Sunday, June 14, 2009

My cousins in Chicago

I have wonderful news. I'm speaking to my cousins in Chicago again. We quarreled 13 years ago over an inheritance, and then papers were filed and lawyers became involved. That really killed it.

My sister and I won the lawsuit and got the money, but we lost the affection of our cousins and that hurt.

It's not like I have much to do with them anyway, but they are my family. Like my cousin Dennis. He's a complete dork. I would never choose him as a friend. And that's the great thing about relatives. They just are who they are, and who they are is no reflection on your character.

So I cherish my cousin Dennis and I hated that we fought over the money.

What happened is that my Aunt Carolyn died in 1996. She never married or had children. She was a legal secretary and held the same job in downtown Chicago for forty years.

We all knew she was going to leave us a little money when she died, but we didn't know about the savings bonds. Aunt Carolyn suffered poverty during Depression and she had to fight for every penny back then. She began buying savings bonds every year, starting in 1935.

Well, it turns out that if you buy savings bonds every year from 1935 to 1996 it starts to add up, and when she died she left us all a bundle of money.

It was money that we didn't deserve and didn't earn, but she wanted us to have it and that was awfully nice of her. Except -- how can I put this? -- I think she liked me and my sister better than Dennis or my other cousins, because she left us most of the money.

The cousins only got half as much we did, and they were really mad about that. I said to them, "Why are you mad at me? It wasn't my idea. Why don't you get mad at Aunt Carolyn instead?"

But long-standing differences came into play as well. The cousins are conservative church-going people who stayed in Chicago. My sister and I are free spirited hippie types who moved out West. Our lives were very different than theirs.

We just couldn't reconcile. It seemed like we no longer spoke the same language anymore.
Compromises failed. People screamed and cursed at each other. They had turned into strangers and it was all about the money.

There's nothing new about this. Families have been fighting over money since Adam and Eve.

But I'm still so very happy that the fight is over, and I think it is news -- good news and something to share with the world at large.

We never resolved the issue, of course, but time healed it -- thirteen years was enough. My sister flew back to Chicago last week from her home in Denver and made a tentative phone call to the cousins. She was greeted warmly. She was invited over for dinner. They said, "Why are you staying at a hotel, you could have stayed at our house?"

My heart felt so warm hearing this from my sister. I know that's a cliche, but it's true. And Dennis, my sister reported, is still a complete dork.

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