So, I know I have been all over the place with my blog. Some of that is because a few of them were written “in the moment” because some really good things were happening and I really wanted to share those! Many of the others about the “back story” have been hard, some nearly impossible, to relive and put into words, but I am going back there again, as this has been weighing heavily on my mind.
I wrote about a trip to the beach with my Family immediately after Momma died. Later that same Fall, Brad and I went back to Orange Beach, Alabama to visit our friends, Troy and Natalie. It was good to be back in the place where I felt so comfortable and it was weird because it became really evident that Momma was there with me. When we arrived and checked into our condo, there was a cutting board out on the counter…in the shape of an owl! And the next morning, when I made coffee, I reached into the cupboard to get a cup and there were a bunch of small, fragile, white china cups and there was one gray mug. I, of course, chose the mug. I was surprised to see that it had the initial “G” on it, which was the first letter of my Momma’s first name. I don’t feel like those things were a coincidence. We enjoyed our trip, but when it was time to leave, I felt a real sadness and emptiness.
On our way home, I told Brad I wanted to stop by the cemetary. Before we left, I had visited and found that Momma’s monument still hadn’t been delivered and had called to check on it and was told that it should be coming any day. We stopped near the spot where she was laid to rest and realized it had been delivered! It was very bittersweet…I didn’t expect it to be quite so emotional. It made everything very…final. And there was a vase on the side and it was empty. I told Brad we had to run somewhere to get some flowers until I could have some made. So we ran to Walmart (since it was only about 6 am) and picked up some flowers so it wouldn’t look like Momma had been forgotten. I went to the flower shop later that day and ordered some flowers from the flower shop where my friend worked.
About a month later, we flew to San Antonio, Texas to see one of my best friend from childhood and her husband, Pam and John. Although, she and I had talked on the phone and such, I hadn’t really been able to tell about everything that had happened. And it is very different talking in person. You see, Pam had been my friend since first grade and throughout school, and had spent a lot of time at our house while we were growing up, so all of this was very personal for her. We had a great visit…we laughed, and we cried, and we shared a lot of old memories. And being in San Antonio and seeing the sights was a great distraction. Again, as the trip came to an end, I felt sad and somehow empty.
I decided I needed to talk to someone. I still had so many unresolved feelings about everything that happened. I asked for a referral from our Employee Assistance Program at work and there was a female therapist on our provider list in Evansville, so I set up an appointment with “Gloria”. The day that I went to see her for the first time, I put the address in my phone and was shocked to find that the office was directly accross the street from the cemetary my Momma was in. Another sign. I immediately liked Gloria and told her what had happened and she seemed to genuinely be in disbelief. Obviously, I had an extra-long first session. I told her about all of the traveling we had been doing and she asked if I felt I might be “avoiding” the situation? Well, I hadn’t thought about it, but yes, I guess I probably was. She said it was very understandable in light of the situation, but suggested that eventually, I would need to deal with my feelings about it. She also asked me if we continued to live next door to my father after everything that had happened? I told we did. I told her that I loved our home and that my younger brother and his kids were still staying with us and I didn’t really want to leave it…It was so close to where I grew up. And I told her that I wasn’t going to let my father bully me out of the home we had worked so hard on to make it just the way we wanted it. She told me she was concerned for our safety and made me promise to be really cautious and careful.
After Thanksgiving I had new winter flowers made for Momma’s monument and put them on that weekend. In December, Momma’s friend, Sue, and I went shopping in Evansville and to Red Lobster to eat…it was Momma’s favorite place. After dinner, we went to the cemetary and when we walked up to Momma’s grave, we noticed that there was a whole cob of field corn stuck down into the flower saddle on the top of her grave. My friend and I looked at each other…And we both knew. We knew where this came from. We were in Evansville. There were no cornfields nearby. It was way past Halloween for it to be a teenage prank. But just to be certain that we weren’t wrong, we went up to the office to ask if there would be any reason that there would be an ear of corn in the cemetary. The personnel assured me that there were no squirrel or wildlife feeders within the cemetary, so he had no idea where the ear of corn could have come from. But as I said…we knew. You see my father had been a farmer and was always somewhat obsessed with his corn crop…I recall a picture of me in my baby crib, sleeping, and he had laid a cob of field corn on me and taken a photo. He thought it was funny. I was pretty sure he would know that I would realize where the cob of corn came from. It was a form of torment and intimidation in my mind. And just mean.
The holidays were very difficult that first year…Without Momma being there, it was not the same. She loved them and had hosted them for many years. Our family that had remained close spent Thanksgiving together and we remembered Momma in a special way, with some old photos we put together, certain food we prepared and ate, and a group photo we had taken together. We tried to celebrate, as we knew that Momma would want us to be happy. And somehow, by the grace of God, we made it through.
About mid-December, my younger brother and his daughter and her friend who was visiting, were out in our side yard shooting clay pigeons over the field. My father came riding down close to them on his Gator and yelled out to my brother that he needed to get all of their “shit” out of my grandparents house that they had lived in before all of this had happened with Momma. He said “We can do this the easy way or we can do this the hard way!” My brother, his daughter and her friend came into the house and I could tell something was wrong…My neice said “I think my grandpa just kicked us out of our house the week before Christmas?!” My brother reiterated what was said. Unbelieveable. But not really…Anything was believeable at this point.
So, the day of Christmas Eve, my younger brother and his two kids went down to their old house, that had no electricity and no heat, and gathered the rest of their personal belongings and took them to a storage unit. It was beyond sad. And pathetic. But it was over. And I told my brother to look on the bright side…that now my father had nothing more to hold over his head and to control him with, as he had done for quite some time before all of this happened.
We tried to make Christmas as “normal” as possible. But it was a “new” kind of normal. One without Momma there. It was different. However, we made the best of it we could and we all leaned upon each other and were thankful that we had time together.
After the first of the year, as I continued with my therapy, and had started to really come to accept what had happened and also came to accept that maybe staying in our current home wasn’t really worth it. Always feeling like we were on the lookout for an intrusion, and realizing that we would never again be able to enjoy our outdoor living space like we had in the past, as well as the fact that when we looked out our front window or door, there were just bad memories. And when we left home to go anywhere, we either had to drive by the house where my father lived or my grandparents house where my brother and his kids had lived and been kicked out of. And my father had hired contractors to start work on my grandparent’s house. We just assumed he was going to rent it out as they appeared to be putting in new heating and cooling, new flooring, and having a new roof put on. This house had been in very poor repair for several years while my brother and his kids lived there. What was really a surprise was that my father did all of this work to this house, so that my other brother and his wife (or ex-wife or girlfriend) could move into it. That was a slap in the face to my younger brother, for sure. And another reason to feel uneasy living there.
So, Brad and I made a decision that we were going to put our home on the market at the first sign of spring. However, before we got to that point, my younger brother was severely injured in a very bad accident at work and almost lost his foot. He had already found an apartment and was waiting for it to open up, but this would definitely put a damper on that plan, as he was unable to work for a period of time. And he needed some help since he needed to take it easy, so we decided we would have to put off our plan to sell a little bit longer, as we wanted to make sure that my brother and his kids would be able to move and be safe.
We got busy working on our home anyway, preparing it to sell. We cleaned and purged and painted and updated. My brother had complications with healing and wound up having to have an additional surgery, but then was finally on the mend. And then, finally able to return to work. He found another apartment and made arrangements to move. We put our house on the market in May. And we started looking for a home to buy. This turned out to be much more difficult than we had expected. We looked in the county we lived in without any luck and finally talked to a builder who drew up some plans, and we started searching for some property, even though we really did NOT want to build. We decided to look in the neighboring city where I had worked for the past 20 years. After looking at several homes that were not exactly what we were looking for, we talked to a couple of builders there and were looking a two different properties to build on.
In the meantime, the realtors had shown our house multiple times and we had a few offers that weren’t quite what we wanted, but then we got a great offer and we accepted it! And before we knew it, we were in the process of selling our home! Now the pressure was really on to find a place for us!!! We were beginning to think we were going to be in a rental for a while…This was not a desired outcome, but it might be our only choice. My brother and his kids had moved into their new apartment and we were able to let them take some of our furniture we wouldn’t have room for with them. We were excited for them to have their own place. My brother told me I wouldn’t believe how much of a relief it was to be away from my father and other brother, living where we were, and how great it was to not have to see the visual reminders every day. He told me he couldn’t wait until we could get away too! I was so ready!!
Then one day, shortly thereafter, this house popped up on Zillow and it was a brand new construction, never lived in, and it had just come on the market. We got in contact with our realtors and told them we wanted to see it. We had an appointment the next day.
And when we walked in…We knew. And our realtors knew…And they smiled. (They had decided I was a little bit picky!) It was…almost exactly the house plan we had drawn up. It was an open floor plan, one level, 3-bedroom, 2-bath brand new home. It had basically everything we had wanted except a fire place and a walk-in shower. But we LOVED it. And it was in a nice neighborhood on the edge of town. We told the realtors we wanted to make an offer. (We figured this one would NOT be around long!) So, we talked that evening and decided upon an offer and let our realtors know so they could submit the offer.
At the end of that week, I had a trip planned with a good friend of mine to go antique shopping in Shipshewanna in Northern Indiana. It was August, so it was hot. I got a call from Brad the first day we were there and the owners had come back to our realtors and said they had multiple offers and would be accepting the best offer…Sort of like a bidding “war”. We felt we had made a good offer, but had left a little room for negotiating. We were really unsure of what to do…But we really wanted the house and did NOT want to lose it to another bidder. Boy, it was really stressful and we were trying to decide what to do? While my friend and I were shopping at this big open air market, I began to notice that almost everywhere I looked, there was some sort of owl….Owl figures, owl pictures, owl jewelry, owl books, owl pillows, owl dish towels, owl purses, stuffed animal owls, etc. Finally, I felt so overwhelmed that I just started to cry. My friend asked me what was wrong and if I was okay? I told her about seeing all of the owls and that I felt like Momma was trying to tell me something, but I didn’t know what?? I felt like it had something to do with the house and the decision we were trying to make about our offer. I called Brad a bit later and we decided to submit an offer very close to the asking price and hope and pray it would be accepted.
I barely slept that night and was on pins and needles the next day, which was when the offers were due. We had no idea when would hear whether we had the top offer. Luckily, we heard later that evening…And it was good news!! Our offer had been accepted!!! It was such a relief…And I couldn’t help but think that somehow Momma had a hand in it. All those owl sightings had to mean something!
So, we were beyond happy, but a little freaked out at the same time. The people buying our house were doing a VA loan and there were some additional things that we needed to do to get our home to pass their stringent requirements. That was scary because we needed our home to sell and we wanted to close soon so that we could set a move date and set the closing for our house. The timing was nerve-racking! The other stress I was dealing with was the fact that we were moving into town and we were going to have a fairly small yard…just a single lot. We were moving from 3 acres out in the country. And we had my two boys, Rowdy the English Bulldog and Milo, our Rescue Boxer. They were used to having the run of the three acres we lived on, as it was invisible-fenced. They had a dog door out of the garage and could pretty much come and go as they pleased without any worry of them bothering anyone else or getting away. They spent a lot of their time outdoors and came in to eat and sleep and sometimes to play or snuggle. It was evident that our new home was going to be a whole different kind of situation and setting. After much thinking and praying and discussing, we decided, it would not be fair to move them into the city and take away their ability to have the freedom they were used to. This was definitely a downside…I LOVED them both. And I couldn’t imagine not having them around. They were good boys, but they deserved to be happy too.
So, I began looking for them a home, by posting our dilemma on Facebook. Almost immediately, I had a message from my cousins who live in Florida that they would love to give both of our boys a home with them and their four kids! This was great news as they had visited when Momma passed away and the kids loved our boys. And this would mean they could stay together. So, we made a plan to meet up in Georgia in a couple of weeks.
In the meantime, we were able to close on both houses and we started packing and getting everything ready to move. Boy, what a job?! It was bittersweet, but it was exciting and it felt like freedom!
The weekend before we were moving, we drove to Macon, Georgia to meet up with my cousins. I could tell Rowdy and Milo sensed something was going on…they were so good on the trip and so loveable when we got to the hotel. Saying good-bye to them was one of the hardest things I have done, but seeing them with my cousins and their kids, made me know it was the right decision. They were going to get lots of love and attention…And they were getting to live in FLORIDA?! Seriously, they are retiring before me…and would be close to the beach! I was still sad and cried several times on our drive home and that night when I went to bed. We were super busy, but I realized how very much I missed them and told Brad that we were going to have to get a puppy when we got moved.
So the day we were taking the last load of stuff out, I looked around at our big empty house. And as much as I loved it, it hit me that it was really just a big empty house…a shell. It was no longer our home. WE were what made our home, not the house.
We moved into our new home and having a totally clean and fresh canvas to work with was incredible! I love decorating so I had a blast setting up a new house, although since we down-sized, I did not have as much room and didn’t have space for all of my belongings that I loved and had collected through the years. So I had to part with some things and put some things in the attic and pick out my very favorites to display. But it was okay…I loved our new house and how it looked. And felt. It was no time at all before it was looking and feeling just as “homey” as our old house.
We also found a little tiny French Bulldog puppy in Bloomington, Illinois. And we went and picked her up shortly after we got settled in. She was the runt of the litter, but I thought she was perfect. And I named her Chloe Mae…Mae was my Momma’s middle name and it just seemed to fit this tiny girl. She was just the right addition to our new home.
So, we had been living there a little over a month and I had just been talking to some friends about how good the move had been and how wonderful it was to not have to have the daily visual reminders of what had happened; however, I must have jinxed the happiness…
One day at work, early in November, I got a strange phone call. It was from a gentleman who claimed to be an attorney for the parent company of the cemetary where my Momma was laid to rest. He was calling to let me know that my father had filed a lawsuit against the cemetary and their parent company. I didn’t understand. I asked why he would file a lawsuit against them? And the answer that I got was so crazy and so unexpected that I was literally left speechless.
Evidently, the lawsuit was filed because my father felt he should have been the one making the decsion about where my Momma was laid to rest since she was “his” wife. Therefore, he was seeking a Judgement for my Momma’s body to be exhumed from her current resting place and moved to a location of his choosing. What the Hell??? Was this for real??? Or was this just a sick prank??? I told the attorney I apologized, but I was skeptical and requested that he send me something, in writing, because this just sounded too bizarre?! He said he would be glad to do so. He said that I wasn’t named in the lawsuit…but because I was co-owner of my Momma’s plot, they felt it was essential to notify me, as well. I thanked him (?) and asked that he plaease forward me the documents. He said he would. This was on a Friday afternoon.
I went down to one of my co-workers offices in the building I was in, who was also a very good friend, and proceeded to tell her about the phone call and to fall apart. She was also in disbelief. She said “Surely, this is a hoax?!” I told her, as sick as that would be, I certainly hoped it was. I called Brad and he couldn’t believe it. He also thought it was someone playing a sick joke. I called my daughter and told her and she also couldn’t believe it. I kept checking my email, but had not received anything by the time I left work…So, I was beginning to think maybe it was just a sick, sick joke.
I decided to contact the actual cemetary office and ask them if they knew anything about this. The office assistant who I talked with did not; however, she did tell me that back in the spring, my father had come to their office with a document from the Dept. of Health with their permission to exhume the body and demanded that it be scheduled. The date that he had requested it be done was May 29th. WOW! Just Wow! That date is Brad’s and my wedding anniversary AND my younger brother’s birthday. The date that he had filed the paperwork with the Dept. Of Health was the day after we put up our “For Sale” sign on our house. I asked the office assistant what had happened with this request. She said that he was told that while he did have to have permission from the Dept. Of Health to exhume a body, that he also had to have an order from a Judge for the same. I was now prepared for the worst…because this confirmed that he was actually attempting to do what this attorney had said.
I was beside myself to say the least. I called my younger brother to let him know what was happening. He was livid! He couldn’t believe that this could possibly be happening?! I called Momma’s family and let them know and they were appalled and also in disbelief. I also called Momma’s best friend and told her. She said she had never heard of such a thing?! But also said she wasn’t completely surprised at anything that my father might do. I contacted my neice and her mom and they were also in shock. Everyone I called was just floored by this possibility! I messaged my therapist and told her I was going to need to talk…soon. I went to the cemetary that weekend to see if everything was still intact. It seemed peaceful, but it also seemed surreal. Could it be possible that a Judge would allow my Momma to be disturbed from her resting place, near her parents and grandparents…Her body to be dug up and moved on a truck to another place? And where would it be?? I was just sick.
But Monday came, and I was even sicker because I received a copy of the lawsuit that my father had filed. It was for real. And it was filed about the time we put the “Sold” sign in our yard…Imagine that??
I could hardly believe it!!! And we weren’t really part of it so I wasn’t sure what I could do? I had an appointment with my therapist later that afternoon, so you can imagine our conversation. She was also in disbelief. She said she had never heard of such a thing?? She said “You do realize this is how your father is choosing to punish you for selling your home and moving and getting out from under his thumb?” I told her I knew it was most likely done to hurt me. And Brad. And my younger brother…especially in light of the first requested date on the Dept. Of Health document to exhume and move Momma’s body being our anniversary and his birthday. I asked her if she knew of a good attorney from Evansville, where the cemetary was located? She said she did and gave me the name and number and told me to tell her that she had referred me.
So, I drove across the street to the cemetary and called this attorney from Momma’s gravesite. She was also in disbelief….But she said she would talk to the other attorneys in her practice and see if anyone had dealt with anything like this and she would get back with me. She asked me to send her the document if I could, so I did so. And I waited. And later in the afternoon, she called me back. And she apologized. She said that none of the attorneys in her office had any experience with anything of this nature so they didn’t feel comfortable taking it on.
I was about to cry when she said; However, I do have someone who used to work for our firm, who now works for another firm, and we think she would be perfect. And she gave me her name and number and told me to tell her that she had referred me to her. So, I made another call…And was put on hold. I was silently praying to God for a miracle and to please let this attorney take this case. And shortly after, I was talking to this kind, obviously intelligent attorney who was shocked by this lawsuit being filed after hearing a shortened version of the whole story, but immediately said that she would like to take the case! (Thank you Lord!) However, she said that time was of the essence and we would need to intervene in the case right away, since we weren’t named, so that we could make our objection known. We set up a meeting with her for the following afternoon.
Brad went with me to the appointment and we immediately liked this attorney very much. She patiently listened as we told her the story of the past year and a half. She was in awe of all that we had been through already and APPALLED that this lawsuit had been filed. She was extremely empathetic and she sincerely vowed to do everything she possibly could to keep this from happening to my Momma. So that day, we hired her, on the spot, to represent us on Momma’s behalf.
And so it began…