Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Burning down the (vacation) house



Back when Rob and I were married, we purchased a vacation home in Big Bear, California. It was a two and a half hour drive from San Diego and we rented it out as a vacation get-away when we weren't using it ourselves. The home was awesome-- four bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, and new. I obsessed with decorating it perfectly and making it the most comfortable vacation home ever. I took over renting it to tenants. I promoted it on our company intranet and on Craigslist. Every Monday, I put up new ads and ran promotions and specials. I developed a rental contract, communicated with tenants, and managed all the finances associated with the home. The home paid for itself and we had many great family memories in Big Bear. One thing about Bob-- when we were on vacation, I could be assured that Bob would be a Happy Drunk. I can't think of a single moment in Big Bear that we weren't the happy family. We had lots of (boring) sex, went out to eat, shopped, went skiing, hiking... It was a very happy place for our family. Peaceful, relaxing, fun and joyful. And on Sundays when it was time to come home, Rob would take the girls to Starbucks while I scoured the home and cleaned it from top to bottom. I could have had our maid, Diane, clean the house but no one cleaned as perfectly and thoroughly as I did and I wanted the home to stay perfect.

When I left Rob, I handed him a stack of bills, the check book, and all things related to Big Bear and said "good luck." After five years of taking care of him and all our finances, I was done. I was sick and it was his turn to step away from the booze and do something adult while I started chemo.

And as one might expect, Rob mismanaged the home right into the ground. Before I left, I had rented out the house quite a bit so Rob mostly kept those tenants. And because I had posted the house on the company intranet and the ad was still up, and we had returning guests, he even managed to rent it out for some of the summer. The rentals were a portion of when I managed the home but to do what I did, it actually took some time, none of which Bob was interested in doing. Hey, let's see-- drink or run a Craigslist ad? Well that was an easy choice!

In September 2012, there was apparently some flooding in the home, which was the exact same issue that we had had a year prior. When the flooding happened earlier, we simply called out a contractor, filed an insurance claim and had it fixed. But with Rob, well, all of that was too difficult. Instead of taking care of the issue, he found a bizarre guy named John A and allowed him to move into the home free of rent in exchange for John fixing the damage.

Except everyone but Rob the Great (Alcoholic) new that this guy was a freak job. And John actually didn't know what he was doing and Rob allowed him to move into the home, foregoing ALL vacation rents, without my prior knowledge.

In December, Rob's attorney sent my attorney a letter asking for my permission to allow John to live in the home. Since Rob had already allowed John to move in, this was Rob's attempts at damage control. My answer was HELL NO. Too late! John was already in the home. A big "holy shit" for Rob. He started panicking. How to fix that mess? He got to work trying to figure that out in his alcohol-fueled brain.

A few weeks later, I got a message from John and we started communicating. Oh my was this entertaining. Rob thought John was on his side. Turns out, John was telling me everything (or at least the John version of everything). The facts as John shared them included:

-Rob was trying to sell the Big Bear home behind my back. He had John contacting real estate agents presenting himself as the owner.
-Rob drove up to Big Bear with a contract for John to sign allowing John to live in the home for free. Except John never signed the contract and when Rob realized the error, he panicked and tried to get John to hurry up and sign the contract. John refused.
-Rob filed a claim against Caltrans for the flooding, asking for $17,000 in damages. Rob kind of "forgot" to tell his attorney or mine about the pending claim. But John let me know!
-Rob then tried to get John to start paying $1,300 per month in rent in exchange for John living in the home through peak ski season. Except John refused to pay anything at all. They had an agreement, John said, that he could live there for free and now Rob was trying to change the terms. John was not too happy about that.
-John said that Rob and his co-horts (including snarky comments about the girlfriend, know it all brother, and incompetent asshole contractor they brought with them) showed up the home to assess his work. He said that none of them thought he was doing a good job and he was pissed off.
-His wife was so sick and frail and if Rob didn't leave him alone, he was going to sue Rob and me for damages.
-Rob kept demanding to come into the home but John just wasn't going to allow it anymore. Rob was harassing him! And if Rob didn't stop it, he was going to sue Rob and me. (Um, hello, Freak, I didn't allow you into my home but feel free to sue Rob!)
-Rob was threatening to shut off their utilities and his wife was sick and he was doing all this work and he was going to sue Rob and I for damages and all his work if I didn't stop Rob from shutting off the utilities
-And when Rob was getting ready to list our home for sale with the realtor behind my back. John called to give me the warning. "The realtor is coming tomorrow to put a lockbox on the house!"

So I called the realtor and told him that he'd better not be listing my home for sale and then demanded he turn over every single email between Rob and him. At first he denied he had anything. Right, how dumb did this guy think I was? So on second thought, he sent me many emails between the two of them and they were rather entertaining. Enough that if we ever went to court, Rob had put himself into a rather fabulous hole.

More from John. Your husband is a DRUNK, he said. "I feel so sorry for you! Every time I see him he smells of vodka and beer. I will help you Liz if you help me. I don't have anywhere to go and my wife is so sick and your husband is an alcoholic! How did you live with him so long? I will help you in court, Liz, if you help me." Except I didn't want or need John's help. He obviously thought I was really incredibly dumb and easily intimidated, of which I am the polar opposite.

At one point, John forwarded an email that Rob sent to John where Rob wanted the two of them to collaborate so they could protect each other from me in case I sued both of them. Sweet. Classic Rob. Liar, manipulator. Keep it up. While Rob thought that so many people were a huge fan of his, one thing I was learning fast is that Rob's biggest fan was himself. Most everyone else loved him for a good time but rolled their eyes and talked behind his back. Everyone (but apparently me) realized that he was full of shit most of the time. Looking back, being married to this guy was rather embarrassing. I cannot believe I covered up for this fraud. Anyhow, I digress...

Oh my, the texts and phone calls and forwarded emails from John were entertaining. He was clearly emotionally unstable and got by in life by crying and deceiving and taking. Most of the time, he sounded more drunk than Rob and his emails and texts were so nonsensical that I seriously doubt he had more than an eighth grade education. How Rob ever hooked up with this guy and believed anything he said, and then allowed him to move into our home, was truly unbelievable. Rob had to have been incredibly drunk to have thought John to be an upstanding guy. (Eventually, Rob had to legally evict John, never to be heard from again.)

And then the fun really began. Rob had to cancel all of the rents that he had collected for the busy holiday season and refund over $10 thousand and not rent it to anyone else during peak ski season. One of the tenants in particular contacted me and then threatened to sue Rob. Another tenant contacted me. Rob had told the tenant that it was my fault that Rob had to cancel the rents. The tenant was threatening to sue me. Um, right, sorry but I had no knowledge of renting a home to you and my husband, Rob the Great (Alcoholic) lied to you about it being my fault that your vacation plans were cancelled at the last minute. And then Rob went on vacation, leaving in his wake pissed off would-be tenants, a freak job living in the home who refused to pay rent, and chaos all around. Heck, he needed a VACATION so he could get DRUNK a lot and leave everyone else holding the bag. Yep, he frittered away a good $25 thousand dollars over a three month period alone, not to mention rents before and after peak season.

It was bizarre. When Rob's attorney contacted mine demanding that I allow Rob to take over the sale of the home and back off, my answer was "are you flippin' kidding me? Truly, Rob blamed me for creating the whole mess and if I would just cooperate with allowing Rob to continue managing and selling the home, it would all be perfect. I laughed my ass off. The answer was fuck no.

As it turns out, the home went into foreclosure. A beautiful home that was paying for itself went up in flames. As did our family, the marriage, the father of the children-- all of it gone. Just like that. In a haze of alcohol, neglect, selfishness and incompetence.

And this is the insanity of life with an alcoholic. Volatile, bizarre, nonsensical, and tragic. Ludicrous actually.