A couple days ago, I got a rather fat letter in the mail from the County Sheriff's office where Mom used to live, the town of my formative teenage hood. It was a lengthy obtuse legal document. I found her name a couple pages back amid notes about taxes and liens and such.
My beloved grandfather used to live in said county on a small piece of land with a trailer. It was set off from the road a smidge and surrounded by trees. He had a window behind the couch that looked out on a backyard that was more trees than yard. He'd watch the deer come and go. During one particularly difficult summer, we spent several months there after we were evicted from a house we were renting that was suddenly sold on us. We slept in Grandpa's living room on the foldout couch and an easy chair - my mom and three kids. That summer I also tried to have a romantic picnic in the woods there with a boy I was sweet for; all I succeeded in doing was getting us eaten alive by mosquitoes ... a story for another time.
Anyway, one year a man bought the property next to my grandfather and literally built his gaudy house right up to the property line. He would push my grandfather trying to get him to sell, so he could expand. It pissed my grandfather off, because he told my mother, who told me, but Grandpa stood his ground. This was his land. He died very unexpectedly in 1994. We had barely finished burying him, when the next-door neighbor started in on Mom. Now this land was tiny. It just fit his trailer, a small shed, enough space to park two cars and trees all around. And although it was tiny, it was agreed upon between her and my uncle that the land was hers to live on. She couldn't build anything on it, 1. because it was too small to do so and 2. she didn't have any money. But this was hers. The word land is magical when you've never owned anything of substance. She didn't have the money to have the trailer removed, so it sat there.
That next-door neighbor continued to push at her. She kept declining, but it got harder and harder. She had to pay the property taxes on a place where she couldn't live and still pay her rent, and as I've mentioned previously there was never enough money. I had graduated from college just a couple weeks before my grandfather died and then moved halfway across the country. I wasn't really a mouth to feed, nor was my brother who was living on his own, that left my little sister at home. She tried to keep up with the taxes. She even had to ask me for help a couple times, which I was glad to do - this was hers. Unfortunately, she couldn't keep it up, and the time came where she had to make a very hard choice, and that next door neighbor dick was right there to seize the opportunity. He was visibly pleased with his success.
Fast forward to that letter I received. I called the Sheriff's office to see if they'd be willing to explain it to me. I was nervous that they were coming after me for money owed by an estate that never existed. When Mom died, she left us barely enough money in her account to cremate her, and a beat up Volkswagen Jetta that sat in our driveway until two Hispanic guys in the neighborhood asked if they could give us $100 for it. All those other expenses that come up when someone dies, from final bills to official death certificates to God knows what else can come up, my sister and I paid for. There was more that my sister took care of on the sly, but she kept that to herself. Mom had requested that one of us be there when she was cremated. Mom was desperately afraid of being burned alive. We were to make sure that she was really gone. My sister took on that responsibility, and that is a debt that I will never be able to repay her. Never.
A very nice lady at the Sheriff's office explained that I was being informed in the letter that the property, along with a lot of other property that the next-door dick owned, was being sold off for taxes and such. In case I had a lien against the property or some other arrangement, this would be my chance to let it be known. I'll admit, I started to cry a bit on the phone with her. I said, Ma'am, forgive me. This was my grandfather's land and then my mother's. It was all she had. All we had. This man had bullied my grandfather to sell and then my mother. My dear grandfather wasn't even cold in the ground before this man started to ask her about selling. I said, I'm sorry but I'm not really sorry that he's losing his property. Then she told me, that he was a huge jerk and a really bad man, and if this news had in any way made my day better, she was very happy. I thanked her immensely, and we said our goodbyes.
When we were younger and someone would do something really bad to one of us or her, an underhanded boss or cheating boyfriend/girlfriend, Mom would say, "God will get them. I may not be there when it happens, but God knows what they've done." If I close my eyes, I can hear her saying it even now.