atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,

#7664: Yeah, I rule, all right.

Whenever I title a blog post like that, you know I'm doing it to crow about all the shit I got done.

About 2, 2:30, I went out to the driveway. And then I did the following:
Changed oil in Jeep.
Changed oil in Mrs. Fungus' car.
Replaced blown headlight in Jeep.
Replaced bad headlight retaining ring on the passenger side.
Repaired broken trim ring for passenger side headlight, which has been broken at least since 2016
Replaced Jeep's front sway bar end links, left and right, since the right side was broken and I bought a kit with polyurethane bushings
Reinstalled battery in pusher mower
Mowed front, sides, and back with the pusher
I would, in fact, still be cutting grass if it had not started to rain; I was debating, as I cut the back grass, just going on with the pusher until either I or it ran out of steam. But, the rain seemed to be telling me what to do, so I did that.

I still have to make meatloaf for dinner.

* * *

The retaining ring for the right side headlight, it's been missing two tabs (of four) for a while. I'd ordered a new one from Amazon but hadn't gotten around to replacing it, but since I was already working on the Jeep's lights today anyway I figured I'd go to town on it. I found that I needed to replace the left one, too, but it's not in as bad a shape--three tabs of four--so that can wait. I'll just order one and keep it on hand, is all.

Anyway, both headlights are now securely and correctly mounted.

To repair the plastic trim piece, I used 5-minute epoxy to get the parts stuck together, and then I took a piece of shop rag and used it to reinforce the joint with more epoxy--kind of a half-assed sort of fiberglas. Heh.

Had to dig through the junk jars to find new screws for the trim rings, though. The ones that were in there were no longer philips/posidrive screws. Road salt has not been kind to them. I think I'll look for some black oxide-coated screws like them at the hardware store.

It took a lot of effort to get the stub of the broken sway bar end link, on the right side, off. There's no room to get a socket wrench on the nut, but I was somehow able to turn it the first 10 degrees with the big breaker bar, and then it was loosened enough that I could get it with the 18mm box-end wrench. But once the nut was off, the end link slid off easily.

Greased up the poly bushings and put it all together, then got the end link on. Had to use the jack with a board to lift the end of the sway bar up far enough to slide the new link on. If I had been possessed of any self-awareness at all, what I would have done is to take the other side off, too, before replacing either side, because I just now realized that doing it that way would have allowed me just to rotate the bar up. Well, I've never done both sides at the same time before.

Anyway I was able to get it on. For the other side, I didn't bother trying to unbolt the top of the old link; I just cut it off. And for assembly I used the same jack trick.

Torqued both sides down after everything was installed. Brief spin down the block, jerking the wheel back and forth, all the squirrelyness is gone. Good.

With the truck buttoned up, I stuck the battery back in the pusher, which took me some time to figure out, but once it was in and connected it cranked with gusto. Gassed it up, put all the tools away, then cut the grass.

* * *

Every time I see my 24" breaker bar, I think about my brother trying to fix his snowmobile.

When I went to Harbor Freight to buy that thing, I bought two (one for me, and one for him) because when he'd talked about working on his snowmobile's front end, he'd talked about how he'd had to use his torque wrench to get enough leverage--and I winced and told him NO DO NOT DO THAT.

The bushings for the skis had, apparently, seized on the bolts that held them to the front end. That was when I told him about anti-seize; and then I asked him what kind of bolts he had used. Apparently he'd gone to the hardware store and bought whatever fit, and again I winced and told him to--at his earliest opportunity--go make sure that he had at least grade eight bolts, and grade ten would be better, because front suspension and high speed and if something broke, it would be very bad.

Not stupidity; just ignorance.

* * *

It was nice when my family still listened to me as if I had any intelligence whatsoever.

I know they've always thought I was pretty stupid. For my brother and eldest sister, success is the indicator of intelligence, but my definition of "success" is wildly different from theirs. Their definition is composed of worldly achievement and a high paying job and a fat bank account. Ultimately, money is really all they care about.

They thought that they could rent this place out for a pretty sum--without painting, without fixing anything, without doing anything about the film of nicotine that permeated everything, and without doing the asbestos abatement--and that because I lived here, I was getting in the way of them making money. They wanted to charge me a premium rent (to live in a house I owned, at the time 1/4 of) with a host of ridiculous rules which were designed to make it extra-easy for them to evict me. The "no storing hazardous chemicals" bit was nice--gasoline, RoundUp, Drano, anyone? The one concession to my partial ownership was that they'd discount the rent by 1/4.

"Delusional" was the most charitable description I could come up with. This place needed renovation before they could rent it at all, let alone at top market value; but half the time, my sister was claiming that she had "24/7" access to the property because of her partial ownership. So why does she have 24/7 access and I don't? I wasn't about to sign that lease and I sure as hell wasn't going to pay full market value to rent a property badly in need of renovation.

Instead, they paid nothing for tax, insurance, maintenance, on a property they could not lease, and could only sell as a "fixer-upper", without major investment.

They kept threatening us with "petition to partition", which is a legal procedure used when heirs to an asset can't decide how to dispose of it. Basically the court appoints a lawyer who handles disposing of the property, and gets paid handsomely out of the proceeds before the balance is distributed to the heirs. My sister (who started this horseshit) admitted that the result was that lawyers made a lot of money and the beneficiaries got considerably less than the value of the asset. A lawyer friend of mine, from Bible study, took one look at the first such email and told me, "These are vindictive people," without having seen any other communication or anything from them. The thing is, I was perfectly willing to dicker; the problem was, they were not: it was their way, or the highway.

But let's say I moved out, to live somewhere else, and they found a sucker to rent the place as-is--who do you think they would have called at 3:27 AM on a Wednesday when the tenants called to complain that the toilet wouldn't stop overflowing? Sister lives in Louisiana. Brother lives two hours away and he's a doctor and he's on call so he can't do it. Right?

Anyway--in 2017, we decided that we were in a position to buy the bunker. We decided to make an offer on the house--buy the other 3/4 of the house from the co-owners--and clear out the whole tangled mess so we could all get our lives back and start acting like a family again. We contacted a real estate agent to get some idea of what the house was worth; then we made an offer. Based on the prices of houses in similar condition in the area, we made a very fair offer. My wife expected them to accept; I expected we'd have to negotiate a bit but that they'd be willing to dicker.

Boy, was I wrong. My brother insisted that our "lowball" offer was "a slap in the face".

After bitching us out, they called a different real estate agent to give them an estimate of what the place was worth. I told them I was open to the idea of averaging the two different valuations, figuring that'd be a fair compromise, but they decided that the sale price was going to be their guy's price, period.

The problem is, their idea of "negotiation" was to make a demand and ignore any counteroffer. They weren't willing to dicker (despite my brother saying, in one email, "this is a negotiation") and they wanted full price for the house, full stop, end of discussion. Essentially, they said, "Buy the house at that price, or we'll make with the petition to partition."

Our first impulse was to tell them that we'd retracted our offer to buy the place, and to go ahead with the petition--but we thought it over and decided we could still do it at the inflated price. As part of the purchase, I wanted to deed over my quarter of the back lot to them, ending my involvement in it. Because their guy had said, "$20k", that would have saved us $5k on the price of the house. That way, when they sold the back lot (for more than $20k, I was pretty sure, because real estate tends to appreciate) they'd make a profit on it. I wouldn't have to cut the grass or pay property tax on it.

We mentioned, to our lawyer, their "petition to partition" threats; he said that it likely would have been thrown out of court, because I had (repeatedly) expressed a willingness to sell the house or whatever--in emails of which I kept hardcopies--but they had never followed through on any of their intentions. There was a lot of talk, but no action on their part, and it was therefore very likely that a judge would decide that while I was living in the house, I was also maintaining it, protecting its value, insuring it, and paying the property taxes for them, all while they dithered. That made my presence in the house a net benefit not just for me, but for the co-owners of the house. Particularly after we offered to buy them out, the court likely would have decided, "They made an offer to buy that you refused, so why the hell are we here now?" Our lawyer was of the opinion that the most likely outcome (other than the case just being thrown out) was for the judge to decide they were selling us the house at the original bid.

Mind you--this was at a time when houses were standing empty with "for rent" and "for sale" signs in their front yards, for months at a time. On one trip home from an errand, at that time, I counted no fewer than five houses up for rent, just on the two main roads I was using. People were not buying and they were not renting, not here.

Still, we decided that we'd pay their price. My wife wrote an email that said we were going to accept their price, transfer the back lot to them, etc, and they accepted that bid. I want to make that clear: they accepted our proposal, $x much in cash plus my interest in the back lot at the valuation their real estate guy quoted.

So, they decided to get a lawyer. I suppose that's reasonable, to have someone representing them, and they have the resources and wherewithal to locate a lawyer who could represent them. Right?

No--they did not get a lawyer, not at first. They said they were going to get a lawyer, but then they spent six-plus-months dicking around and doing nothing, after which my sister called me and--most uncharacteristically!--apologized for the fact that they still did not have a lawyer. (It was kind of scary.)

...not that the situation improved any. We lost another six months to them deciding that they didn't want to accept the transfer of my interest in the lot (because, somehow, it would cost $4,000 to get the lot out of trust, and they'd get less than $5k when it sold, and that was unfair) but not actually telling us that they didn't want to do that. Changing the deal, post hoc--

You know, these are not people who have no experience dealing with real estate. My brother has owned three houses, my sister two; I was perfectly willing to treat the whole transaction as if none of us knew each other but they insisted on making this thing as difficult as possible. If we had actually been strangers trying to buy this house, and they acted like that? Most buyers would have walked away and the place would have stayed on the market another six months.

The house was held in trust; there are several really easy and ironclad ways to sell a house out of trust. Naturally, we used none of those.

Our biggest mistake--the first-time home buyer mistake we made--was starting renovations after we had made the agreement to buy the house. I thought my brother and sister were capable of sticking to a deal, that they had enough honor in them to say, "We made this agreement, so we'll stick to it." But no; it was time to squeeze little brother and his wife for every penny they could extract. By the time their real motivations had become clear, we had several thousand dollars' worth of improvements already into the house, including the asbestos abatement. That was stupidity on our part.

...but several times we were ready to consider that money a sunk cost (in any case, we'd get it back in the proceeds of the eventual rental or sale of the house) and just get the fuck out. I don't know how many times either I, my wife, or both of us simultaneously, decided we'd had enough, that we were walking away from the deal...only to decide, later, that we'd stick with it. Every time a sticking point came up, we had to accommodate them. We bent over backwards to make this deal happen; and when we got fed up, we'd sleep on it, and then soldier onward. It was not an unprecedented type of home sale; selling real estate out of trust happens all the time...but they couldn't be arsed.

Still, eventually, I finally took a check over to their lawyer's office about TWO YEARS after we made our initial offer and the deed was done. Our lawyer--whose business is based on real estate transactions!--was incredulous at the time it had taken to finalize the deal. I don't blame him; it was ridiculous. As I said above, most buyers would have walked away the first time the sellers screwed with the deal. If we had, the path forward for everyone would have gotten that much harder since I would have done only my quarter of everything.

Mind you, prior to the sale, their partial ownership of the place wasn't costing them a dime. I paid the insurance and property taxes on the house, which works out to about $500-600 a month they didn't have to spend--which is not too bad considering the fact that it reeked of cigarette smoke, hadn't been painted in over twenty-five years, had one working bathroom, and was full to the brim of useless junk that our parents had accumulated. If I'd been forced to move out? I would have paid 1/4 of the taxes, 1/4 of the insurance (assuming it could be insured at all, which I am still not sure you can do for an uninhabited home). If they wanted the grass cut, I would have done it 1/4 of the time (or paid 1/4 of the landscaping fee). If they wanted our parents' stuff cleared out, I would have taken care of 1/4 of it.

I found that I still had to put my foot down. You see, everyone proceeded from the assumption that my dead sister's kids inherited her share of the properties. My reasoning--shared, oddly, by all--was that because my sister died after our mother did, ownership of 1/4 of the properties devolved onto her, and when she died, that ownership devolved onto her children. (The kids were ready to sell to us at our original bid because they just wanted out of the property.) Mind you, the trust agreements were not worded that way, but I thought it was reasonable, and apparently no one disagreed...which shocked the fuck out of me.

Anyway, the issue came up that the property taxes were due on the east 40. I had said I would cut the grass on that property, and pay 1/4 of the taxes on it, but not take any other responsiblity for its maintenance. My sister pipes up that "we've agreed to pay [the kids'] portion of the property taxes" and then said my quarter was $X.

My initial reaction was well-engrained by childhood, and I said "Sure." Then I realized what had just happened and said, "On second thought, no, I am not doing that. You did not consult me. You do not get to decide how I spend my money." The sticking point wasn't the extra money; it was the assumption that I would go along with what they decided I would do. And while that was just fine when I was twelve, I am no longer twelve. I am just a bit older now. I am, of course, persona non grata among the family--not just my brother and sister but my niece and nephew, too. They only contact me when it's time to pay the property taxes on the back lot.

Fine. Whatever.

* * *

Which is also not where the story ends. You see, they decided it was time to try to sell the back lot, and I was fine with that since I wouldn't mind having a few extra grand in my pocket; so I found quite reasonable their request that I go get a "for sale by owner" sign and stick it up in the back lot with my sister's number on it. (That exchange approximated, "Could you do this?" "Absolutely!") And they got a couple of inquiries about it, too, almost immediately.

There was some difficulty about the size of the lot. Apparently it's a little too small to be to code for building a house on it. Myself, I'm of the opinion that the Fungal Vale would rather get a cut of the egregiously high "lot with house on it" property taxes than the very small "empty lot" taxes. You just need to get a variance; and because the size of the lot is a few dozen square feet too small, it really should not be an issue. Property taxes around here--the taxes for the vacant lot are literally an order of magnitude less than the taxes for the house, on its lot. Which do you think the town would decide was in their best interests? It's not like a buyer would be trying to put a house up on a postage stamp; the lot is literally two feet too shallow.

So naturally the vacant lot's co-owners' attitude was a blithe, "Oh, [the Funguses] won't have any trouble giving up a couple of feet of their yard!" Again, without asking us what we happened to think of that; they needed it, so of course we'd bend over again.

But because we paid a premium for the house--and because they had been nothing but intransigent, demanding, dictatorial, inert, and generally did not deal with us in good faith--we were not prepared to sacrifice any of our land for their convenience. Notice that they did not offer to buy the needed strip of land from us, at market value; they simply said that we wouldn't have a problem giving it to them.


So the lot hasn't been sold. I daresay that no request for a variance has been filed. They haven't done anything about selling the lot--the same way they never did anything about getting the house ready for renting or sale, and the same way they waited six months to hire a lawyer to represent them when my wife and I were trying to buy the house from them. A quarter of the taxes are not much, I personally don't need the money, and cutting the grass is an incremental cost for me--and I do like having the privacy afforded by not having a house directly behind mine--so it doesn't bother me.

* * *

I think one of the problems is that they quite literally do not know who they are dealing with.

I mean that 100% literally. I am not the same person I used to be. The events of May 2011 are the breakpoint; I hit my lowest ebb in that time, and the process of coming back from it was one of rebuilding myself. I started out from a bad place; but quite literally by the grace of God I got back on my feet and started to make a new life.

My attitudes about life are very different from what they were in April of 2011. My faith is deeper, and stronger, than ever before in my life. The old me would not have joined choir; and even if he had, he would not have taken part in a childrens' musical production put on by the church. I hated the idea of singing in public.

The woman who became my wife would have hated the old me.

My temper has been tamed. My work ethic has been vastly improved.

I am still very much broken, and I am still trying to fix it with the help of my faith, but I am trying to do and to be better and--by small increments--managing it. It's been a hard road, and ten years on, I am surprised to see how far I've come...and how far I still have to go. But I'm doing it.

But when my siblings look at me, they don't see any of that; all they see is the same person I was in 1982-1996-2000-2011. They think that by virtue of the fact that they were born a few years earlier than I was, that leaves them in charge, and that they get to dictate what I will do. They don't realize it, but they attempt to deny that I'm an adult, like they are, and that I have my own interests and the agency to pursue them.

Because the choices I make are not the ones they would make, I am wrong, or foolish, or stupid, and must be told what to do. Because I refuse to do as I am told, because I insist on being consulted and asked what I want to do, I am uncooperative and ungrateful and a host of other things.

*shrug* So be it.

There is nothing I can do to help them; they are poisonous people. My wife has repeatedly expressed shock and dismay at how my siblings treated me, even when things were not acrimonious. They will not change; by their standards they are successful and intelligent people who are reaping the rewards of hard work, and their lives are naturally reflections of how intelligent and correct they are. They're well-paid and have nice houses and high-end careers and fat bank accounts and stock portfolios, both of them not lower than the upper 5% of wage earners and well situated for retirement. It's nothing but vanity and selfishness, but they can't see that.

I can forgive them, but that's all I can do. They will go their way, and I mine, and that's all that can be done.

After all, they needed a few thousand bucks much more than they needed their brother. I can only hope those extra numbers in their bank accounts keep them warm when they need it.

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