Cling to Joy


On Monday morning, Cathy was driving to MD Anderson for her radiation treatment when she was broadsided by an SUV at an intersection. Fortunately, Cathy was not injured, but our car was damaged beyond drivability.

Cathy is certain that her light was green, but the woman who hit her insists that her light had just turned green. This is something that Cathy would not–in fact, could not–lie about; she is the type of person who admits fault when she knows she is wrong and whose conscience prevents her from lying in the first place. Yes, there’s a chance she was mistaken, but the evidence suggests that the other driver is lying (or mistaken). (I would present that evidence here, but my aim is not to prove who was at fault in the accident.)

The accident occurred during rush hour in the medical center (at Main and Dryden), and there were surely plenty of witnesses; but not one person stopped to help or make a statement. This really makes me angry. Since coming to America, Cathy has witnessed two accidents. In the first case she stopped and waited until police arrived to give a statement, and in the other she called the police to report the accident and offer a witness statement. Now, when she needs a witness, no one stops. No one calls. No one cares to tell what they saw. People just drive right on by.

I feel that America has not been good to Cathy. She has been a better member of our society than most of our citizens can claim to be; and yet, when she needed help covering the cost of treatment for her cancer, she was turned away by multiple aid agencies because she wasn’t a citizen and she hadn’t been a permanent resident long enough. Then on Monday morning, she sat in a wrecked car in the middle of a street packed with Pharisees and devoid of any good Samaritan spirit, right here in America the beautiful.

As if we weren’t already buried deeply enough in woe, yet another problem has recently come and settled in among our growing flock of burdens: the threat of eviction. Thanks to your generosity, we have been able to keep paying our rent–this is not a financial issue; but something strange has happened that has made it impossible to know to whom we should make our rent checks payable!

I am about to describe an impressively putrescent miasma of madness, so please brace yourself if you intend to read on.

Just over a week ago, the tenants in our apartment complex all found letters taped to our doors, saying that the property was under new management and giving us a new address to send our rent checks to. The letter was poorly written. There was a photocopy of a notarized deed attached, but one of our neighbors noticed that the address on the deed wasn’t correct, and I noticed that the alleged new owners misspelled the name of their own company. In short, the letter positively reeked of fraud. I could have written a better letter myself and put it up on people’s doors.

I called our landlord and asked whether he had sold the property, and he said he hadn’t. The next day, we found a letter from our landlord’s lawyer stating that the previous letters were fraudulent, and we should continue paying our rent to the original landlord. Case closed, right?

Not in my world.

A couple days later, two guys go door to door in our complex explaining that they’ve bought the property and we need to start paying them rent. They say they understand that we need time to verify everything, and they encourage us to call the county clerk and check whom the deed is registered to and pay rent to that person. Sounds reasonable, right?

One of our neighbors calls the county clerk, and the clerk says that yes, indeed, there is a deed with these new guys’ names on it. Then the clerk adds, “But that doesn’t mean anything. Anyone can file a deed, but that doesn’t mean they actually own the property or have the right to collect rent.”

Another neighbor calls the constable, who says that we should keep paying rent to the original landlord. He adds that if these new guys come back, we can call the cops on them.

My dad consults a lawyer, who sheds further light on the situation, revealing us to be submerged more deeply than we imagined in this dreadful vat of maggots.

Back in July, a former tenant sued our landlord for refusing to return his security deposit. The court ruled that the landlord had to pay the tenant. The landlord ignored the ruling. The court issued a writ of execution, confiscating the landlord’s property (our apartment complex) in order to sell it and pay the unhappy tenant out of the yield. The landlord then had his lawyer file an injunction, which should have prevented the sale. However, after the injunction was filed but before the property could be removed from the market, our new spelling-impaired friends bought it (for a paltry sum of $700, though it’s worth about $800,000). A ruling has not yet been made as to whether the injunction invalidated the sale. Furthermore, it appears that even if the sale turns out to be valid, our original landlord’s wife still owns exactly half a share in the property, while the new-come orthographically challenged fellows own the other half.

To whom, then, do we pay our rent?

Our original landlord, who is in Florida and hardly ever sets foot in Houston, tells us to wait until it’s all settled. “Don’t pay me or the other guys for now,” he says. The new guys, who are here in Houston and have already started making changes to the property–changing locks, landscaping–are threatening to evict every tenant who doesn’t start paying them immediately.

As I said, it’s a real vat of maggots. (Note: We are following the advice of a good lawyer, and at the moment we are expecting everything to work out.)

Cancer. Bills. Car wrecks. Legal battles. Cold, heartless business. These incessant assaults upon our spirits have caused me to hate the world we live in.

There is balance, though. In the midst of every ill, there has emerged something good. While pulling out our hair trying to figure out how to deal with the threat of eviction, we have made friends with our neighbors. And above all, in the hour of our greatest need, you, our friends and family, have rescued us time and again with your gifts and love. Because of this, we cling to joy.


About Olen Rambow

Teacher. Writer. Erstwhile applied physicist and mathematician.
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2 Responses to Cling to Joy

  1. Marlene McKee says:

    You are a great writer! I am so sorry for all the maggots. God is greater yet, we know. I pray for you and will add greater peace and joy to my intercessions. He, Himself, is our peace. (Eph.2:14)

  2. Jimmy Tsai says:

    We will keep you in our prayers Olen and Cathy. There is a lot of pharisees out there, but then there are a few saints out there to make things right. As Christians and just good citizens, we really need to step it up and care for our fellow man.

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