Posted by: Maryann McCullough | July 1, 2012

Story for July 2012





We each have one – something we know about ourselves with certainty.  We are funny or pretty or perhaps skilled at playing the harp. We are likely other things too. But there is always that one thing that we grasp securely with both hands. “This is mine.”

My particular something was “smart.”  I’d heard it my whole life and though at various stages of my life, I’d wished for a different gift – “pretty” or “sexy” or even “pious,” I recognized being smart as a thing of value and smiled in gratitude for this good gift.

I was stunned to experience how quickly a self concept of a lifetime can disappear. Mine did, right in the middle of my doing a good deed. “Smart” just doesn’t fit anymore.

I have a little job as a math tutor. Monies earned fall in the category of my little “stash” and my plan for those funds involved finding a beach rental for some family togetherness near my sons’ homes in Virginia. I was successful beyond my expectations – a gorgeous beach house with a pool right on Ocean Avenue in Virginia Beach, Virginia. I was able to rent it for the days we needed and even got a price break by paying for it all up front. We were all excited at the prospect of our vacation and I was proud of my success as a house hunter.

But pride go-eth before a fall and – accompanied by shock, embarrassment, and serious disappointment – I fell.

 A few days before our scheduled departure, I had attempted to communicate with the owner to discuss a change in our arrival time and the handoff of the keys. My emails received no response. Checking the online site of the rental posting I found that the listing had been removed. And then, like watching an accident in slow motion, the pieces (so obvious in hindsight) began to fall into place.

A house in Virginia Beach owned by a man with an accountant in the state of Washington…Dates written in the European style (day/month/year)…, and the big one, it was a really good deal that almost seemed too good to be true.

Some serious after-the-fact research of property tax records confirmed that the man with whom I had been dealing was not the real owner of the property. The certified check, though cashed, had been sent to an address which did not exist. A search using the name of the “accountant” showed an association with numerous aliases living in various cities in Washington state.

The Phoenix police are now involved but not enthusiastically so. “…out of state…cooperation with other departments not easy to accomplish…certified checks tough to trace.”

It has been a disillusioning time.

I liked the world better when we knew that all priests were holy men and doctors were there to serve humanity, when sex education was about creating life and not focused on protecting a young child from molestation, when there was no need for a house key because there was no need to lock the door.

Like Kubler-Ross’ stages of dying, there are stages of victimhood. In the past two weeks I have moved from one to the other and back again; worry, denial, anger, disappointment, embarrassment. Likely, anger is the only healthy emotion in the bunch, but it has never been my strong suite. “Sad” and “hurt” are more my style. The fact that I wrote a “pre” thank-you note expressing my gratitude for the sharing of his beautiful home with my family –envisioning him reading my words hurts me.

I do recognize there are certainly greater crises than mine.

Colin, our youngest son, was able to find us (on very short notice), a cabin in the Shenandoah Valley, not far from our boys’ Virginia homes. We were together. We had a good time. The money loss was painful. But it was just money; no blood was spent.

 Still, despite the consoling words of family and friends, I can’t help but feel differently about myself. I’m too old to try for pretty or sexy. Pious wouldn’t fit me either. I want my old gift back. I’m certain I would appreciate it more this time around.




  1. Maryann,

    Sorry to hear about your vacation scam, but OVERJOYED to hear about your new healthy grandson!!!!!! We are very happy for all of you!

    And your 3 sons are all in the same state so when are you and Bill moving?

    Mary Rose

  2. So many clever people out there creating ways to trick nice people–terrible news, my friend! For you: I’m working on a new murder mystery this week–I’ll make your vacation thief the dead body that is found in the first scene 🙂

    • I need a little vengance. thanks for knocking him off!

  3. Bummer…how about a free beach house near the shores of beautiful Lake Michigan??? I still think you are a smart cookie! xx m

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