A family this close

1 Jun

My youngest brother is 5 years my junior. He was 3 when our parents got split. My Mom, Middle Brother and I worked hard to shield him from the traumas of divorce, life on welfare and the loneliness that accompanies constantly being uprooted. I did my best to help my mom with raising him, so he and I have always been pretty close.

At 17, he moved out of the house to live with his partner and closer to school/work and to just get out on his own. He moved to a big city with said partner two years ago for college and, up until now, he had been doing pretty well for himself.

A month ago he and his partner broke up. He wound up moving into a newer (more expensive) apartment with a friend but because they’re both students, they needed a co-signer on the lease. Now, if it hasn’t become apparent by now, my parents are in a bit of a bad way financially. As much as my mom would have loved to have helped him, there was no way her name was going to get them that apartment. Middle Brother offered to help instead, with Youngest Brother swearing that no bad would ever come of it.

And now?

Now Youngest Brother is a month into his summer and still can’t find a job. June rent was coming due and he does not have it.

So he called my mom in a fury, making her feel guilty for not helping him through this. According to him, she helped me through school so why isn’t she supporting him? He doesn’t hear her when she tells him that’s not true and tries to make him understand that if she had the money, she’d help him.

And so now he wants me to co-sign on a student line of credit for him.

It took me a long time to calm down enough to call him back (because, god forbid he call me himself). A huge part of my wanted to just scream at him, but another, equally large part of me was scared that I would be running the risk of permanently damaging our relationship, all that history, no matter how delicate I tried to be.

I finally caved the other night.

I decided to be firm, y’know, stick to my guns – I told him that I wanted to help him but that I also had to consider my own well-being too. He had already put Middle Brother in a bad spot so I was reserving the right to be cautious. Is co-signing for this going to impact my ability to get my own place? What about when I need to replace my poor old car? I told him he needs to find out and he obliged. If this doesn’t work out, I said, we’ll find another way. I don’t really know what that other way might be but I didn’t know what else to say.

Then, because I couldn’t HELP MYSELF, I reminded him that our mother did not, in fact, put me through school. A person doesn’t wrack up $35,000 in student debt when their parents are paying their way, amirite? I reminded him that as much as I would have liked to have stayed in the city over my summers with my friends and working cool jobs I KNEW I couldn’t afford it so I had to suck it up and move home each year. I also let him know that I almost had to drop out of my 3rd year of university because I didn’t have enough money. How’s THAT for perspective?

There were some quiet, I dare say embarrassed mumblings of, “Yeah, I know…” from his end.

Finally, I told him that he needs to go easy on mom. I told him that I know he’s stressed but he doesn’t understand the magnitude of what’s happening here at home. That it’s easy for all three of us – him, Middle Brother and I – to get frustrated and criticize the decisions that have gotten our parents into the position that they are in, but we CAN’T hold that against them, especially right now when we are all each other has. I told him that he needs to believe that mom would help him if she could, just like she used to when she had the money to give (how quickly he forgets the extra money she would slide into his account every month, and how he never once had to pay for his car insurance because she did it for him).

“Bud, we all need each other right now,” I said. “And we are too close of a family for this shit.”

Silence. And then,

“I know, I’m sorry.”

I went downstairs to hang up the phone and mom piped up,

“Oh! Was that your brother? I wanted you to tell him something.”

She wanted me to tell him that she had managed to come up with the money for his June rent and she wanted me to transfer it to him because she can’t.

“I’ll get the money from my account and pay you back tomorrow,” She assured me.

I was hesitant. This seemed to be a little too easy.

“Mom, can you actually afford to give him this money?”

Of course she didn’t. She tried to act like it was no big deal but that guilty look came over her and she admitted that what she was giving to Youngest Brother was coming from the mortgage payment for June.

“We’ll just have to take the hit,” She was wearing that broken little smile that breaks my heart. “I don’t really have a choice, do I?”

I called him back and sent through the money from my savings account.

“Thank you.” He whispered.

“Call your mother.” I sighed.

Then I went downstairs to where our mother sat very still, very quiet.

“You know, I don’t need that money right away,” I told her. “How about you pay me back on pay day, ok?”

She looked up at me with glassy eyes.

“Thank you.”

She sounded just like her son.

I might get that money back, but to prevent further disappointment I’m already counting it at a loss. Part of me feels like I shouldn’t be doing this anymore, the other part feels like I couldn’t do anything else.

I mean, what am I supposed to do?

Breathe in, breathe out and carry on.


3 Responses to “A family this close”

  1. Margaret June 1, 2010 at 12:57 pm #

    Man, I really, really hate money.

    You’re a good big sister. 🙂

  2. Farah June 1, 2010 at 3:03 pm #

    great post, nice blog, love the lay out. At the end of the day family is family and at the end, despite all the money and luxuries in the world, your family are the only thing that’ll matter 🙂

    D E G A I N E


  3. Dawn June 1, 2010 at 11:05 pm #

    I used to joke that the reason God didn’t let you pick your family was that there were some people that would never get picked. Some days it didn’t feel like a joke. Before my dad passed away, he used to occasional (all too often) bitch about how he paid for me to get a degree that I never used. I wished I had the courage to tell him that the sum total of his cost for having a daughter on the dean’s list for four straight years and graduating with highest honors was $2500 bucks. The rest was all scholarships, my paychecks, and all the money my grandmother left me when she passed away. Dude got off easy. He was comfortable middle class and it wasn’t a financial burden for him.

    But enough about me. Someday your brother will appreciate your honesty. With age comes wisdom. Hug him and your mother and pray for the best when July’s rent comes due. Crossing my fingers for you.

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