with either.

This morning brings a 6 a.m. text from my daughter. There might have been some drunk (from the widow) emailing involved, but apparently there is a window of opportunity for them to retrieve the photos and other items they have wanted and asking me to accompany her and G to that woman’s home on Friday to retrieve these items. I say sure, because I have a lot of confidence in my ability to avoid conflict with her and appreciate my kids’ trust to keep them from having explosive, emotional breakdowns.

Then she tells me the “gotcha” of the offer.

That woman wants the kids to give her 20% of the proceeds from the life insurance policy. In other words, she want the kids to pay her for their father’s stuff. My son and my daughter are angry – REALLY angry – about the request, yet after discussions between the 2 of them and their significant others, they have decided to agree to her terms. They have no idea what their father left her by way of insurance or anything else, and their desire for photographs and mementos of their father and his life is very strong.

As a parent, I am absolutely FURIOUS. Yet as the mother of grown ups, I cannot fault them for their willingness to buy back their dad’s possessions. M and I have had similar discussions about his stepmonster and his father’s things, items that M is bitterly angry that were part of his family history with his mother and his father, both now deceased.

Whether my kids expected me to be upset and to voice a strong opinion on their choice or not, I merely expressed my disgust at that woman’s behavior and readily agreed to accompany them to retrieve the items. My only advice on the subject of the funds exchange – insiste she accept a cashier’s check (instead of her request for cash) and explain they will give it to her only after they get the specific items they previously requested. Any shortage of items means no money, period. I also said there is still time to change their minds, no one will judge them harshly for not wanting to pay for items rightfully theirs. C and G both agreed that is good advice and will think about it further before going forward with the negotiations and final arrangements.

Other than really angry, I do not know how I feel about this. Maybe sad? My kids are getting what they truly want, yet they both have to give up a significant amount of money to get it (about $7,500 each). Had she simply asked them for help, I feel strongly they would have given freely. This method, however, feels so underhanded, awful, slimey, and I wish I could do something to protect them from this transaction. But I cannot. This is their father’s widow, these are things they want from their dad, and she makes the entire situation 100 times worse each passing moment.

I feel the need for another shower. I expect the feeling will linger long after dealing with this is concluded.

7 thoughts on “Money, animosity, and a currency of pain

  1. Wow.. Stepmonster is right! I give you a lot of props for keeping a level head. I would want to drive over there and forcefully take the items when she wasn’t home!

    • *laugh* Kay, I have thought about it, many times. M and I have plotted and planned our burglary, but unfortunately we’re not exactly of the criminal mastermind class and would probably get caught.

  2. Howawful! My mother died 4+ years ago, & I periodically wonder when the day will come that my Dad remarries (he’s young, I see no reason he wouldn’t). It’s hard for me to remain open-minded when I hear these horror stories. Will the new woman try to replace my Mom? Will she want kids if she’s younger (I don’t want a baby sibling 30 years difference)? Will she cut me from the will? All conversations I should probably have with my Dad sooner rather than later.

  3. This sounds somewhat similar to what happened when my father died – before I or any of my siblings could get to his home and go through/take things we wanted (small things, like photos, his pocket knife, a small wooden statue he had brought back from Japan after WWII) his wife disposed of them all. She got rid of everything but the money. Even his fraternity ring, which he had worn for more than 50 years – gone. She was nasty about it too – she wouldn’t pay for his cremation and had the funeral home send the bill to us. After word of that got around though she did “generously” gave each of us a *tiny* bit of change out of the estate.There was no will; she had it set up that everything would automatically go to her. But Karma can be a b****: Unknown to her, my father had not changed the beneficiary on a life insurance policy – his promise to my mom when they divorced – and the four of us each received a nice piece of money from that. She was LIVID, called us all names, yelled at the people from the insurance company, wrote and called all my dad’s relatives to let them know how ungrateful we were, and what awful children we had been, etc. but neither we nor the insurance company would budge. Sorry lady.

    I empathize with your children – the woman sounds like a monster. Hopefully though your kids can be patient because . . . karma. It will happen.

    • Laura, thanks for stopping by and for sharing your experiences. It’s awful – so awful! – when people do such mean things. My kids did get a couple of small things a month or so after his death, but the box of photos that he had taken through the years (including the entire stash he had from when we were married) was missing, along with this set of books that kids had gotten him (with my assistance) when they were in grade school. These things have zero value to anyone but them, so I cannot understand why she’s being so hateful. Neither can they. Thankfully we are not like that, although we all hope that another death in the family is not for a very long time.

      I am about to post an update to this story as well. Nothing happier, unfortunately, but some changes from a day of back-and-forth.

  4. She sounds just plain awful! Is it possible dad just doesn’t have those belongings anymore after all these years? I know I have been given things that over the years I got rid of. I know there was something of my grandma’s I asked about (more out of curiosity, than actually wanting it. Just something I remembered she had for years) but my mom said “oh, she got rid of that item years ago”.

    Your kids will have to make the decision based on what feels right to do in their hearts and then it will be right for them. I’m the type of person who has never been terribly attached to things, so if I were in that situation I’d tell her ..I’ll always have my memories and his love in my heart and I’ll never buy those from her and she can go to hell with his things! That’s just me :/ Good for you for being there with your kids through this. That is something I need to ask my mom about – did my stepdad’s kids get the things of his they wanted when he passed. I think I recall her saying they did.

    • Since their dad took his own life, it’s a REALLY touchy situation. I do my best to let them be grown-ups and make their own decisions, but this is such weird territory for anyone they invite me/us to participate in the discussions.

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