My nephew is a freeloader. Yesterday, after years of back and forth, I traveled to Houston to put a stop to it.
My mother’s oldest grandson, in his early thirties, has lived in her home (in a garage apartment) for over two years, now. He moved in after she moved to an assisted living facility. At first she told herself that assisted living was temporary, and she would be going back to the house. And so she would not allow us to put it on the market.
In the beginning, my nephew paid a very small amount of rent. Not enough to cover the utilities. Then he lost his job as a cook at a chain restaurant. After that he stopped paying rent and negotiated an agreement to stay on by taking care of my mother’s yard and doing other handyman tasks. He took care of the yard sporadically at first, and started, but never finished, several projects. He then stopped altogether when he landed a new job working nights at a large box store. I began to get letters from the HOA about the yard. He ignored my texts and voicemails that he take care of things and begin paying rent again, or find somewhere else to live. He ignored my texts that the grandmother he was freeloading off of was in the hospital (she’s been in once more since her hospitalization in June) and that it would be nice if he were to visit her. For months, he steadfastly ignored all communications. That is, until I sent him a notice to vacate. He then began texting and calling in another attempt to negotiate an extension of the terms of his freeloading. This time, I wasn’t buying it.
It finally occurred to me that I was dealing with a thirty-something year-old victim who blamed his problems on everyone else and saw his mooching off his seventy-nine year-old grandmother as an entitlement. Each time I expressed my dismay, he’d say exactly the right thing to me and his grandmother to talk his way out of being kicked to the curb. And then, once the crisis was averted, he’d keep doing exactly as he had been doing. My sister and I have been pleading with my mother for many months to sell the house, which would put an end to her supporting her grandson on limited financial means. At long last, she agreed.
It’s sad, really. History repeating itself this way. His father, my oldest brother, was an alcoholic with a spotty work history. When he couldn’t keep a job, my father allowed him to begin working for his business, and ultimately would support him until the day my brother died. My sister and I often pleaded with my parents to cut him off in the hope that he would dry out and become self-sufficient. Instead, he died of cirrhosis at age fifty-six.
So yesterday, I traveled to Houston to kick my nephew out of my mother’s house. I had arranged to meet a locksmith to change all the locks, and would also change the code on the alarm system. Because my nephew had been ignoring my requests that he vacate the premises, my sister agreed to meet me at my mother’s house so we could show him we meant business. Strength in numbers, and all that. And in case things got ugly.
When I arrived, the team of gardeners I’d hired to get the yard back in shape was there. The yard my nephew had agreed to maintain as a condition of staying on the premises rent-free until he could find a job. The back yard had become terribly overgrown. The weeds were so high you could barely see the fence. The orange tree was unrecognizable in the overgrowth. From the looks of things, he hadn’t tended to it since winter. If then. In front, the grass was yellow, there were weeds growing in cracks in the driveway and sidewalk, and there were several dead bushes. My nephew’s late-model SUV was parked in front of the mailbox (probably a passive-aggressive move). He’d allegedly purchased it the same day I gave him notice to move out, which is one of the excuses he gave for not being able to afford to vacate. (What kind of moron buys a gas-guzzling SUV when he can barely afford to support himself, and had been getting around on a bike?)
When my sister arrived, my nephew came bounding down from the apartment.
Don’t you fucking come around here threatening me. You didn’t give me enough notice. I’m not going anywhere. I need more time.
So, it was going to be like that. He followed my sister and I into the house, carrying on and becoming fairly aggressive. We moved into the front yard, where the gardeners and neighbors could intercede if need be. This did not shut him down at all. He continued to yell and swear and threaten, behaving like the horrible entitled selfish little creep that he is. My sister, who is friends with his mother (my brother’s ex-wife), called her for help. The same ex-wife who hasn’t once interceded, knowing that her son is taking advantage of his seventy-nine year-old grandmother. According to my sister, she was happy for him to be his grandmother’s problem, rather than her own. On this day, the little troll’s mother suggested that my sister and I give him more time to get out. Since it was either that, or call the police, we decided to give him one more week.
As all this was happening, the locksmith was making his way around the house, changing all the locks. We told my nephew the locksmith would be changing the locks on the garage apartment as well, and that he’d be without a key to lock the door for the remaining week of his freeloading stay. Next Saturday, we’d be back to lock the door, regardless of whether his stuff is out. His response to this:
You are no longer a part of my family.
To which my sister and I responded in unison:
That’s your choice.
There’s nothing like a common enemy to unite estranged sisters.
The locksmith then changed the locks on the garage apartment, without further incident. I expect my nephew understands the jig is up. I expect he realizes that he cannot stay beyond next Saturday, and that there is no plot he can concoct, no excuse he can give, no plea he can make, to change our minds. I am hopeful his freeloading ass will be out by Saturday. If not, I will move to Plan B, as suggested by the locksmith: I’ll turn off the utilities.
Once the little horror is off the premises, my sister and I will begin the task of sorting through my mother’s things and clearing out the house, getting it ready to put on the market. We’re up in the air about whether we should sell it to a contractor, who will do the work the house needs, or whether we should have the work done ourselves and then list the house for sale. We’ve decided to get various bids for sale “as-is” and have a couple of realtors give input on asking price and necessary cosmetic work if we were to get the house into a saleable condition.
Once the house is sold, my load (including the freeloading load) will be a bit lighter. Something I’m in dire need of. The stress of the past several years continues to accumulate, and I can physically feel it taking its toll. After I returned to Austin last night and had time to reflect, I came to a decision. I’m done working at BigLaw as of end of next year, no matter what. I simply cannot continue living the way I’ve been living, and hope to end up in a different circumstance health-wise than my mother. Every time I visit her, I see my future, and it is grim. And so I’m going to change course. Sixteen more months. I may not be entirely ready for early retirement, financially, but I’ll find a way to supplement my income. It will work out. In the meantime, I’ve got a much-needed vacation coming up in a couple of weeks. A respite from the events of the past several months at little cabin on the shores of Lake Superior. In less than three weeks, I’ll be soaking up strength and sustenance from the depths of Gitche Gumee.