Saturday
Mar122005

« Walls Came Tumbling Down. Sort Of. »

This last week or two has seen some dramatic change at the house. My dad evidently has been forced to take down both about half the bricks on the patio enclosure (down to about the level they were at before he did anything to change the place), and most dramatically of all, he's had to tear off a side of the garage and remove the garage door! Now the house is inching its way back to the state it was in back about four years ago before he inherited the place. It won't return fully; but the carport-turned-garage will be a carport again unless for some reason he should ever decide to actually build it right, with permits and construction methods that meet code. I have no reason to think he will decide to do that. He is huffing and puffing about all this work to undo his earlier work, saying things like 'I've never worked so hard to get nothing done' and such. The following is an open letter to him.

Well, it was no one's idea but your own, mister.

I never asked for you to build any of this stuff. Instead, I asked you NOT to build it, or to at least build it right, or at least to build it with some of my input considered and used. The garage started getting modified three days after your mom died, at just before 10 am. She wasn't even put to rest yet and you were here doing work that no doubt had been on your mind for years and years. I remember even as a child hearing you talk about what YOU want to do with this house, even while your own parents were here, keeping you at bay with their objections. There was talk about splitting the house in two so that one of them could live in a smaller place and rent out the rest of the house. Hell, you even made talk like that with Kelli and I. You tried to get me to give up my studio space for a kitchen so that we'd be in our own little two room apartment while you'd rake in money from the other half of the house. There has been talk about adding an enclosed patio (but not making it a real part of the house—halfbaked and stupid), or stretching the big room out, or adding an upstairs level over the garage. Lots of talk about how to make it more "valuable." To yourself.

Without adding a habitable space or getting Kelli and me to pay a full rate, or having us gone, I don't see how the value will amount to anything. If you need more rent money, you need to get more renters, or you need to get rid of Kelli and me. Assuming you won't do that, your options are limited. But all this talk is beside the point. Your methods are calculating how to make a bunch of lumber, concrete, pipes, wires, carpet, fixtures, and land amount to more value in your pocketbook. But I never hear how you are planning to make it more valuable as a home. This is where we diverge. I want the place to be more valuable as my home. I don't need your garage or patio jail cell. I don't need your gate. I don't need your mediocre workmanship all over the place. I don't need you rubbing in my face the fact that you could get more money if I weren't here. I don't need reminders that you are the owner and I am not. If home improvement is what you really want to do, you could start by stopping this constant reminder talk that you make the decisions here. You could stop threatening to sell the place out from under us when things don't go your way. You could stop being landlord supreme. If you want to do work here that amounts to something, I could give you a list of things that would matter to me and would actually make the place nicer. We could start with replacing the floor in my room which was never replaced, or dressing the rest of the house in molding, or replacing the sliding glass door which is leaky and coming out of its own frame. We could replace windows in my room. We could replace the kitchen floor and cabinets. We could paint the front. We could redo the hall cabinets. There are some projects that actually need doing. Those aren't even massive ones, but they would make the place nicer. We could even get a real garage built, or somehow make some secure storage space. But those are only house improvements, not home improvements.

I'd be more willing to help out around here if you were actually helping me meet the needs of the place, and not your own agenda. Time and time again, I've asked for one project or another, and instead usually got a project of your choosing. Some of mine have been asked for for years now. When will we do those? When will we do things that reflect my sensibilities and needs? If you have a finite amount of energy and will to do this work, wouldn't it be better to just do the stuff that actually needs to be done, instead of doing stuff that doesn't, and now, to tear down that very same work? What keeps me from helping you here is that you don't cooperate with me. I am not the kid who just has to go along with whatever is ordered. I'm 31 now, and have worthwhile ideas of how to make the place nice, and have done work that even you complimented a year ago on the big room, which anyone can see is the nicest room in the house. I even did it on a small budget, while still using qualified workers as needed, and letting them do what needed to be done, without telling them how to do their work. It entailed a drywall crew, a carpenter, electrician, floor installer, and a lot of my own time and patience doing the organizing, the seamless caulking, and all the painting. It was done professionally and it looks good. What is the problem? Why is it when I have ideas you shun them?

How does one calculate the value of home? Is my well being not worth $500,000? Are my dreams valued at somewhat less than that? Suppose you did sell this place? Would either of us be any better off than we are now? Is that the point? Would another shack amount to more than this one that I already call home? In the face of the collapse of suburban real estate values, would that stuff matter? What is the point in doing anything but keeping this place if everywhere else will be cut down the same? If you want to make it more valuable, then make it more energy efficient, make it so we can grow food (don't cut the orange trees down like you did, for starters), make it so that we could work from home if need be. I don't know what really needs to happen, but a lot of what you have been doing has done me no good, and some has sent me over the top with anger. The time I smashed the window was a week after I got out of Halcyon, where I swore I would try to deal with things better, but it was like you forgot. Did you forget? A few weeks before might have been the last you'd see of me, and now there you were, carrying on the same as ever. Did it ever occur to you that maybe rage of that sort is a problem for me (the sort that got me to Halcyon in the first place)?

Walls, gates, fences. That constitutes your signature on this place, and now some of that is coming down. I can finally see the lush green back yard from the dining room, and it is good. It was good before you built that damned patio jail cell. But you told me all I had to do was get up and walk around to see it. Well, if there were no bricks there, I wouldn't even have to do that. Your sarcastic reply is the sort of thing that made me call the city to report this. I didn't like what you built, and I utterly despised your cavalier attitude about how I felt. Had you not done that, I may not have called the city. But your total disregard for my feelings is what caused me to do that, and caused me to smash the window, and before that, the bike. Seething anger. I just gave it a voice. I want light, you give me dark. I want windows, you give me walls. I want space you give me dividers. I want cooperation, you give me silence and distance. I want 31, you give me 12. I want father, you give me landlord. Was I supposed to conduct myself in any other way? I don't recall being heard any better when I asked politely and spoke in a moderate voice.

Because you don't really care about that. I can literally yell and scream and you are still interested in how to get more money off this place. You tell me you don't like this property, that it doesn't have this or that, and it's too far from here or there. Those are your concerns, not mine. You may not like the orange tree in the back yard, but that doesn't mean you have to cut it down for no reason. You don't want to give me the house, sell me the house, or honor your own mother's wishes that I could have it. Nor does it seem you want to honor both your parent's wishes which were that I would get half of their property. Once upon a time, it was two houses. And now, you cheat me out of half ownership on the one house that was left after you already snagged the Julian house for yourself. Face it, your parents wanted me to enjoy some of their property when they were gone. You got it all to yourself. But I live here and I have more interest in this place than you, and do what I can to take care of it. What business do you have owning this place and profiting off of it after you got it for free? That's just found money for you. And I get what? $26,000 and some furniture and appliances?

You say that you won't let me have the house because then I won't have it taken away by a litigious wife. I don't have such a partner now, but a lot of the nonsense you do around here is just the sort of stuff that makes it hard to make a happy home. While we want to plant our feet here, you threaten selling the place. Oh, maybe I'll have that divorce-happy wife after all, if you keep playing games with me that makes it hard to know whether we'll have a home next year. Oh, we have our arguments over whether to leave this place for good, and just let you wallow in your riches, or whether we should stay and fight your nonsense. You won't let me have the place because you are afraid that my wife will turn into the wives you've had? So you're "protecting" me from my wife? Protection? Protection at the same time as you play this game which drives me totally mad and does actually cause a lot of domestic problems. Wow. You really do have this thing sewn up, don't you? In one broad (no pun intended) gesture, you can not only keep me miserable, but you can profit off it too! That must be even better than when I was a kid. I didn't make you money back then.

So tell me this. I never got handouts from you without having to do tricks first. You never bought me musical gear, you never gave me a car, you never sent me off to college. But you snag what might have been my inheritance, and now, even years later once I have played your game, you still don't seem interested in sharing. I think I am entitled to half of this place, either as owner or as the recipient of its sale price. I actually would like at least 51% interest since I am the resident here and should get priority say over what goes on here. If you need income from the place, that can be arranged, but I don't think I should have to pay to put up with your shit, and certainly Kelli shouldn't need to do that. For a guy who curses the location and layout of this house, and doesn't even bother to meet its real needs, it seems silly that you would have any real interest in running the show here. You never come over for purely social visits, you never act like a member of family, you don't even call before you come over, even to deconstruct the garage. What is your real interest here anyway? What if you only made $1000 a month off the place? What are your expenses here anyway, if you weren't spending on stuff we don't need? Taxes? Cheap. There's no HOA costs, not much of anything. You took forever to fix the oven, when it could have been done in a week for the same price. We did a $4000 remodel here last year. If you got $1000 a month from here, and let Kelli and me run the place as we see fit, what the hell is the problem in half ownership? I don't want to pay you money for something I should have inherited.

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