Dear Mrs. Bluth,
You can’t imagine how many times I’ve opened The Jewish Press to read your column and found answers to the problem I was experiencing at that moment in the common sense, solid answers you give each weekly letter-writer. However, over the past two years I have been dealing with a situation that has only gotten worse. As I have not read of a similar situation, I decided to write to you directly.
I am eighty-six years old and the mother of six children. If someone had asked, I would have said we were a close family; we never had an issue of family discord. Of course, after they married, some of my children moved away and the miles of separation created some distance. In addition, though, two daughters live near me, they don’t always have time to visit, except in the early years of their marriages when they came for Yom Tov and Shabbos.
This was something I understood and I appreciated when they and their large families took the time to visit. My husband, on the other hand felt abandoned, complaining that the kids only remembered to call or visit when they needed money or to spend time in one of our three vacation homes. He had more of a connection with two of our sons and one son-in-law, as the three of them worked with him in the family business.
As my husband got older and began spending less time at work, they became the dominant figures in the office. We were able to travel and keep busy with our joint interests and charities as well as our hobbies and pastimes, and did not experience the loneliness that some elderly parents complain about. Life just moved under its own steam.
Then, about three and a half years ago, my husband got a call from his attorneys. It seems our three “sons” were planning some sort of hostile takeover of the business that would leave my husband without any decision-making power; he would simply be a figurehead! My husband was shocked to his core, and Rachel, never the same person again.
As the business was the one area I was not involved in, I had no idea that he had made these three opportunists his partners and had given them power over much of the day-to-day business operations. They had decided to push him out and make a power grab for the whole enterprise, one that my husband built up from nothing and made into a thriving business that took care of all their families and more.
Needless to say, a war ensued that cut our family into shreds. My husband and his lawyers began to brainstorm on ways to push the three of them back to seconds-in-command. Amazingly, my husband, even in his great shock, remembered a document he had drawn up many years ago, making me head of the company if I outlived him. The three “men” were not mentioned in the document at all.
We prepared to go to court, but the bitterness and the pain took its toll on my husband’s heart and six weeks before we were to be in court, he passed away. The funeral was a cold and bitter affair; I felt more pain then I could have imagined as I watched the three vultures pretend to grieve. I forbade our sons from sitting shiva in our home because of what they had put my husband through and five weeks later we went to court.
Baruch Hashem, the judge saw through all the manipulations, lies and conniving schemes and ruled that their behavior was at best unethical and illegal, and at worst, heinous, vicious and inhumane, done with the intent of usurping power and control from its rightful owner, thus causing insufferable harm that may have lead to his passing. I was now legally and officially COO of our family business and, thankfully, surrounded by trusted employees who had been with us for many years. I am doing a reasonably admirable job at keeping us going.
As you can imagine, my first order of business had been to fire the three of them and as a result, have had no contact with any of them, including the grandchildren.
Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, my doctor informed me that questions have been raised about my mental health.
The three “demons” are hoping to make it seem as if I am suffering from dementia and am unfit or incapable of running the business. Their plan is to claim that as they used to run the firm, they have the experience and ability to be placed in charge.
There is no end in sight to this misery, what with new legal expenses and a new court battle to face. Mrs. Bluth, I just don’t know if I can do it! Please, can you offer me some hope that this will end well?
Every time I think I’ve heard the saddest story, a letter arrives with a new situation that seems so unthinkable, I am at a loss as to how to respond. I have more questions than answers, and see more heartache as long as the business continues to exist.
How do children do this to parents who have sustained them so generously? Where is the kibbud av v’eim? What is the price of a loving father and a devoted mother? What is the going rate of a human heart, a viable conscience?
I don’t much about your business, but can only recommend that you sell it for top dollar while you still can and have your lawyer set up trusts to protect your investments.
Time has a way of rearranging the predictable with the unpredictable. Perhaps, when there is no more business and power to fight for, and you are the sole manager of the purse-strings, the dynamics may change. Those who have abused you until know, might want to reconcile and at the very least you might be able to build a relationship with your grandchildren.