Old hurts and frustrations


Heather and her Dauntless Husband helped me tirelessly to vacate all the chattels from Mother’s house. I can’t complain, since without them, it would have taken me months instead of two weeks. Their support and sustenance was crucial to my sanity. And then they left.

In our haste, we didn’t sort things out. Boxes that I had emptied from my original move were reused for packing up Mother’s things, especially, for this missive, her files and papers from her study. It was thus that the ancient four-drawer standing file cabinet was emptied into boxes marked “kitchen” “studio” “General household” and “bedroom”. None matched their original contents.

We spent all day at the house, packing, arranging, loading DH’s truck and my car. Each evening, we would come back to my house, unload the vehicles, have a touch of dinner and go exhausted to bed. Then next day would begin again with an hour’s drive, eight hours of packing and arranging, the return drive in the dark or in rush hour, an hour or more of unpacking, then thankfully, a meal, and to bed.

Boxes were brought into the house and pile in higher piles, in more rooms until it was almost impossible to walk around the house without moving a box or a small piece of furniture, or scrambling over a pile of something. Not even the kitchen was exempt from this accumulation of goods.

On one hand I was happy to have them here so that I didn’t have to go to some storage place to try and find what I needed; so that I could work through them at my own pace. On the other hand, this chaotic visual wasteland that I now lived in was depressing to the extreme. Often I would stand, paralyzed by the chaos, mesmerized by brown cardboard boxes. Daunted. Immobilized.

In those two weeks, I let drop every other responsibility that I had. All the incoming mail piled up, was moved from location to location as another series of boxes arrived looking for a place to stay in my tinier and tinier house. The walls were pressing in. Things were getting lost.

I took refuge in a game of Freecell. It helped sometimes to free my mind and let it spin in neutral. A game is somewhat misleading. One game leads to another and I don’t stop until I lose a game; and then I play until I end with a winning hand, so as to speak. So this may mean ten or more individual games. A computer pop up announced “1 new mail in your local mail folder” and I stopped my mindless playing to see who had written.

“It is essential to obtain a vacant permit for a house once people have moved out. Please make sure the house is fully insured.” It was from Otto.

Otto and I were hardly speaking. Our communications had always been fraught with tension, but the Estate had crystallized our rapport into one of two sparring knights. I fashion myself as the White Knight standing up for Right and Reason. Unfortunately, he fashions himself for the same but is at opposite poles in my idea of Right and Reason. I don’t understand how he thinks. I can affirm however, that when things don’t go his way, I feel the brunt of his vindictiveness. I have a nasty letter to prove it wherein he calls me liar, cheat, cheapskate and thief, not quite so concisely. It may be some time before we can speak to each other more than ten words without becoming uncivil.

And so, rather than a happy distraction, his e-mail reminder was an untimely prod to do my duty, that very duty that I had been Freecellianly avoiding.

Ten days worth of in-coming boxes have been reduced to nine days worth of boxes in the interim. With my survival policy of “one foot in front of the other, one step at a time” I began opening each box, looking for the box with files that contained the house insurance policy file.

I began to panic. I couldn’t remember the name of the company. If it was the one I expected, then how did I contact them. I really needed the agent’s name and telephone number. I needed to find the file in the cardboard carton haystack. I needed to insure the vacant house.

That was last night.
There are now piles in my office that are separated out – books boxes in one pile; Family archives, old letters and photos in another pile; office and current files in a third. The Estate box of files and the “Have to do” box of files sit right beside my computer desk.

In the living room are the unopened files; the review and shred boxes of files; miscellaneous household goods; ancient clothing for the Historical Costume Society. On the long sofa, there is a box of goods for Otto, one for Heather and one for Lizbet.

By the stairwell downstairs are the boxes that will be flea marketed, or household goods that are to be kept but are seldom used – for the storage room. Paintings still are stacked throughout, waiting to go downstairs. Items for the Thrift go in a box by the back portch. Chairs are stacked in the dining room. I now have three dining tables and two sets of chairs for them. There is no room for Mother’s kitchen table – a really fine one. It’s resting outside under an overhang of the house waiting for DH to transport it to Lisbet.

There must be a better way of doing this. Did you never write to the insurers for Mother? Couldn’t you find a file on your computer that would give you the contact info?

I looked, but in the way of so many computer file searches, the was nothing to be found.

After another four hours this morning of opening boxes, determining its contents, resealing it or putting away said contents, lifting the boxes it to their new designated holding station I found the insurance file in a box at the bottom of the file. I had opened, categorized, labeled and moved more than 45 boxes.

And so I phoned, and so I arranged for the insurance to be amended to cover the vacant house.

“Just write us a letter. Tell us you are canceling the policy. Give the date that it became vacant. Tell us your new address. Have it signed by all the those named insured.”

My heart sunk. It couldn’t be changed until Otto agreed to sign it. I would have to talk to Otto. “How on earth did he get to be a named insured?” I grumbled to myself. Bile rose in my throat. “I should have dealt with it then.” I mentally whipped myself for my laxity, years earlier. Or I would not have been in this situation now.

Otto, who had come to live with Mother and I much against her will, had suffered financial reverses. He was homeless. While Mother and I were away, I on a much needed vacation overseas and Mother staying with Heather for that interim, Otto who was supposed to be caring for the place occasionally, moved in lock stock and barrel, carving out a place for himself, displacing Mother’s and my affairs. When I returned, it was already done. He was firmly ensconsed, all his possession stored in the house and garage, immovable.

With the fait accompli, Mother agreed to give him refuge. He took it for nine years at her expense.

When next the insurance came due, he asked for his computer to be added to the list as an additional premium. It cost twenty five dollars and he paid it. Weeks after the policy was completed and the company sent documents, I read them over, surprised to find that Otto was now a named insured! I phoned the agent to see how that had happened.

“Oh, he’s the son, isn’t he? He phoned up to say that he was phoning on her behalf that he was to be added and so we did. That’s right, isn’t it?”

There had been so much tension. What difference did it make anyway, I thought. For the sake of family harmony, I let it go; did not make a fuss; let it ride.

“Yes, I guess that’s alright” I answered with a silent sigh and a shake of the head.

But it wasn’t. And now…

And now, I could not cancel the policy without his permission!


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