If I were to give a grade for this testimonial, it would be a “Germanic A.”
K.B., self-employed, 62 years, right-hander
Years ago, a contract of inheritance was drawn up by a notary as to how our parents’ inheritance was to be divided among us four siblings in due course. All had signed at the notary. According to this contract, my two years younger brother E. and I should inherit the parental house. It was a vast semi-detached house with a large garden and a granny apartment in an excellent and sought-after residential area.
My younger brother and I had never really had much to say to each other. We lived in different worlds and saw each other almost only at the usual family gatherings. After his father’s death, of course, there were many decisions to be made, and when you don’t live in the same world, joint decisions are not easy. We were, after all, four siblings. Anyway, it was clear that everyone had to have a say, but the concrete implementation was ultimately up to the only daughter.
Then in 2017, when the mother had also passed away, it was a matter of accepting the joint inheritance. My younger brother had already been living in one half of the house for decades. Divorced for years, and the children had also long since grown up. I lived 120 kilometers away. It had long been clear to me that I would not move into the other half of the house, among other things, because it was much too big for me.
So I invited the whole family to pick out memorabilia and started breaking up the household one by one. I went back and forth countless times selling things, giving away lots of things, and of course, had to throw away lots of things, order the bulky waste, etc. I took my time with this because I didn’t have any pressure. I took my time with it because I had no pressure. During this time, I kept trying to talk to my brother about how we would handle the big duplex. He wriggled out of it and, over time, refused more and more outright.
My letters went unanswered, and so did my suggestions, including the involvement of a mediator. The meetings that were offered did not take place at all. He did not answer phone messages, and when I reached him on the business phone, he always brushed me off. At the apartment door, he sent me away. I hardly knew how to help myself because my hands were tied. For a renting or a sale, I would have needed in each case his co-operation and/or agreement, also for a real division of the two house halves. Since he has not taken care of the house and garden at all and the care had become way too much for me, the property became more and more neglected, and in July 2019, I then ordered gardeners to clear together again more or less around the house. The night before, I had already arrived because it was to start early in the morning. In the evening, I saw that my brother was in his apartment, and I just went over to him via the basement, announcing myself via loud shouting.
Of course, I was aware that I had more or less ambushed him with this, but what could I do? The matter had been hanging in the air for almost two years now. He was sitting on his sofa, and I said, “E., we have to talk!” At first, he tried to squirm out of it again, and when I just stopped, he got furious and loud. I tried to stay calm but told him that I owned everything here as much as he did. Then he stood up, walked the five or so feet toward me, and threatened me with an implied hand gesture and the words, “If you come into my private area again, I’ll punch you in the ….!” Although I remained outwardly calm and said as I walked away still, “You force me ….!” and meant “…. To initiate steps, which I would not actually like to initiate”.
When I was back in the other part of the house, I was shaking all over and was agitated. There was no way I would spend the night here, so I finally called the gardeners at 11 p.m. and canceled for the next day. I was on the verge of tears. Then I went to my nephew (my late brother’s son), who was temporarily living in the granny apartment at the time, and told him what had happened. He had more or less been a witness to the whole story and had always helped me a bit, e.g., with the bulky waste together with my other nephew, his brother. That evening he took me lovingly in his arms but probably could not help me out of my isolation. That would not have been his business either.
For almost two years, I had thought over and over again how I could conclude this inheritance dispute with my brother E. And that I had to conclude it was clear to me because I didn’t want to react with the pancreas in any case. That had always been my biggest concern. That I had become conflict-active that evening, however, had not been clear to me at all. I only knew that a peaceful discussion or solution was no longer to be thought of after this threat. I then decided to call in a broker who arranges investors for such cases, who buy the inheritance, and then deal professionally with the previously inaccessible heirs with a heavy heart. It wasn’t easy for me, but I finally made it happen. Two months after the incident, I went to the house again during the day to get the last things. There I met my nephew again and told him about my decision. I also told him that today would be the last time I would be in that house. Then I drove back home. The die was cast.
That same night, the skin irritations started on my neck, and in the morning (it was Friday), I saw that two small areas of blisters had formed. Over the weekend, these blisters spread all over the left neck, including the ear, inside and outside, also over the chin and left scalp to the shoulder. At the front of the sternum and the back of the spine, the rash abruptly stopped. At first, I thought it was a healing phase of the outer skin (“finally being separated” or something), but more and more, I realized that it must be the dermis because the blisters were quite obvious. Since I had booked a trip a week later, I went straight to the dermatologist on Monday to get a certificate for the travel cancellation insurance. My diagnosis of shingles was confirmed. It was a very severe shingle, said the doctor, and insisted on prescribing a drug (Zostex), painkillers, and an ointment. I got all that, but except for the white ointment to dry up the blisters initially, everything remained untouched. I knew that I was in a healing phase, and I also knew how long it would take.
I had been conflict-active for almost exactly two months and could easily figure out that it would get worse and worse for a month and then get better and better for a month after that. And that’s precisely how it turned out. Without any medication and also without painkillers, the whole spook was also over after about two months. The nerve irritations from the shingles weren’t always fun, but they weren’t so bad that I had to resort to painkillers. A cooling gel from my medicine cabinet did an excellent job. Today, the skin on those areas is a little thicker and not quite as sensitive. A little cartilage has formed on the back of the ear, and I notice that I often involuntarily stroke these areas protectively.
However, one thing about this was somewhat unusual: As a right-handed person, according to the theory, I should have reacted to my brother with the right side of my body (partner side). However, if I put myself back into the actual threat situation, then if he had struck, he would have caught me locally precisely in this area because he is also right-handed and would therefore have caught me on the left side. Even if he had only indicated the blow, I probably already felt it locally at this point. I had remained calm on the outside at that moment but had gone into “shock” on the inside, and my integrity had been attacked. I had not expected my brother to react like that.
The other possibility that I feel my brother more as a child than as a partner would seem quite far-fetched to me today at 62. We are both successful business people, and I would have to use childhood situations, but that would seem to be very constructed and psychologized. So I concluded that I probably reacted locally, precisely where I had to feel the threat.
By the way, the inheritance settlement has been completed in the meantime. When my brother E. had learned through two corners that I was no longer playing around and that an investor had already been found, he finally bought my share in the semi-detached house (at a fair price). I am happy that this was still successful because it was also in the sense of our parents. Now I am free, and he can do what he wants with the house.
One more tip for all those who can and want to bequeath something to their children: Please create clear conditions in your will! Inheritance communities can very easily (as I have experienced in the meantime) bring apart even the most intimate sibling relationships. Many do not survive such conflicts because they react with the intestine, the pancreas, or other special programs and thus get into the mill of conventional medicine with its scare tactics. In the end, I am glad that I came out of this so smoothly with two months of shingles. However, I was also well prepared.