The price of inheritance is obedience, to the exact degree demanded. Dissident children don’t get shit, except for furious punishment while the bequeather is still alive. Getting nothing, and being cast out of your family, is a very high price to pay for a fleeting feeling of personal integrity.
We spent five days with old friends in a beautiful rented house near Woodstock. At one point I was sharing my long-running painful estrangement from my niece and nephew, my only two direct blood relatives, with one of my oldest friends. I haven’t seen either one since my mother’s funeral in 2010. My attempts to remain in touch have been mostly futile. Now I don’t even hear back from either one when I reach out. My friend, at a loss for any idea we haven’t already talked about, seeing how much this seemingly insoluble situation hurts me, looked at me with sad eyes and said “that’s very painful.” I nodded and we sat there for a minute, just acknowledging how much this kind of thing hurts.
In the case of my niece and nephew I understand what they’ve been told by my brother-in-law and his wife. Your uncle is an insane, judgmental, vengeful, lying prick. He stole your inheritance when your grandparents died. He will eventually kill you, if he ever gets the chance. He’s a person incapable of love, forgiveness and honesty, though he pontificates at unbearable length about the importance of all three. He is the lowest form of vicious hypocrite imaginable. Picture Hitler, only much worse.
Fast forward a year and a half.
My periodic attempts to make contact with any of my old, formerly sympathetic friend’s three adult children, all of whom I have known since birth and fondly played with all during their childhoods, as well as advised and helped as young adults . . . crickets.
My own fault, really, since I refuse to acknowledge that to some people talking about conflict, with an eye toward preventing future strife, is exactly the same as viciously attacking them in their soul. To speak about any kind of mutual role in conflict is to blame them, 100%, when they are unshakably certain that you are 100% to blame and a very dangerous fucker too, capable of all kinds of satanic appeals to love, fairness and vulnerability, which always come at their expense. They will explain this to their children with passion, telling them to think of Hitler, only much, much worse.
I understand now that if you have a competitive view of life, see the world as black and white, win or lose, pride or humiliation, no compromise is possible with someone who does not do what you need them to do. That’s just the way it is. Keep whatever you want in your heart but keep any look off your face that shows defiance of a will that needs to be right. Have as much integrity as you want in the quiet of your own soul, but show any glint of that and we’ll cut you dead as we cut our dear, old friend, Hitler, dead. Clear enough for you, my beloved child?