In a post earlier this year, I mentioned that my grandmother had died and that I was having to move. I also mentioned that I might, at a later point, talk about those rather large pieces of news.
This is that later point. I won’t name names. I’ll maintain something approaching plausible deniability. But this, at last, will be the truth. It’s gonna take a while.
(If you don’t feel like reading this [very long, highly parenthetical] series of posts, I’ll give you the tl;dr version: my home got sold out from under me, I had a very hard time of it, I found out who my real family and friends were, and I survived long enough to make a new home. The long version is a lot longer, but possibly more interesting as well. You tell me.)
So grab a seat, have some popcorn, and listen to the shit show that was 2013 for me. The story, like all of mine, has a happy ending, but our heroes, like all of mine, have to bleed first.
Everything You Know is Gone
Here are the important players:
My grandmother, mother’s mother. Let’s call her the Overlord. (Hey, I never said I wouldn’t be editorializing the hell out of this story.)
My aunt and uncle. Let’s call them the Hive Mind.
My mother and father. Let’s call them the Scapegoat and the Whipping Boy.
And me. I’ll refrain from referring to myself with a clever title. (It would be the Paperwork Whisperer, FYI.)
The whole thing starts in January. The timeline looks something like this:
1st: Watch Rose Parade –> 2nd: Overlord: “Oh, bee-tee-dubs, I spent most of a million dollars in five years and won’t be able to pay that big-ass mortgage much longer.” –> 3rd: Prepare to become homeless
I have lived on the same piece of property my whole life. The Scapegoat has lived here forty years; the Whipping Boy, almost thirty-five. We own our house, a manufactured home that is twenty-five years old and held together by glue and wire and the Whipping Boy’s mechanical genius. But we do not own the property. The Overlord does. That, fundamentally, is where everything falls apart.
We do all the work of maintaining the property, save that which requires professionals. (Major tree trimming is not in my repertoire, thanks. Digging ditches to lay down electrical cable, however, is, as it turns out.). We do not have any hired hands. We also do all the work of the family horse business.
I have been working with the horses since, well, always. I grew up video taping show rounds and helping deliver foals and meeting with vets. I have been assisting the Scapegoat full-time since I finished college. I have been directly involved in starting the last nine horses born on the property. Several of them went to the track; one of them won his first race out. A few have been sold. Most came back home to become show horses. (The Scapegoat competes in Hunters and Jumpers. She has been winning championships and medal finals since she was a teenager.) I named most of them. I have been coach and groom and vet technician and videographer and security blanket. This is the work I do when I am not at the keyboard.
I don’t get paid. Neither do the Scapegoat or the Whipping Boy. We don’t pay rent, hurrah, but we do pay utilities. We split with the Overlord the cost of feed and vet bills and training and board at the track and entry fees. We don’t get paid. We break our bones and destroy our joints and spent thousands on medical care because this is hard work and it never, ever stops. The Whipping Boy came out of retirement to work part-time for minimum wage to make ends meet. (They don’t, but we get close.) The Whipping Boy will turn 80 next year. He will still be working.
We work every day. It never, ever stops. We don’t get paid. We are told, well, we live here, don’t we? We are told to look grateful.
Forty years is a long time. Our dead are buried here. We have bled into this dust and bedrock. We gave up having normal careers because there are not enough hours in a day to have one alongside this. We chose to stay here, a place where titles like “Scapegoat” and “Whipping Boy” are fitting ones, because this is home. We have nothing else, but we have this place.
Except we don’t, do we? We don’t own it. Possession is nine tenths of the law and 100% of our problem.
The full story of the Overlord, her relationship with the Scapegoat and the Whipping Boy and the Hive Mind and me, will have to wait for another day. It is not a happy story and I am not ready to tell it. Suffice it to say, having our continued housedness dependent upon the Overlord is a VERY BAD THING indeed. The Overlord spends money. She lies about money. She borrows money. She spends, lies, and borrows some more.
Cue the million-dollar mortgage. Cue a person spending money like she will not live another day. Cue that person staying very much alive. Cue the inevitable and looming specter of bankruptcy.
We, the three of us, knew when she took out that mortgage that we would never be able to keep the property. We could never pay off the mortgage and buy out the Hive Mind’s half. Barring a lottery win, we would one day move. Knowing, though, is no preparation at all for the process of packing up forty years’ worth of belongings and equipment and memories. It is no preparation for being told there are nine months of mortgage payments left, at best, so better pack up quickly before we end up in foreclosure.
We cannot even walk away from the situation because we have almost no money. Never paid, remember? Split all the costs, but get no income, and then try to buy property. Hell, try to buy food. It gets sort of difficult after a while. So. This is us, stuck on a sinking ship. This is us, grinning and bearing it and trying to think of some way to buy a better tomorrow.
Spend a couple months of fruitlessly looking at property in very expensive parts of California. The Overlord considers this a great opportunity to upgrade, thereby utterly missing the main feature of bankrupting oneself: life stops being marvelous fun. She refuses to look outside of the most prestigious ranching areas in the Central Coast. We are talking wine country. We are talking places where movies are filmed and movie stars vacation. She refuses to look at anything less than $800,000. She expects to get almost $3 million for the existing ranch. (No one has made any offers. A few people have looked. She won’t drop the price.)
She takes great care to consider us, of course. She looks at property with converted garages as second residences. Or converted barns. She even offers to buy us a manufactured home to put on a property she likes that doesn’t have a second residence. (We won’t get anything for the value of the house we own and we can’t take it with us.) Look grateful, remember? This is our life. We work and we do not get paid and we go where we are told and we pay what is demanded and we look grateful.
You know that happy ending I mentioned? The one that comes after the heroes bleed? We’re not there yet. We haven’t even gotten to the bleeding. We’ve gotten to March, kids.
To Be Continued…