Honor the dead, or placate the living?
January 25, 2011 9:43 AM Subscribe
They divorced. She purposefully took a coveted object with her. Decades later, she has died and my husband and I have inherited the object. He wants it back. What should we do?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (87 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Anonymously submitted because family members occasionally read AskMeFi.
When my in-laws divorced decades ago, my MIL took with her an object from the marriage. She knew he wanted it, and took it anyway, intending that he should never have it.
I found it while cleaning out her house. It's in my house now. I told my husband, who is the executor of the estate, that I had set it aside and we agreed not to mention it to his father. (The object in question has no financial value, per the professional that evaluated the estate's contents.)
Well, OOPS. My husband accidentally mentioned to his father that we have the object.
Now my FIL is pressuring my husband to send him the object, saying how nice it would be to have it again.
(Possibly relevant information: He lived close to his ex for years and never tried to retrieve it. Now he's across the country, in a small space, with definite hoarding tendencies. This object is worth far less than shipping and is quite bulky.)
I am not inclined to send it, and, frankly, would resist giving it up even if my FIL came here to get it. I do not know the circumstances of the object's original purchase; it has evolved into the worthless-but-contested-thing that each didn't want the other to have, and, as the executor and inheritor of his mother's estate, my husband now has ownership. Additionally, this is a trip that FIL would take to get the object back...but would not take for the sake of his son or grandchildren. Finally, I feel like keeping it (or donating it) is true to the spirit of my MIL's lifelong intentions.
My husband is on the fence about what to do, and we will certainly keep talking about it; communication between us is not an issue. He will continue to get pleading/guilt-inducing/angry emails from his father about this--which he would rather not get, as he wants to preserve at least a shred of their tenuous (crappy, historically tumultuous) relationship and avoid as much conflict as possible.
Husband wants peace and misses his mother a great deal. FIL wants object. I am usually "pray for the dead, and fight like hell for the living," but feel strongly about honoring the oft-verbalized if not-in-the-will wishes of my MIL.
Should we give FIL this object or not? Why or why not? If you have been in this situation, what did you do, and what were the repercussions or results? Please give me your best advice on how to weigh the factors outlined above and how to give a reasoned decision about them to myself, my husband and my FIL.