When I was 24 I bought my first house. I was excited, like all first time home buyers often are. That excitement dimmed when I pulled the moving van up to the house. Or at least I tried to pull the van up to the house. My neighbor Ken chained off access to my driveway. Now, we live on a 15′ wide private drive that meanders through the neighborhood of 12 houses. I discovered 2 things that day. One, the road doesn’t follow the platted easement into my property. Instead, it meanders across my neighbor Ken’s yard before reaching my yard. Hence, the chain. And two, people are easily angered when it comes to land offenses. Check out this story about a man in Florida who came home to find concrete blocks in his driveway.
Given that I technically did not have any legal ingress or egress, I tried to make the road follow the platted easement. This ticked off another neighbor, Ed, who owned the vacant land next to me. Ed believed that since the easement hasn’t ever been used as a road the easement was now his because of adverse possession and acquiescence on behalf of the owners prior to me. We went to court, the judge ruled in favor of Ed, and for the past 20 years, I drive where the road has always been as the judge ruled that Ken and future owners of Ken’s property must always grant me ingress and egress. Bygones, in my book.
To be never seen again
I never saw Ed again until today, 20 years after the lawsuit. Today was the mediation day for the ongoing road dispute where the one neighbor is suing all of the other neighbors to help fix drainage issues with the road. Allegedly, anytime it rains his house floods with water from the roadway. So the neighbor (I feel odd using that term to describe him when his actions scream everything but neighborly) sued all of us on the road, including Ed, even though he never built a house on his vacant land.
I had over 3 hours to talk with the various neighbors as the mediation went on, and Ed and his wife were cordial to me and my bride. For me, 20 years is a long time ago and I’ve moved on. But apparently, Ed is still really mad at me. Two things clued me into that fact. First, I mentioned Ken a couple of times. Ken had said he had spoken to Ed over the years and I thought that meant they were on speaking terms. No. Not even close. Ed told me today that “A friend of Ken is no friend of mine.” The second clue was when Ed threw in the statement that Ken and I “ruined his dream home.” Seeing that he actually won the lawsuit, I am at a complete loss as to how I did that.
A few months ago when the lawsuit first hit, I called Ed and offered an apology regarding the lawsuit 20 years ago. I know I am not the only one at fault in the matter, but I am positive I did or said something dumb back then. Hence my apology. No apology came from Ed, but I wasn’t expecting one. However, I wasn’t prepared for him to blame me for ruining his dream home.
What other hurt have I caused?
I’ve done all I can with Ed. I apologized and have moved on. I am not in control of his emotions now and cannot blame myself for his longstanding anger and resentment. I was not a barrier to him building his dream home on his land. As a result of the lawsuit he legally now owned more land. So I am setting him aside for now. But it got me thinking. Have I laid waste to other relationships such that others continue to harbor ill will towards me and that I’ve just glossed over it in my mind? I’ve mentioned before that I am quick to forgive and forget, which leaves me open to the fact that I may not completely understand, appreciate, or even recognize when someone has been hurt by me and why they haven’t moved on like I have.
So my deliberate action today is to do an introspective look back at any contentious points in my life and see if there could be lingering hurt. A future day’s deliberate action will be to address that hurt, when and where appropriate.