My paternal grandmother no longer lives in her house. I recently learned that they are selling it, and are thus required to empty it out by the end of February. This means divvying up all the items in the abode, a potentially problematic situation, given the possessive and selfish nature displayed by my relatives. The line of ownership on many of these things is murky. My great-grandmother gave them to my parents when they were first starting out, and I subsequently grew up with many of these heirlooms. My father took a number of them in the divorce, and my grandmother, believing that they were hers and had always been, took them from him.
Of these, there is a small mahogany claw-footed rocking chair of elegant design with very little fussiness to it, it is in excellent shape for its age. It has always been a favorite piece of mine. I recognized it immediately when I was at Grandma's for Christmas. I had not seen it since the divorce, and was surprised that it was in her possession, though I suppose I shouldn't have been. My father promised me this chair.
The players in this material game are my Father (and by marriage, my Stepmother), my Aunt (and by shared preference for finery, my Uncle), and myself. I am sure that my Aunt and Uncle will speak for my two Cousins. But I know that my father will not stand up for me ... he has never been on my side when it mattered. I am subsequently in the weakest position because I have no allies in the family, and I live the farthest away. His responses when we discussed this on the phone (I instinctively panicked upon hearing the news) were not very reassuring, either, mostly about how "everyone wants that," and how it would require "shenanigans" of a very difficult sort to make that chair mine ... although it was part of my heart, and was promised to me to begin with. I am worried that this situation could turn sour very quickly.
The fact that he has never stood his ground on my behalf is particularly troublesome because this rocker is one of "the best" pieces in the home. My Aunt always takes the best of everything, and once it is in her possession, there is almost no chance of getting it back. I can understand wanting the best things, but I cannot accept hogging them all, and especially not when I have such an emotional bond to one piece. She is the richest branch of the family, and already has more than she needs. Would it kill her to let me having something that I love?
I also have a lot of resentment within me, and I fear that this situation will only bring it out. I hate how she treats my father and I with such condescension. I am filled with envy by how they always have the best, and we are stuck with their pickings ... and anger that this is considered normal. I have always felt like the least-loved cousin. I despise how it feels like I'm being patronized whenever I see them. I am filled with ire when I always have to sit at the "kiddie table," though I am now 22.
If my Aunt succeeds in taking the claw-foot wonder, I don't think I can possibly describe how disappointed I would be. It has come to have a symbolic value ... it represents my childhood, my passion for old things, my desire to be considered an equal, my thirst for respect, and my wish to be considered an adult. Right now, even though I could surely use many of the items to furnish an apartment, I couldn't care less about them. I just want this rocking chair. To not receive it would feel like betrayal, a denial of my value, and another broken promise.
I do not think I could bear to visit that part of the family for a long time, should such a thing happen. Going there for the holidays has long repulsed me, but I always did it out of duty. My lack of strong family bonds is surely illustrated by my willingness to move far far away and stay there ... but this particular thing has the potential to be the final blow that kills my compulsive familial responsibility forever. We may be blood, but we are not family. I can't remember being family anymore.
Sometimes I think I should change my last name.