Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Living Estate Sale Of The Black Widow Spider... My Best Friend's Mother

My San Antonio friend has been going through a living Hell this year, ever since her mother developed a rapidly advancing case of Dementia, brought on by her own misuse of prescription drugs and ultimate hospitalization and near death. My friend *S* has had an ongoing love/hate relationship with her mother (much like I have with mine, The Brown Recluse, so we've always called her the Black Widow) only they never stopped speaking. I've been afraid of the woman from Day One and still find it difficult to believe that she's no longer The Black Widow. She's in a nursing home as of three months ago and basically doesn't know who anyone is and can remember almost nothing of her former vibrant and glamorous life.

This woman was once the top interior decorator/designer here, as well as at vacation spots the world over, decorating fabulous second and third homes. Apparently, before anyone realized how far gone she was, she had gone through all of her money in addition to her current husband's oil money, which was well over 25 million (although I heard $52 million I couldn't believe that), not to mention what she had charged on her dozens of credit cards and still owed for. The husband had suffered a mild stroke about 10 years ago (confined to a wheelchair mostly), so she saw to all of his needs, including round-the-clock hired help, a cook, 2 maids, accountants, a valet/attendant, etc. She was also overseeing the daily running of the household and paying bills, taxes, you name it.

As it turns out, she must have been whacked out for some time because she apparently owes the U.S. Government for the last 10 years of taxes. I can't even tell you the amount because it is just too insane to imagine. She also approached her current husband's children for a loan because she and her hubby couldn't live on $50,000.00 a month. What? You've got to be kidding me! Wait. It gets even crazier.

The very moment *S*'s mother was admitted to the hospital (while in Dallas), the family had the husband (their father) get power of attorney but not one of them goes to Dallas to help out. The hubby is in a wheelchair and has been since his stroke. *S* and her hubby drove up from S.A. and stayed for 6 weeks taking care of her stepfather and being at the hospital everyday for her mother. If you've been there then you know the routine. It's only something that can be done out of love.

Hang with me here because I swear I'm going somewhere with this.

Now, this woman has always treated her one and only child (my friend) like the ugly stepchild and was as controlling as any parent I've ever known (about equal to The Brown Recluse, my own mother). She was hideous to my friend and constantly belittled her and always talked about how horrible she looked, or whatever mean thing she could think of to wound her own daughter. At Christmas she lavished her stepchildren with gifts and trips and would send her daughter something like a fabulous designer ballgown, knowing she had no place to wear it. 

I literally hated being in the same room with the two of them because it was excruciating to listen to. Frankly, I didn't even care to be in the same room when they were talking on the phone. Unlike me, *S* never stopped speaking to her mother, so it was basically an everyday occurrence, but her mother is all she really has in the world, so she endured whatever that beast of a woman dished out. *S* has never had any children of her own but never hesitated to lavish her step family's children with gifts throughout the year. *S* has always been one the best givers I've ever known. Honestly, she has an *intuition* for gift giving.

I told her time after time she should just cut her mother off but *S* would never do it. Frankly, she couldn't. She's just not that kind of person, no matter what that monster has put her through. She is also Godmother to our son, which secures a special place for her in our hearts. She is a major *tender heart*, which most of you will understand exactly what I mean by that. She has been more than generous with BOTH of my children and a devoted friend to me, which is the sign of a friend who considers you family.

So fast forward several years to when *S* was getting a quite nasty divorce from the second idiot of a husband (who was an heir to family owned Illinois newspapers and magazines and he took her to the cleaners anyway, but that's another entire book in itself). *S*'s mother was so worried about losing valuable family heirlooms that she sent some men who worked for her to New Orleans to pick up the family silver, etc. so the jerk couldn't get it. This was all prior to the Katrina devastation (*S* had moved by then, to San Antonio). My friend agreed to this because she knew it was all family heirlooms except for all of the wedding gifts she had received from her first marriage to the owner of one the largest the ranches in the state of Texas. So she also asked her mother to hold the valuables from the first marriage as well, and *S*'s mother heartily agreed to it.

Fast forward another 10 or 15 years and *S* gets married for the third time, this time to her true love, although he has no family money and has never really had any serious money. Her mother immediately hated him and never failed to say so to her daughter. He was a major airline pilot for many years and later a private pilot until his health forced him into retirement. Let me tell you right now that this man is really a treasure and he worships the ground *S* walks on, which is exactly what she's always needed and it is truly the happiest she has ever been in her entire life. She has deserved happiness for so long even though it has always seemed to elude her. This is, without doubt, her last husband.

So, to finally get to my point, after all the (40+) years her mother *bad-mouthed* her to the rest of the step-family and everyone here in Midland, the family made immediate strategic moves to see to it that *S* received NOTHING of her *mother's* gazillions of belongings. Nothing. She had to hire two 3 attorneys to get just the things that rightfully belonged to her. Family heirlooms. Thank gawd she had copies of her grandparent's wills and lists of wedding presents from the first marriage. The family had planned to screw her out of it all. Ignore the fact that she is listed as the only person to inherit on her mother's will. Uh-Huh. Evidently, that is not important to these Neanderthals.

So, fast forward, once again, to today. The ad was at long last in the newspaper yesterday. I am in complete and total shock that they didn't have a private (invitation only) sale first. It's just insane. No one does that with an estate of this caliber. Frankly, the likes of Sotheby's should have been commissioned, but the family didn't have the class nor the intelligence to realize it. The woman's clothes and accessories, alone, are worth at least a million. I'm dead serious.

It is all up for sale and it started this morning, right here in Midland, Texas. The sale started at 10:00 AM and I was there at 9:15 AM, to stand in a line of more than 20 people. I had to try and retrieve some things for my friend. She's already been hurt so much for so long. Check out the list of items and believe me, it doesn't even scratch the surface. Not even close. She had over 300 (at least) Limoges boxes, a closet full of minks and furs, Judith Leiber handbags out the wazoo, by every top designer you can think of. She used to hold designer trunk shows at her house back in the day (with Oscar, Ralph and the likes), so she's always had the connections.

She has paintings by Duane Alt, Salvador Dali, Kluge, and countless others. I just can't believe this is being done locally by a local antiques dealer. It's truly a travesty of justice. The house has already been sold, of course (within 3 months in a depressed market). The family moved the husband to Austin to be closer to a son and they left *S*'s mother here, in a very upper end nursing home, but she keeps asking why she can't see him and he's been the same way in Austin. What kind of family would do something like this? Their 2 bedroom home was sold for over $400,000.00 (which is another travesty since it was listed at $525,000.00), which I think should take care of most all debts, save for the government. However, the sale of a couple of paintings will take care of that. The family is telling *S* that the rest will go to the care of both parents, although in separate cities, hundreds of miles away from one another and miserable. Look at that list for the sale again and try to convince me they aren't just money-grubbing white trash. I'm completely nauseated by the entire thing. They also forbid *S* to even come here for the sale and stated that she'd be removed by the police if she attempted it. She was so horrified by that statement that she still hasn't recovered. Seriously. I explained that without a restraining order, the step-family could do nothing of the kind. However, I told that she would not have wanted to be there today, watching her mother's life work be disassembled. It would have surely destroyed her.

The last time *S* spoke to her mother she was told she had no clean bed linens and yet they are selling off dozens of her exquisite bed linens in this sale. My friend bakes cookies for her mother and mails them to me and I take them out to her and it is just so sad I can barely stand it.

There is just so much more to this whole story and I hope to one day be *S*'s ghost writer for the book. Until then, I have to stand by and watch my friend and her mother get screwed by a pack of thieves wolves coyotes jackals. Yes, that's the word I was looking for. It's painfully difficult to stand by and watch a friend go through so much pain over the only items linked to the only family she's ever had or ever will. Her family is all gone now but for her mother. She was an only child. When her mother is gone, *S* will have no one left but her devoted hubby and us, her loyal and staunch friends. I hope that can sustain her....


Okay, I just returned from the sale and I probably bought way too much, but things were priced so low that I couldn't help myself. I was also able to snag a few pieces of antique family silver that was engraved with her family name or initials and she is very happy with my finds for her. I bought an enormous Imari bowl from the Edo Period, three Bjorn Wiinblad pieces, several pieces of Waterford (waaay under priced), a wrought iron and glass coffee table, and a number of other lovely items. I'm going back tomorrow to buy a fabulous antique secretary that had still not sold after the 5-1/2 hours I spent there. There is also a fabulous *chest on chest* that had not sold as well. I told her I was going back for more tomorrow. Hmmm... this could get expensive!

I will tell you that NONE of the clothes, purses and shoes that were brand new with tags were there, which totally sent me into a spiraling spin of confusion. Last time I was over there (1-1/2 months ago), the house and closets were literally overflowing. Today, the clothing and shoes were all worn at least once and the closets were sparse, which leads me to wonder what became of them. No Judith Leiber bags, no Louis Vuitton bags, no brand new designer clothing with the tags still on it, no stacks of boxes with top designer, unworn shoes (there had literally been hundreds and hundreds of boxes of shoes before). There were only 3 minks being sold today, which makes me ponder over what might have become of the 30+ other minks I saw when I was there last. I think I'm beginning to understand why they didn't want my friend here for the sale. There's been some pilfering-gone-wild going on, which just further fuels the flame of my anger toward this predictably greedy step-family.

Thanks for letting me rant on behalf of my friend. Do any of you have stories to rival the likes of this? If so, then please feel free to share. I (we) need to feel all better about this, you know? Come on! Make me feel better. Please???


scargosun said...

I have nothing that would even come close. She is so lucky to have a friend like you. You are both lucky actually. :)

Suburban Princess said...

I dont have anything that could even come close...I am from a long line of only children and long marriages so everything just gets passed down on generation at a time.

I hope your friend gets through this with her sanity - it sounds like the grandchildren have picked the shoes and bags clean.

The Incredible Woody said...

What a band of trash they are!!! I am waiting for this same type of thing to happen with my family. I can only hope my step-monster goes first!! If not, I (along with my brother and siter) will not see one thin dime...

Snooty Primadona said...

Jen: Yes, I believe we are & it keeps us sane.

SP: Exactly! It should be passed on to her & no one else. Argh! The stepbrother came to town several weeks ago and pillaged the place then had his lawyer wife write *S* and tell her not to come. Grrrrr... But, as I've said before, revenge is best served cold... Its day will come.

Woody: The sad part about this is that the children have separated their dad from the wife he loves & he spends a lot of time confused & sad. As soon as the son moved him to Austin, he & his wife left for a month long trip to Russia and the sister lives in Istanbul with her diplomat hubby. In other words, no one is here minding the nest.... and *S* was forbidden to show, which was actually a good thing. It would have killed her. However, I did remind her they weren't selling her mother's underwear, which made her laugh good and hard.

BJ Roan said...

This is one of the saddest stories I've ever heard. White trash is too nice of a description for those people. My heart aches for your friend and stepfather. Why couldn't they let two people who chose to be together stay together. It doesn't make sense. If you write the story, I'll be first in line to read it!

Mental P Mama said...

What a sin. It's times like this that taking the proverbial High Road is so tough. But, really, what difference is all that stuff going to make to them in the long run? Your soul is still the same. That's what matters.

Beth Dunn said...

People can be just awful, you are a dear friend to S. I mailed your book yesterday, hope you get it soon!

Blarney said...

Ugh. I've been executor & POA / POF in two deaths as well as the same for my living father. I've tried to be as fair and understanding as possible which seems to be lacking in this situation. It's unfortunate your friend was not able to block activities going on with legal help. I'm glad you are there for her and will be able to help her through the never ending pain.

Miss Janice said...

Good Lord. I feel for your friend. After reading this, I feel so blessed to have been so unconditionally loved by my parents during my entire life. Not a whole lot of family jewels coming my way...but a whole lot of love!

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