Old Habits Die Hard

Her grandmother insisted she could only inherit the old cabin and it’s fifty-some-odd acres if she moved there and lived in it. So she didn’t inherit it…not for years. She was being stubborn, she knew that. What would it cost her really to move into the cabin for two years, use it as her mailing address, then sell it afterwards. She’d have fulfilled the requirement to inherit it and she’d save on capital gains tax. It was a win-win. Still, it took her nearly eight years to break down and move there, and by then it was because she was slightly out of options.

She’d known her grandmother was dying, in that way that everyone is dying from the moment they’re born, but also in that she’d finally been to sentences to hospice care. If that was even a sentence. She wasn’t sure. Helen knew her grandmother refused to leave the cabin unless it was in a box, and there was no one willing to come care for her until the hospice was granted. It seemed she’d get her wish now and if it meant a “stranger” was living with her until the wish was granted, so be it.

There were no strangers in that little town though. They’d all been born there, grown up there, would die there. Except the select few, like her mother, who’d managed to escape. Helen always expected her mother to utter something dramatic like, “promise me you’ll never go there!” but she never did. She died without ever having introduced to Helen to any family or friends from there. She died without ever mentioning her own mother was even alive.

All that is to say that Helen could be forgiven for her stubbornness when it came to the inheritance. Who would give up their life to move somewhere they’d never been, to live with someone they’d never even known about, to inherit a cabin they’d never seen. Not Helen. She’d created a life for herself, such as it was, a job that took ten to twelve hours of her day and a cat that took that remainder, books to fill in and soften the edges. So it wasn’t until the job disappeared that she even considered the inheritance.

It all came about one day out of the blue, the inheritance, that is. She received a phone call from an unknown number, and let it go to voicemail. Who answers an unknown number these days. And so it wasn’t until her lunch hour when she remembered to check her voicemail that she learned she not only had a grandmother, but that she could also have a cabin. She sat with it for awhile, chewing it over as she ate her turkey wrap and drank her pop.

When she finally decided to call the attorney back Helen learned that in order to claim her inheritance, she would need to go live in the cabin for two full years, and also that her grandmother was still very much alive and living there too. It all seemed a bit ridiculous, and Helen refused, the attorney letting her know that he’d be in touch.

He wasn’t. In touch, that is. She didn’t hear from the attorney again for nearly eight years.

And then her phone rang.

Surprisingly she’d saved the attorney’s information in her phone and new precisely who was calling this time. Rather than send it to voicemail, she answered, a bit clipped perhaps in her “yes,” rather than a “hello,” but she answered which she figured was better than the alterantive.

The attorney must have thought so too, because rather than stutter or stumble, he introduced himself again, this time with a “perhaps you remember me?” attached to the end. He then proceeded to inform Helen that her grandmother was now “actively dying” and that she, Helen, was still the sold beneficiary of the cabin and that the two year stipulation was still in place.

“When can we expect you?” the attorney said, for it was very much a statement as much as a question.

Helen sat quietly for a minute, quietly on the outside only as on the inside her thoughts spun about coming and going so quickly she wasn’t thinking about any one of them really simply being overwhelmed by their speed and quantity. She let out a breath she hadn’t realized she was holding and shouted internally. With her eyeballs pulsing she told herself, “the bottom line is that without a job I’m in a bit of a bind. The bottom line is I could go there and have a free place to live for two years while I sort myself out. The bottom line is I don’t exactly have a lot of options. The bottom line is I can be packed and on my way in less than 48 hours.”

“I’ll be there by the weekend,” she heard herself saying and she hung up before the attorney could say more.

Helen had never expected to accept the inheritance, had never expected to be in a position where she’d have no other options. You don’t go from living a soulless work filled existence to having nothing overnight, and yet that’s exactly how it happened. One minute the people around her were slowly losing their jobs and their cars, their homes and their families, and the next minute she was one of them. She’d figured she had padding for one month, one month in which to find another job before she’d have to enter panic mode. Now there’d be no need. Now she’d have two years and a property to sell at the end of it.

She began packing.

This #writethirtyminutes session was prompted very loosely from “A Year of Writing Prompts” by Writer’s Digest, available here

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