By: Revanche

Figuring out family and asking for support

February 15, 2017

When helping family turns into a thorny mess The story of my money and my family goes back to the very start of this blog. I wanted to be independent for my own sake, but also wanted to take care of them as they had me. I wanted to support them until they got back on their feet.

More than ten long years of striving later, the truth of today is hard to swallow. My dad isn’t who he once was. He’s not the person I dedicated half my life to helping. He’s become, maybe as a result of my taking on so much responsibility, someone who lies to me, and takes from me. Because he’s not working with me, for his own benefit, but rather working against me, I have to step away from this relationship even more. He’s not just undermining my efforts, he’s damaging my ability to trust people, all over again.

This truth has lain heavy on my heart for months, for years. It hasn’t set me free, I didn’t know what I could do with this revelation.

In all these years, I’ve kept this a secret from the rest of the family. I didn’t share my challenges, or discuss Dad’s actions, I just took care of business. It was my other way of protecting them – I didn’t want them to look bad in front of their siblings. It wasn’t something they asked me to do but it felt, much like writing anonymously, it was just the right thing to do. Take care of your business and don’t share that with people outside the family. Heck, I barely learned to let PiC in on the secret, in no small part, due to the scars it left.

Walking Seamus in the dusk, ground wet from the (drought-breaking?) rain last week, I finally felt overwhelmed. After all the struggle, when confronted with a need to move, I find that honoring my responsibilities has left us with the choice of no choice at all. To change living situations, we have to make financial commitments that eliminate even the possibility of asking whether I want more kids. We can’t afford to have that answer be yes. We can’t afford to take on foster kids, we can’t adopt more dogs, we can’t afford to add to our family in any way.

With that frustrating realization, something in me dissolved. That last bit of pride fell right out of me and I called my aunt.

Not my rich aunt, I don’t have one of those. My poor aunt, the one who still knows what it’s like to struggle because she still works every day plus weekends to provide for her family, putting off retirement for another couple of years so she can be sure her kids make it through their internship years.

I asked her if she had a minute. I asked if she might talk to my dad about his housing situation, and convince him to apply for housing assistance. He should be eligible. For more than five years, he’d been telling me that he always intended to move out now that Mom’s gone but he’s done nothing. We think that he doesn’t want to move to a more affordable place because he’s tied to Mom’s memories there. It’s the only way I can see us squeezing any more money out of our budget – we’re currently footing the bill for his rent and utilities, all of which add up to well over a thousand dollars a month but I can’t very well push him again without coming off like a total jerk.

What she had to say shocked me.

Not only did she already know what I’ve been doing all this time, she’s talked to (at) Dad in the past already. She and the other aunts have always helped a bit as they can – bringing by food, or clothes when they spot a great bargain, but they can’t tackle his living expenses. This I knew.

What I didn’t know was that while doing so, she’s told him that grieving Mom is one thing, and his right, but he has to attend to the living as well. If he loves me, as he should, he shouldn’t let his grief for someone who is gone override his love for the person who’s still here working her tuchus off. He should be looking for ways to ease the burden on me. She and her family love me, unconditionally, and it’s clear to them that he needs to be making better choices, my support notwithstanding. He’s not, she says, “realistic.” That’s a very accurate assessment. He’s never had to learn to live with our poverty, not really. He’s always had me to cushion the financial hits, to pinch the pennies, and Mom did it before me. It’s past time that he starts making better choices, and nothing I’ve said has ever made a difference. She’s agreed to try to talk to him about it.

I don’t expect results immediately, maybe not at all, but the confession, and hearing someone in the family agree with me and offer to support me, was unexpectedly hard. You’d think it’d be harder to go solo – but I’m used to that. I’m NOT used to being vulnerable enough for someone to offer help.

Choked up, I confessed, I’m not sure that he loves me, judging by his choices. It’s a hard thing to say out loud and I thought it didn’t matter, but it does. The knowledge makes it much harder to continue to give and sacrifice freely, even if money wasn’t an issue.

While I can’t (won’t) put him out on the street, I must pull back on some of the bills we pay. With someone, another elder, willing to push him to live more prudently, and make changes, I can take steps to minimize the financial harm. He’s more likely to give into that pressure.

Whether it’s because of the shaming fact of my going to his sibling, or that he’s more willing to listen to her, it appears that he already has given in.

For 5 years, he’s said my sibling refused to apply for disability assistance which would include housing support to pay for the rent that I’ve been footing. I don’t disbelieve that, but I don’t necessarily believe he’d done all he could, either. Mere days after my aunt said she would step in, they started the application and approval process. I can’t know if the magic was my aunt stepping in, for certain, but the timing is certainly telling.

We need to save every bit that we can now, and he needs to make ends meet on his own eventually, with or without sibling. It’ll take months for the process to be completed. Then we’ll see if I see a penny of that housing assistance without becoming a bill collector but this is the first step toward that goal.

Wish me luck?

:: Have you ever had to make a tough love decision? Tell me about it?

38 Responses to “Figuring out family and asking for support”

  1. You know, this reminds me a lot of the other way around when parents have to subsidize their children but want them to stand on their own two feet. Maybe it’s the right time to start cutting him off. Have him face reality. When faced with hardship, we are surprisingly resilient and resourceful especially if there is no fallback plan or person to gouge from.

    • Revanche says:

      @Sherry: Yeah, it’s related to that. It’s not quite the same since he DID have many years of being resourceful, resilient, and therefore a source of inspiration – that’s why I had faith that he would get back up on his feet when he was ready. When I had to accept that he’s changed, then I had to accept that he’s not going to get back on his feet as I had expected and now we have to do something different.
      I’m glad I talked to my aunt. It was a leap of faith.

  2. *hugs*
    good luck!
    and your aunt loves you
    nicoleandmaggie recently posted…Activism: What is helping me copeMy Profile

    • Revanche says:

      Thank you very much!

      And I think I didn’t truly know that before. I don’t want to rely on it but … I’m glad I tried. I’m grateful to her.

  3. Mona says:

    Long-time reader, but this is the first time I wanted to comment. I know how it is to doubt that your parent(s) love you – and I had to turn 40 to get to that realization. Maybe it’s one of those “cultural differences” people like to talk about (I am from Eastern-Europe) – but yes, it hurts like a ton of bricks.

    Thank you for sharing this, and I hope you and yours will get through this somehow; great that your aunt can help – and good luck!

    • Revanche says:

      @Mona: I’m so sorry that you’ve had to have that experience too. Thank you for being a long-time reader, thanks so much for sharing and commenting.

  4. andee says:

    I can’t imagine the strength it takes to survive under this weight. I am seriously impressed by your ability to remain committed despite the hurt he has caused. It says a great deal about your character. I don’t know if I know anyone that could do it. I’m sorry that you are having to carrying this.Reference

  5. Cassie says:

    I really don’t know how to put my thoughts into words right now, but I do wish you the best of luck. *hug*
    Cassie recently posted…Red and VertMy Profile

  6. Mrs. BITA says:

    First, hugs. No child, no matter how old, should ever have to question whether their father loves them or not. That is just not ok. I’m sorry that all I have to offer are internet hugs from a stranger.

    I wish you all the luck in the world. Yay that application/approval process has started. I’ll be cheering from the sidelines.
    Mrs. BITA recently posted…The Complete Backdoor Roth How-toMy Profile

    • Revanche says:

      @Mrs. BITA: Thank you. I never knew how much that could hurt. But hugs from internet strangers have been great support in lieu of a rational parent.

  7. NZ Muse says:

    I think you know I went through a sort of similar thing in my relationship. It was very very difficult and hurtful – I would never treat someone I loved that way. Similarly – was not doing everything that he could and I was left to pick it all up.

    For me it was literally packing a bag and walking away, I could not in good conscience cut him off 100% financially cold turkey but the plan was to transition to fully separating and him then going on unemployment which he would then qualify for once we were no longer living together. And yes, like you say, timing is funny. A month later, he got a goddamn job.

    As you know, you need to do this. It is in your own best interests and your own family’s interests, as impossible and heartbreaking as it feels. I am with you all the way and I’m here anytime.
    NZ Muse recently posted…How to break the cycle of underearning (because you’re worth it)My Profile

    • Revanche says:

      @NZ Muse: It’s almost more hurtful, that timing, isn’t it? Like you couldn’t have put your back into it before I hit a breaking point? Thanks for the support, as always.

  8. SherryH says:

    Oh, man. Sending you all the good wishes and supportive vibes from North Carolina. So grateful that your aunt was there for you and that dad and sibling have started the application process.

    Closest we’ve come (and not really close at all) is telling my bil that we could no longer afford to support the storage unit we’d originally shared after a relative died. We cleared our portion out, but he and his wife couldn’t seem to get their half done – until we were no longer able to subsidize it. Funny, eh?
    SherryH recently posted…University of Atlantia session #95My Profile

  9. Virginia says:

    Glad you are getting some support.

    I am just curious what is driving you to purchase a more expensive home? It sounds like it is causing you a lot of stress. It’s not the neighbor, is it?

  10. Best wishes on getting things sorted out, but hopefully this is a step in the right direction. And ugh, I am still so infuriated by your housing situation! I feel (somewhat) like we are being forced out of our neighborhood as well, but due to bad development decisions on adjacent blocks that will drastically affect our quality of life. THANKFULLY it is not threats to our personal safety – although I have had a friend deal with that recently as well.

  11. Kathy says:

    For as long as I can remember it feels like it’s been me who has been supporting my family. They spent most of my teen years unemployed and when I first got a job at 16 more than half my money went to them. Fast forward another 20 years and month in month out I’m still paying for them to effectively live. It used to be a burden when I was earning a small wage but thankfully these days my financial situation has improved somewhat. Although I do feel for what those are going through who do have family to support be it parents or grown children.

  12. I’m glad he is finally moving forward a bit. It sounds like it’s been a huge financial and emotional drain on you. What little I really know of you or your story, I always think of my brother when you write about your dad. But I do just the opposite. I have never supported my brother financially, because I know it will not make a difference in the long run and he will piss it away anyway. Totally different story of course and I respect everyone’s decision to do what is right for them. I’m sure many people think I’m evil for doing that, but they don’t know the whole story. Regardless, yes it’s still tough to watch him wither away and do nothing with is life. It’s very, very sad.
    Tonya@Budget and the Beach recently posted…Being BoldMy Profile

    • Revanche says:

      @Tonya: Thanks, it has been. But at least before I thought I was doing it for someone who appreciated it and was working with me.

      I don’t think you’re evil or heartless or anything bad for your choice. I made the same one. My brother has only been benefitting from the support of my dad because he stays under the same roof but I refuse to give him a dollar because he’s done nothing good in his life, and has only ever harmed or drained me. When Dad’s gone, I don’t know what I’m going to do with him but I’m not supporting him.

  13. Linda says:

    So I guess something good is coming out of the neighbor problem after all: it’s brought to a head the situation with your dad. Your aunt sounds wonderful and it must feel very good to get that support from her.

    As for doubting whether your father/parent loves you…yeah, I can relate. Frankly, the most soul-crushing aspect of my life is that I can’t seem to have a long-term loving relationship with anyone, including my parents. But that’s my problem, not yours.

    I had to end a relationship just before I left Chicago because I realized that my then boyfriend was making no headway on taking care of himself and that I was being drained way too much emotionally and financially. The price of his love was too much for me, literally and figuratively. Maybe one of these days I’ll meet someone who has his s*it together in all the ways that count, but I’m not holding my breathe.
    Linda recently posted…Extreme introvertingMy Profile

    • Revanche says:

      @Linda: I guess that is a bright side to the situation. She’s only talking to him, but it’s amazing that it made any difference at all. I feel like I’ve been battering my head against a wall with him for the past 5 years.

      I’m sure you made the right decision to end those relationships but I sure do wish the right person who actually has it together, soon, you deserve to have that! You’re a wonderful person, I just think that the supply of truly good men seems very low.

  14. ST says:

    This post made my heart hurt. I am in a similar situation with my parents. My sister and I pay for their food, phone bills, loan repayments, and extra money here and there for things like house insurance. My dad has gotten them into SO much debt that when they sell their house they will still owe somewhere between 10-20K on it. I wonder why my dad even bothers to ask me for money anymore – we’ve had to say no a lot more lately. It makes me angry he does it, especially when we have already done so much. I feel used at times by him. I am thankful I have a twin to help me out, and is on the same page, but it’s still stressful wondering how they will live day to day, and what would they do without us?

    • Revanche says:

      @ST: I’m so sorry that you’re in a similar situation. I hope you and your sister find a way to prevent him from taking you down with them. It’s very hard to do that, I completely understand, but it’s also important not to lose your own security because of someone else’s bad habits and choices.

  15. Sally says:

    I haven’t been in a similar situation–my father effectively vanished from the picture about 2-3 years after my parents divorced, and my mother has always been very aggressive about not accepting help from us. I don’t worry much about whether or not my father loves me, but that’s mainly because it’s been an irrelevant question for most of my life. I think I’ve seen him maybe once since I was 13, and that was at a funeral more than 20 years. I know that it may seem weird to say it, but– for me, at least, the lack of relationship with my father isn’t an emotional thing. I’m not hurt by it or upset about it.

    I think what might help you is to try to get to a place where you see his actions as speaking more about who he is as a person rather than a statement about how he feels about you. It sounds like you’ve been taken for granted for a long time, which sucks… but which also means that he’s the kind of person who taken others for granted, even when they’re moving mountains on his behalf.

    And about not having another child… if on some level, you want another child, do question whether or not you truly have to rule out having another or whether you could do a wait and see approach. I am very financially buttoned up… but I would give up a lot to have another child. Not just for the sake of being a mom to more than one, but also for my daughter’s life. My siblings drove me crazy growing up, but as adults, we are there for each other. I know your own experience has been different… but functional siblings can be a huge blessing in adulthood.

    • Revanche says:

      @Sally: I get the feeling that the lack of relationship, the absence of information to base your judgement on, helps make it less emotional. At least that’s what I’m observing from people who share.

      Unfortunately, wanting another child is very dependent on having an excess of resources. My health is poor and deterioriating, and we have to be able to afford the help to support us, otherwise I’d be putting my kid(s) into a terrible situation like I was in. I do want to give JuggerBaby the opportunity to have a functional sibling relationship but not at zir expense.

      Thanks for weighing in, I appreciate it.

  16. derek says:

    Wow, this was a great read, tough, but great to know I’m not the only one dealing with family/financial issues. I’d rather not disclose my issues here, but just know that I can relate on some level.

    Good luck going forward with this. I wish you the best!

    • Revanche says:

      @derek: I’m sorry to hear you’ve got the same on your plate. If you ever feel like sharing, I’m sure you’d get a lot of support. Thanks for stopping in and commenting!

  17. Nate says:

    Thanks for sharing. I just got married and I am realizing how difficult it is to see and care for the pain that my spouse carries from her own family.

  18. Wow! What an amazing story! That’s really interesting that your aunt finally (!) had enough of watching this saga and told him how the cow ate the proverbial cabbage. I hope it makes a dent on his behavior.

    But have you considered that his problem may not be inherent meanness but that he’s losing his marbles? He’s been of an age, for awhile, to show signs of Alzheimer’s, if he’s going to. His behavior isn’t altogether rational. While that’s cold comfort, if it’s the case, understanding what he does might at least make it easier to bear. Sort of.
    Funny about Money recently posted…Low-Rent, Low-Harm Weed Killer?My Profile

    • Revanche says:

      @FAM: To be clear, she’s been telling him for some time, I just didn’t know about it.

      He’s been doing this for at least 15 years. I don’t think it’s inherent meanness but making irrrational, bad and selfish decisions does not equal Alzheimer’s or dementia, either. If it did, most of my family would have Alzheimer’s from age 2 onward.

      The reason doesn’t really matter, anyway, there’s no point in seeking specious comfort in this situation. That’s what got me to this point.

  19. Linda says:

    I’m wondering if there is also some pressure from the stupid cultural narrative we’re all supposed to follow about about “honoring” father and mother. They are only human, so I’m not sure why we’re supposed to treat them like gods. Yes, they did create us and raise us, and I’m glad I’m here now, but that was their choice. I’ve been emotionally sucker punched too many times by people telling me that I should continue to cultivate a relationship with a parent who’s behavior and speech is hurtful to me. I’ve become much better at ignoring people like that or just shrugging it off, and I do make regular contact with both my parents. But I’m not very emotionally invested in them anymore for a lot of reasons. And that doesn’t make me a bad person. Just as it wouldn’t/doesn’t make you a bad person to question your relationship with your father now and make some changes in how you interact with him.
    Linda recently posted…My boon companionMy Profile

    • Revanche says:

      @Linda: That is a bedrock narrative in my culture, so disregarding it is horrifying down to our bones. People DO but they tend to be the worst people, like my brother. There’s not yet a space for honoring them as people but with distance, unless there’s a great deal of physical distance separating you. Lucky for me, we do have that physical distance now.

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