When I moved out to Oregon almost 14 years ago, I left my family behind in Iowa. One brother was still in college while the other was still in high school. My parents were convinced they were going to live and die in the same town they grew up. And, I was happy to get the hell out of that small town. I had fallen in love with Portland and the Pacific NW a few years before, so was happy to be heading out that way.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my family. We have had our issues over the years, but we are far from even being a dysfunctional family. We tend to be scarier than most families because we are passionate in our debates, we call each other out quite readily, and after a full toe-to-toe confrontation, we will be laughing and joking as though the last 10 minutes never happened. This environment has scared the hell out of the possible “in-laws”.
Garbanzo, for example, hides in the kitchen and cooks whenever we are all together. Or he and my sister-in-law discuss how they will together raise the height of our family. (My sister-in-law is almost 6′ tall compared to my brother’s 5’10”.) They both usually stay quiet and observe. But see, these are things that have only started happening in the last three years after my brother and sister-in-law moved out to Oregon. Then about a year after that my youngest brother moved out here. Then last summer, my parents moved out here.
And, the biggest difference for me besides having my family at holidays? They more readily ask me for money. It must be the effects of living in the same state or something. Who knows. It has become an interesting phenomenon.
My brother and sister-in-law both work for newspapers. No one will ever get rich doing that. But it is their passion, and it pays the bills…..usually. Of my family members, they have a 100% repayment rating. But, of everyone, they have borrowed the least….right now. With the newspaper downsizing as it has, mandatory pay cuts on top of mandatory unpaid days off, I suspect they may need some help soon. I’m a sucker for my niece, so I’m screwed if they use her as part of the asking.
My youngest brother is a chef. He said fuck formal training and went to the school of hard knocks. As a result, the work ebbs and flows a bit more than usual. His repayment rate is pretty good given how much money I have loaned him over the past year.
Then there are my parents. Ahh….my parents. I love them dearly. We all do. But, despite the fact my mom has training as a book keeper. Despite how well she got them out of significant debt after they were swallowed with medical bills (thanks in part to my six surgeries with tubes in my ears over a six year period), she doesn’t seem to be able to keep them doing more than making it from paycheck to paycheck. My dad is partially to blame for this one, but that could be another post. Their repayment rate is 0%, but I know too much and wouldn’t let them pay me back if they could. In fact, my brothers and I have already started discussing the establishment of their retirement fund because in the end, we’ll be taking care of them in their old age – nothing else will. I go along with it while commenting to Garbanzo afterwards that the reality is that Emmy will be taking care of the parents. I mean, look at how my brothers manage their finances.
On a certain level, I am glad I am able to help my family. I am glad I have a good paying IT job. And, I’m glad I can do this without impacting my own family. But, here is the rub…..I can always tell when one of them is going to ask for money. The formula is always the same. It starts with them calling me. This, depending on the family member, can be the first important give away. It follows with a huge build up of excitement about something (the luck is going to change sort of excitement), and then they ask for the money. I’m more of a direct sort. I am thankful my youngest brother has figured this out. He now just cuts through the bullshit and asks.
Monday, I talk to my mom who calls out of the blue. She starts talking to me about a house they are going to make an offer on. They chose renting a year ago over buying because the housing market in that part of the state was starting to collapse. They wanted to see how low it could go. Good choice for them. The house they were going to make an offer on sold for 3x the current sales price just 2 years ago.
So she’s telling me all about this great house. And, as she’s going on and on, I can’t help but wonder if she’s buttering me up. She wants to ask me something. I am quickly doing a mental calculation of how much is in the savings account, and how much I’m willing to part with so I can have a ready answer. Cynical, I know. But, when she learns I’m sick, she quickly changes subjects, tells me to go rest, and she’ll call another day.
Last night she calls me. This time she gets it out. They need to have earnest money in cash because this house is a short sale. Can they borrow it from me? I’m thankful at the amount she mentions. I tell her I will send it to her. Look for it in the mail. I may just attach a note and say Merry Christmas. (I’d say Happy Father’s day because it’s closer, but my dad is a little touchier about this whole asking your daughter for money thing. But yet the touchiness has not stopped them yet.)
I wonder if I’ve had enough bad loaned that I could qualify for some bailout funds. As an old boss I used to have would say when situations like this arose, “your reward will be in heaven, ’cause it likely won’t be in this situation.”….. I guess we’ll see. Until then, maybe I should have stationary made up. Hmm….