Mark Brown column: Dear Mom, you have 30 days to get out

SHARE Mark Brown column: Dear Mom, you have 30 days to get out
SHARE Mark Brown column: Dear Mom, you have 30 days to get out

Miguel Pena is asking a Cook County judge to evict his elderly mother from the Gage Park home they shared for many years.

His mother, Blanca Pena, 75, refuses to go. She argues her son promised the tidy brick bungalow in the 5600 block of South Fairfield would be her home for as long as she wanted.

“I don’t have no more son. Miguel, no more,” the diminutive Pena said bitterly in a hallway at the Daley Center last week.

As she spoke, her left hand cut through the air horizontally, like a karate chop to indicate the lopping off of the maternal relationship with her oldest son. Her right hand held firm to the cane she used to walk into the courtroom.

The Cook County court system is asked to sort out all manner of human conflict, and Blanca Pena’s lawyer, Alan Mills, thought he had pretty much seen it all. But not this.

“I’ve been doing this work for 35 years, and I’ve never seen a son throw out his mom. Never,” said Mills, who works with the Uptown People’s Law Center.

The big question, of course, is why Miguel Pena wishes to evict his mother. But he’s not talking, and neither is his lawyer. She insists she doesn’t know.

Miguel Pena, 52, bought the property in 1990 and lived there with his mother until eight years ago, when he married and moved to Naperville with his new wife, Elia Villa, who is 36.

Sometime after Miguel moved out, his brother David and sister-in-law Susan moved into the house. David Pena and his mother say this was at Miguel’s request so they could take his place in looking after Mom.

According to court records, nobody living in the home has ever paid any rent to Miguel, who works as the manager of a grocery store.

David Pena and his mother say Miguel never asked for rent until after he served them in September with a 30-day notice to vacate — a prelude to going to court for an eviction order. Now, they don’t speak.

Blanca Pena argues that in earlier years she helped her son make the mortgage payments with money she earned working as a housekeeper and on an assembly line.

She also contends she paid for repairs and improvements, personally performing such major tasks as stripping paint off all the original woodwork and resurrecting stained-windows covered over by previous owners.

But her name isn’t on the deed.

From this bare information, we might deduce all sorts of reasons about why Miguel Pena would want his mother to move out.

Maybe he can’t afford to keep paying the mortgage and wants to sell the place.

Maybe he thinks his brother is a mooch.

Maybe his wife is on his back to stop spending money to support his mom when it could be going to her.

Maybe it never occurred to him his mom would live this long.

But in the court filings, his lawyer argues the why is irrelevant. All that matters, he says, is that Miguel Pena owns the house, that the current residents have no lease and that he wants them out. Pronto.

Mills, the lawyer for the mother, says its’s not nearly so simple. He argues the son’s alleged promise is a legally enforceable oral agreement.

Circuit Judge Deborah Gubin has scheduled a hearing Monday into Miguel Pena’s request for judgment on his behalf, which would give him the power to kick Mom to the curb. If the judge declines, the case is slated to go to trial later in the week.

Miguel Pena undoubtedly has his reasons, but surely he doesn’t want to go through the rest of his life as The Man Who Evicted His Mother.

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