another knockout punch of a toxic family system
Sometime after my stepdad (Karl) crossed over to the other side, I began to receive a series of legal documents in the mail. The first one was a copy of his will. It was his intentions for what to do with all his stuff after his death. But it was also a declaration of his children’s standing in his eyes. It was for me the ink on paper verification of where I have been placed in this severely dysfunctional family arrangement.
At the time Karl died, I was working to escape from my husband. In a matter of weeks, I would have to leave my house and divorce hell began. I still would speak to my family of origin. I avoided most calls. The agony of all that was coming down on me was unbearable. It wasn’t safe to tell them anything, but they had already been gossiping long before. And to this day not one of them has ever asked me or even once mentioned anything about one girl’s marriage ending.
I knew that I would not be given any inheritance. It was my long-held expectation. No one ever said the words. But I knew all too well the dynamics of my chaotic family. It seems there were a lot of conversations that went on behind my back. There was no surprise, only confirmation. Cold, hard, visual confirmation.
Karl’s parents (my step paternal grandparents) had two children, a daughter and a son. My grandfather explicitly told my two cousins (his deceased daughter’s children) the amount of money they would be given and showed them the property lines and land they would have at the point of my grandparents’ passing. But Karl and my two siblings had their will changed after my grandfather crossed over. My elderly grandmother was still alive, and she could be convinced or coerced to sign the new version of the will.
I grew up in Appalachia on vast acreage of multi-generational farmland. I was at least the fifth generation to work the farm. After my mother married him, I was the first child, legally adopted by him so that I would have Karl’s last name. Karl wouldn’t have a ‘bastard child’ with the other man’s name. Too much ego for letting that happen. So, I became one of them. Five years later my sister was born and another four years, my brother. I was like their…