Parents and Children

I am over forty. I have two sons, both pre-teen as of this writing. I have two parents, both ill but almost guaranteed by their incredible genetics to hang on for another two decades.

For most of our married life, my husband and I lived above our means. However, in the last two years, and in the last year seriously, we have been trying to get out of debt and stay out of debt.

We paid off tens of thousands of dollars in debt. We were making progress.

To help us in our attempts, my father offered to pay off our remaining credit cards. (Massive amounts of debt was on that. We’d paid off quite a bit, but not all.) He did. In return we pledged our immortal souls to not put anything on a credit card until June of 2004 and to pay it off immediately. Doing that.

Then, he offered to pay off a chunk of our student loans. This would free us up to actually start paying on the principal instead of most of the year (11 months) spent in financing. In return we agreed to put $10K in savings once we got all our bills paid off and not get into any long term debt.

However, my husband didn’t like that idea. Once we had money, he wanted to start investing it. However, potentially we will have a son in college in three years. My dad is thinking money for school. I pushed R to agree.

Now, though, we have a problem. R’s car, and mine, are both in the shop. His has been in the shop twice in the last two months. Plus this time. (Mine’s been in six times now, all for the same problem that hasn’t been getting fixed.) An immediate repair needs to be made and will cost $800. We have that in savings but were hoping to be able to pay off my car by December. They also say that another $600 repair also needs to be made. We pay for the necessary one and put off the other.

R’s thinking we’re pouring good money down the drain that he could be using to drive something else, so we take the car to CarMax (great place) and have it appraised. They give us very close to bluebook on a car that has 70,000 miles on it. (Beautiful but a piece of crap.)

Okay, we sell his car.

Now he has no car. We go to the Toyota dealer. Closed on Saturday. We go to the Mazda dealer that is open on Saturday. They have no “bargain” lease, as adverted. But they do have a very nice car with features for lease. R falls in love with the car. We decide to use the car sales money to buy down the lease. I leave R signing papers.

I get home. I am so freaked I can’t settle down. I can’t do anything constructive. I call R and tell him I am freaking. Then I go for a walk. I get about seven houses away, turn around, call him. “Have you signed yet?” No. “Well, don’t.”

Okay, his beautiful beloved piece of junk is gone. He has no vehicle. I am hyperventilating, telling the boys to get their shoes on, going to pick him up. The sales people follow him outside and I ask him to get in the car and shut the door. I am thinking we should drive to another parking lot to talk, but my mouth is so cottony that my tongue is clinging to whatever it hits and I’m afraid to drive I am shaking so much.

We decide not to put the huge down down. We’ll pay off the student loans. That way we’ve done what we said we would.

We get the car. R is thrilled. His friends love the car. It’s a show off car. Like I care.

We get home. I want to write a check that evening. Why, he asks? So we can tell dad we’ve done that before he sees the car. Is he going to freak? Yes, I think so. We talk. We talk. R suggests that instead of paying off the loans, which have the higher interest rate, we pay off my car. That way my dad, who gives us money whenever he feels like it, won’t feel like he is paying for my car so that my husband can drive a new car.

That’s a plan. We’ll pay off the car (no interest) and leave the student loan (8%) interest. But the plan has the added bonus, besides of making my dad feel better, of getting my huge payment out of our budget. The student loan payment is significantly less. That will leave us with a car payment less than the one we had. Good plan.

Neither one of us wants to talk to my dad. We don’t want to be anywhere near him when he finds out we’ve leased a car. (We have terrible luck with cars. My father-in-law can smell a lemon, but he lives in Arkansas. Drats.)

I write the check for the car, even though I am not totally certain it is the right amount of money, so I can say that is done. GMAC has no online help and their “24 hour automated voice response system” only tells you to push 1 for English and 2 for espanol and then tells you they can’t help you and to call back later. Some voice response system.

Then I write a friend email and ask her to pray that my dad doesn’t kill himself freaking over this.

While writing the email I think, ah hah. One advantage to having hooked up parents. Email. I can write dad email.

I do. I point out the amount of times the car has been in the shop. Then I say how much the immediate repair was. Then I mention the one that will need to be done soon. Then I say that we decided to sell the car. We’ve used the money to pay off my car. That leaves Ron without a car and, given our luck with cars, we want one someone else takes car of, so we have signed a lease.

Then I don’t answer the phone for two days because I don’t want to know what he said. (I actually didn’t answer the phone only three times. My cell isn’t ringing for some reason.)

I check my email. Nothing. The phone rings. I answer it. It’s a student leaving for Switzerland in the morning. Wonderful child is going to bring me chocolate. (God bless her.)

We leave. We do errands. We come home. The phone rings. I answer it. It’s my dad. He says, “I used to have a daughter.”

I’m thinking ouch.

“But now she won’t answer her phone.” I tell him I was sick, true, and gone, true, and my cell phone isn’t ringing, true, but I don’t tell him that I didn’t answer the phone a few other times.

He’s fine with the lease. He thinks it’s a great idea for us. He also thinks we got two lemons, but not as defined by the law. (They are Pontiacs.)

So, we breathe a sigh of relief and giggle.

It’s ridiculous when you are afraid to make decisions because you are afraid your parents will be upset. Both R and I were compliant oldest children. (Well, technically he was an only child because he was 9 before they got his brother.) Also, my dad has started reading our mail. So we’ve moved the mail to R’s office. I like it better up there anyway, because then I don’t have to look at it or figure out what to do with it.

I made the best decisions I could make and still was afraid to tell my dad. Who does that say more about? Me or my dad?