You Can Pick Your Friends, You Can PIck Your Nose, But You Can’t Pick Your Family


My parents drove up to Portland yesterday to pick up a friend at the airport.  I had suggested they come up early – and they could meet me for lunch.  (I blew them off last time they arrived unexpectedly, I figured I owed them some time.)

We had a good lunch.  The conversation was good.  Until my dad started telling me about my brothers and their financial woes.  My brother who is 2-years younger has been asked repeatedly in the past six months to take pay cuts.  Between mandatory 2-days off each month without pay and his 10% pay decrease on top of that, money is getting much tighter.   My youngest brother is fighting a legal battle against his old boss who has been fighting his worker’s comp claim as well as his unemployment.  He has had to engage a lawyer, so things are tight there.

Dad was venting about how they don’t understand what “money being tight means”.  I understand his frustration because they don’t seem to recall our childhood with any degree of accuracy.  Money was tight growing up – very tight.  Like, my family couldn’t afford to have a telephone for three years, tight.  Like, reduced lunches and government cheese, tight.  Like, dad going without lunch for a week because there was an unexpected $25 charge for something, tight.  For some reason, I remember those days.  I remember them well.  I remember the stress in my parents faces as they tried to figure out how they were going to afford to replace the snow boots my brother lost somehow.  Or the pair of shoes I just outgrew.  Or the unexpected medical expenses resulting from my 4th ear infection in two months – and the specialist I had to go see as a result.

My brothers?  They don’t seem to remember these facts so much.  My youngest brother gets a bye on this one.  He is 7 years younger than I am, so by the time he was old enough to start remembering this occurring, it wasn’t happening that much anymore.  Why?  Emmy had a job and stopped letting my parents buy my clothes, shoes, and such.  I babysat for many people on our street.  I babysat for my cousins who had kids.  I knew what it was like to save my money.  The older of the two does not get a bye on this one.  Somehow, he traveled through without seeing any of this.  Ignorance is bliss, I guess.

My dad’s frustration with my brothers stems from a recent discussion he had with them.  The older of the two was not sure how they would make ends meet financially, yet boasted to my younger brother about how he bought all the new ingredients and gear for his next batch of home brewed beer – a hobby he just started.  There was discussions about other things they had purchased as well.  And my dad interjected when my brothers decided to bring me into the conversation.

I’ve posted about being their private lending bank?  My dad is aware of this – acutely aware of it – and rather embarrassed by it.  He hates having to go to his daughter for money.  This is why he jumped down my brothers’ throats.  I guess they were saying “it must be nice that Emmy can do this, or buy that.”

My dad flipped out.  He was pissed.  He knows how much I work my ass off.  He knows how hard I worked in college to get the degree and experience to get a good job out of college.  He knows how I paid off the student loans he got for me two years early just to make sure he wasn’t saddled with the debt on his credit report.  And, while he is happy they have jobs they are passionate about, he is pissed that they would begrudge me success professionally, personally, and financially.  And, he told my brothers this too.

To be honest, I have not heard my dad get that animated about a subject in a long time.  And, while I’m being honest, this shit from my brothers doesn’t surprise me at all.  The fact they decided to try to make it a point of conversation during a family gathering does, however, piss me off.  I am having flashbacks to when I was in high school, and the older of my two brothers threw a fit because I had bought something.  He assumed it was given to me by my parents.  I knew, at that point in my life, that my brother didn’t associate hard work with earning something.  Guess it hasn’t changed.

Why did my dad tell me this?  I struck a nerve with him today during lunch.  They arrived right after a big meeting about a process in the warehouse.  I was venting to my dad about how I, a mere IT person, knew their job better than they did.  My dad, having been a warehouse worker most of his life, started asking me questions about the process, confirmed they were idiots, and vented about a similar issue in his current job.  In other words, we had an adult conversation.  A conversation between peers.  They didn’t have to be parents.  I wasn’t acting like their child.  And, I didn’t treat them like idiots.  Amazing how a little two-way respect will result in an honest dialog with the parents.

So, out of respect for me, he wanted to make sure I understood where my brothers were at – because he knows I’ve loaned/given them both money in the past.  He knows that I’ve gifted them things they desperately needed.  Dad has a thing about respect and being grateful when people help.  He doesn’t like it, especially when his sons, take the help – then disrespects the person helping.

As usual, their trip confirmed the fact I am happy to be living 3-hours away from them all.  They can keep their soap opera down there.

And, in a totally unexpected twist, my dad told me that this summer, the girls are going to be spending time with them.  They want to have the girls when they have days off.  Dad realizes that they have not spent the time with my girls that they do with my niece, and he wants it rectified.  He also made me promise to let them know anything going on with the girls – performances, TKD tourneys/testings, whatever.  He will drive up for the night just to see them, whatever he has to do because he’s going to be present.  And, if my mom can come too – great, if not, at least one of them will be there.  They have decided it is time to act like grandparents to all of their grandkids – not just the one closest and with the parents who can’t afford the child care at night.

Guess my brothers brought more to light than they realized.  Hope they realize the bridge, with my dad at least, is starting to smoke.  Hope they don’t open their mouths and light it on fire.  Sounds like they are closer to doing that than they may realize.  And, I’m sorry – but this is one situation where big sister isn’t going to help.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. I think if that were to happen, it’s a good thing big sister doesn’t plan on being there to help them out.

    Some people don’t want to work hard for things. I work my ass off and have since I was really young. I had a good work ethic instilled in me very young. I have a cousin who just turned 24 who hasn’t worked more than a month in his life. He thinks I envy that he gets everything taken care of for him. Really, I feel sorry for him a little. One day, he’ll have to grow up and take on responsibility and learn to really work for things and he won’t have a clue what to do.

    I really enjoyed this post. Hope you and yours have a good weekend.

  2. This was an excellent post. Thankfully my brother is a hard worker. I am sorry that your work ethic did not rub off on them.

  3. Just me... says:

    It never ceases to amaze me sometimes how differently kids from the same parents behave when they grow up. I have a set of four cousins (sisters, all two years apart) and they couldn’t be more different if they were strangers.. Financial, emotional, spiritual, everything is so different among them!! One wild child, one holy-roller, one priss, one earth mother.. The only thing they have in common is that they each took their personas to the Nth degree!!
    And congrats on that real ‘grown-up’ conversation with your dad.. Those things are priceless.. 🙂

  4. Emmy says:

    AR – Glad you enjoyed the post. I’ve gotten the sense from our blog that you have a very good work ethic, so it doesn’t surprise me you get it. 😉

    ASM & Just Me – I’m pretty baffled by how I ended up with a work ethic that my brothers did not. My parents have an extremely strong work ethic that was demonstrated daily growing up. I think, maybe, it is the personal sacrifices that go along with being an adult they seem to be lacking. If it comes down to food or beer, they are still choosing the beer. Pretty amazing to me – given they both have kids and households to support.

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