What do we owe them?

I have been unusually quiet in this space even by my own standards, I wish I could say it was strictly because it’s hot as hell (global warming is real, we had tornadoes in Maine last night!!!) but truth is I am bogged down with family issues. This is one of those times when maybe I am about to share too much of myself in this space, but the truth is for me letting things out is often healthy. So here goes.

Right now as I type this, my remaining parental unit stands on the brink of homelessness. I am talking the odds are high that tonight he will sleep on a bench or in a shelter. I wish I could say it was because he is a super asshole but really he is not. No, he is just an aging hippy turned preacher turned widower yet a man who instead of planning chooses to live on faith. Long story short when the feds decided to play games with the extended unemployment benefits, my Pops got caught up in that mess. It’s been a month since he last received an unemployment check and living in a rooming house where rent is due weekly this is real bad. Regular laws governing eviction processes don’t apply to him and while I have been able to ensure he isn’t starving, there is no way I can pay my bills and his damn near $200 a week room rent.

My father is a prideful man, so rather than go to his family and by my last count he has at least 9 siblings still alive, he waited a couple of weeks before sharing this news with my brother and I, neither who are in a position to do much. Like I said we are keeping him from starving and I have extended an offer that he is welcome out in my neck of the woods and I can probably pony up the cash for a bus ticket to get him out here but really that is the best I can do.

Having worked with the homeless in Chicago I am quite familiar with every shelter or source of help for folks in Chicago yet he has not wanted to discuss those options, though he did call 311 the city’s homeless prevention helpline though without a guaranteed source of income he was pretty much shit out of luck.

My heart is heavy this morning, but at the same time feelings of anger are creeping up. See, to some degree we have been here before. When my Mom was at the late stages of her battle with cancer I helped my folks out, spending thousands on rent and her insurance. When my Mom passed, I helped out even more. None of that money was ever repaid back and really it wasn’t my money I spent it was money I owed to the IRS. This is one of the reasons I have that pesky tax problem.

See, my natural instinct is to help folks but the older I get, and as my own responsibilities mount its pretty clear that I can no longer dive in head first to help loved ones because in my mind I owe it to my kids and husband to make sure their needs are met. Yet I am struggling with the very idea of what do we owe our parents? Presuming they were decent folks who loved us and raised us, do we owe them anything? Two old friends of mine admit they have always admired the lengths I have gone to, to help family but also admit they would not sacrifice their own financial futures to do so. On the surface that pains me yet deep down I am starting to think it’s true. Part of me feels like due to past help, perhaps I have set a bad precedent in helping. I have family members who assume based on silly superficial shit that I must be well off financially…um, no. I still struggle with money like many I suppose but I also know that I try to stay one step ahead and plan for shit and deep down it bugs me that others don’t.

Anyway that’s what’s up with me. Is there anyone out there that is struggling with family in need especially parents? If so I would love to hear from you.

5 thoughts on “What do we owe them?”

  1. The only thing I can say is that I would give if I had it. Those are my parents. Now if I didn’t have it, then I would do what I can. No need to drive yourself crazy about it. Do what you can and that’s all you can do. In the winter he should come over by you and chill out for a bit. Hang with is granddaughter. Sell it like that. Put the kidlet on the phone to ask him.

  2. I’m sorry to hear you are going through this Shay. It’s something that I expect to have to deal with in the upcoming years. My parents, like your dad, are big on faith and slim on planning. In college, I took $1000+ from my student loans to help them out of a bind and I’m yet to see that money back. I know your dad’s a good guy but in my case, I see my parents as opportunistic and not because they aren’t good but because I *think* they think they will have us (their kids) to fall back on because they know we have big hearts and won’t let it come to that. I’ve been wanting to sit down with them for the longest time to talk about their financial plans and it’s been one reason or another why not. So I made up my mind and periodically re-resolve to not get involved if (when) their failure to plan comes back to bite them in the butt. As it is, right now I receive very little in the way of help from them with my young kids despite the fact that they do not live far. I’m not bitter about that (really I’m not) but it makes me understand that I have to be super diligent in taking care of my family because it’s clear that I don’t have a safety net, real or imagined. My priority is my immediate family and I am meticulously planning down to the cent–something my parents didn’t/don’t do. Whatever little I can do after my kids are taken care of (and I mean all their little lessons and classes and other things that yes, they could do without but wouldn’t like it), I will do. But I’m will not go into debt or do without to help no matter how much I love them and don’t want to see them suffer. My younger siblings are not married and I think they may be more willing to go out of their way. Still, even though this is what I decided, I can’t help but to feel guilty and awful about feeling this way, and resolving to treat my parents this way.

  3. I feel for your father and the situation he is in. My parents are gone but I have a good friend who always comes to me for help and has since we were 18. I’ve put a stop to that because her situation and circumstances are her own and I have gotten to the point where I no longer think she is asking for help as much as using me. *shrugs*

    With parents & blood it is different. If my nieces or younger cousins call and I have it, I will give it because its not too often and I know they won’t take advantage.

  4. This is a hard situation to be in: When your pocketbook can’t afford your heart. I can tell, just by your posts, that you think of others first, and yourself last (if you even consider yourself at all). You will sacrifice your own sense of security for the sake of others. This is a good quality to have — but at the same time, you could find yourself feeling very much alone in situations like these. It’s hard when you’re a parent, who is still the child. If this was your child, you’d instill some hard love and have them deal with natural consequences. You’d tell him, “life is hard – get out there and work at it! I can’t do it for you. I can only point you in the right direction and pray like mad that you’ll make the right choices.” Yet when we turn around and look into the eyes of someone we love who is older than us, we just want to gather them up in our arms and save them, thinking they deserve better at this stage in their life. But the truth is, you can only point them in the right direction and pray like mad they’ll make the right choices for themselves. ~ hugs to you while you’re going through this. I hope you find your peace of mind.

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