“My family’s crazy.” I hear that a lot from people who think their families are wild. I’ll ask for evidence of said craziness and get an answer like, “Last Thanksgiving, my dad dressed as a turkey and then jumped out of a closet, and my mom screamed and almost stabbed him with the carving fork.” Hmm, OK. What else? “Well, one time my uncle got all hyped up on Sudafed and decided to pull a wheelie on my cousin’s BMX and when he did his toupee flew off.” Ha! What a bunch of characters. But your family’s gonna need to up their game if they want to hang with the Dyer clan.
For example, has your family dinner-table conversation recently included the question, “Wait a minute, did you say you were on crack?” Has anyone in your family been thrown in jail aboard a cruise ship? Has anyone in your family ever lived in a storage unit, thus lending new meaning to the term “self-storage?” I bet you didn’t even know that cruise ships have jails. But they do, because they need a place to put you until they kick you off in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.
Do you have an uncle who lived in a teepee in the woods and would ride his bike 200 miles to visit, whereupon he would set up a tent in your living room? Do you have another uncle who built a waterslide in his backyard and died under mysterious circumstances in Central America? Have you had to postpone a road trip with your family because not everyone was allowed to conduct interstate travel? Did your brother ever carry around a thermos filled with eyedrops made from his own blood? Mine did. I called it “Vampire Visine.”
Maybe your family has all that going on and more. That’s great. But I’m just hitting a few high points to give you background on my current project. It’s a pretty common predicament: My mom bought a house in Ireland and forgot about it.
What happened is that a few years back, my mother and brother decided they needed to bug out of the ol’ U-S-of-A, so they hopped a plane to Ireland and she bought a cottage. Shortly thereafter, they thought better of the Ireland immigration and came home. Then my brother died, and it turns out she put the house in his name. Now I’m going through the Irish probate process so she can inherit it from him and sell it—and also they left a car over there, but I’ve kind of given up on finding that. So, tell me again about the thing with your dad and the turkey costume?
It was probably at least a year after my brother died before my mother even mentioned the place in Ireland. And then it was kind of offhand, like, “Yeah, I bought a place in Galway. You should go visit!” I was understandably skeptical. Who buys a place in another country and then just forgets about it? But then she said they sent her some kind of tax bill, which she showed me. Holy crap. She really did have a place in Ireland. Now what?
I tried to find the house on Google Maps, but that part of Ireland is apparently so rural that there are no addresses—the houses just have names and the locals know which one is which. (Leave it to my mother to move to the Maine of Ireland.) So I emailed a real estate company in Galway asking if they could find this house and then maybe please sell it. Thus began my introduction to the Irish legal system.
Because my mother put the house in my brother’s name, she and my father would have to inherit it from him. The solicitor (that’s Irish for lawyer!) she’d used to buy the house had subsequently been convicted of defrauding a widow’s estate to the tune of $400,000. So I enlisted the helpful and nonfraudulent legal minds at the most Irish-sounding firm I could find: James Joyce & Co. Solicitors. Mistakes are the portals of discovery, but James Joyce & Co. Solicitors doesn’t make mistakes.
However, they did make me track down a lot of paperwork, including a death certificate. If you doubt the efficiency of the state government, I’ll have you know that the commonwealth’s website says that, “An applicant can order his or her own Massachusetts death certificate or one for a family member.” I thought about ordering my own, but I decided I don’t want to know.
Somehow I navigated the ownership transfer while simultaneously figuring out how to get those Irish accents over the correct letters in people’s names in emails. Now the place is on the market. (Since you’re wondering: less than $100,000.) Whenever it sells, my father will get half, even though he and my mother attempted to divorce. I say attempted because when he tried to start the process, he learned that the town didn’t have any record that they were ever married in the first place.
Years ago, I talked to a book agent about writing a memoir. “My family’s pretty interesting,”
I said. “Yeah,” he replied, “That’s what everyone thinks.” ◆
Think that’s funny? Send unbiased emails to firstname.lastname@example.org.