Let’s Make a Deal

It gave me some satisfaction to hit the ‘ignore’ button on my phone as i pounded pedals down the bikeway last night.  My niece, DQ, had called a few times, failing to leave a message.   That usually means she’d prefer to ambush me…

Apparently her mother, my sister, S, had let her know i’d enquired about having a brainstorming session to see if we could figure out a way to get the renovations on Mom’s house moving again, and get Mom settled into her new digs before she dies.   She’s 82, and in poor health.  Circling the drain?  Ya think?

For over a year, Mom has lived on a twin bed, parked in my niece’s living room.  It was to be temporary, while DQ’s husband BJ renovates Mom’s house next door, and builds an addition on the back with a nice new apartment for Mom, and a master suite for DQ and BJ.

This is a lot to ask of BJ, who is also on the hook to work and earn the cash to support his family.  Mom had laid out a budget for the renovation, and BJ worked on it nights and weekends – and when he didn’t have paying construction jobs.

Given DQs propensity to spend more money than he can shovel into the household, the guy has been working more than full time, and as a result, there has been no progress on the house for months.

Listening to Mom’s passive-aggressive complaints about the lack of privacy, being bored and housebound, and no idea when the house will be done during my weekly phone calls, i became pretty good at shoving that all aside and telling myself there was nothing to be done.  i reminded myself that this is the option Mom chose.

Seeing the whiny facebook updates from my niece, with her passive-aggressive complaints about having no privacy, being watched all the time, and dealing with a crabby old bat in her living room, i chalked this up to caregiver stress and that it was a means of venting her frustration.   i reminded myself that my niece volunteered to do this, and chose this option.  And was being compensated in the form of a virtually new house for her family.

So i have pretty much buried my head in the Trailer Park sandbox, and happily gone about living my life. Haven’t engaged much, nor have i been asked to get involved. 

Life was good.  i was even blogging for fun, instead of therapy!

The last post i put up about the Trailer Park was in June, and it was just an observational riff on my niece, DQ, spending money on a pink Smith & Wesson handgun, so she can be a fashionably armed redneck with her new ‘concealed carry’ permit.

Before that?  A couple of bits last April.  One, on the anniversary of my father’s death, reflecting on the things he missed out on over the past few years.  The other?  Keeping my two sisters from killing each other in another round of “she’s being mean to me!” as performed by alleged adults.

For the most part, other than my weekly phone call home, i haven’t really given it much thought.  But on Sunday, Mom was rather cranky, and i decided that it might be time to see if i could find a way to get things moving, without causing any problems.

Hence the e-mail i sent to my sister, S.  And the frantic (ignored) phone calls from my apparently agitated niece, DQ.  When i finally caught up with S by phone late last night, my eyes were opened to an unexpected twist to the Trailer Park melodrama.

S immediately informed me that any discussions regarding the situation with Mom and DQ should involve them.  i reminded her that i am appreciative that DQ is taking care of Mom, and am quite comfortable with DQ and BJ receiving compensation for all they are doing – just trying to figure out a way to get the house done before Mom dies.

For the hundredth time, i suggested we find additional resources, and either PAY BJ to finish it, or HIRE A WORK CREW for him, so it gets done more quickly.  Since Mom had spent about $50,000 purchasing 17 wooded acres in the country last year when the original plan was to build a lovely new home there, i have made no secret within the family of suggesting that this land be sold to finance accelerated renovations.

Once she was done with the defensive posturing, my sister danced around a bit, but finally said “Look, I probably shouldn’t tell you this – it really isn’t my place.  But Mom has made a deal with DQ and BJ to give them the land as payment for BJ working on the house.  That’s why she won’t agree to sell it.”

Two nanoseconds later, i came a bit unhinged.  i have brought this option up to my mother no fewer than a dozen times in the last few months – basically every single time she complained that things weren’t moving fast enough. NOT ONCE has she said “I’m not going to sell the land.  I want BJ to have it as payment for his work on the house.”

It would have been that simple.  S said that Mom was afraid i’d get mad, and it would cause trouble.  Trouble?  Far from it.  This little revelation has made my life far, far less complicated!

A big ol’ game of Trailer Park “Let’s Make A Deal”, done on the sly.  “Why hide it?” i asked my sister.  “Are they hiding something?  Embarrassed by it?”  It’s quite reasonable that there be compensation – i would have suggested to my mother she pay them after the work is done, rather than before, but it’s her business…

After my initial flash of anger and frustration with Mom’s failure to provide me with all of the information necessary to provide her useful advice, and to serve as her advocate, i found myself relieved. 

No more guilt.  There is nothing more for me to do.  Mom has signed up for this, and my niece has agreed to terms.  Neither the veiled complaints from Mom, nor the venting from my niece are going to keep me awake at night.

“The perils of benefactors.  The blessings of parasites.”*

Mom has made her bed.  She can now lie in it… It happens to be in the middle of her granddaughter’s living room.


* as always, i am reminded of the words of Joni Mitchell, from “Shadows and Light”.

34 thoughts on “Let’s Make a Deal

  1. Sometimes it’s best to just walk away from the conflict. I guess you now have to trot out your sympathetic “That must be difficult” remarks for both niece and Mom, while refusing to engage in the drama. Good luck with that… I make all kinds of promises to myself about much the same thing, and still I offer solutions which are ignored or pooh-poohed, getting me irritated. I guess I just try not to beat myself up about that, too.


  2. I find counting to 10 isn’t enough ……. sometimes I get well into the 1000’s before I dare open my mouth ……. well done Daisy ……. fancy a drink? – I’m obviously taken Nursey’s lead]

  3. Mine – exactly. late in the conversation, my sister suggested maybe we cld work with BJ to help with the renovatins. “Ummm… i’m really not good at that. i’m sure he can find skilled help.” i’m already checked out.

    kyknoord – this one has bugs, too.

    rassles – i’ll still visit, take Ma out to eat, and call. not gnna say a word about this, either. no trouble!

    nursemyra – on the road again. out with friends last night. did that.

    DP – it’s ok. just frustrating thatshe wted my financial advice, but never gave me all the info i needed. now she expects me to be her advocate, but she cuts deals and then doesn’t tell me. she’s the worst client ever!

  4. unbearable banishment – i DID warn her about it. when the ‘lets build a house in the country’ scheme failed, i recommended selling the land to pay for renovations. even before that, i’d warned about buying the land before they had financing approval to build, or even had estimates of what it would cost to put utilities on the land. for decades, mom, S and DQ have asked my advice, and ignored it. then ask for more advice to clean up what ever train wreck situation they landed in due to poor judgement. fuck it. no ‘i told you so’, just a ‘how’s that bed workin’ for ya?’

  5. i’m sure they’re having wild drunken parties until all hours, talking about you behind your back, and otherwise having a great time… the rest is just for show to put you on edge. face it, it’s a plot!

  6. Good ole DQ sounds like a microcosm of everything that is wrong with our society, pink S & W? what the fuck? that the product is even made frightens me because i think we can all guess that the intelligenstia won’t be buying it and that those with IQ’s hovering around 70 will… and as Jean Genet once said, families are the cruelest of jokes.

  7. One less thing for YOU to concern yourself with.
    That’s how I look at it when my family pulls shit like that.
    Just laugh when they both start their passive-aggressive bitching.

  8. Biting off more than one can chew? Hmmm. I can relate.

    I sometimes think about what life might have been like had we been one of those families that all stayed together in the same area and interacted all of the time. Then I wake up from that nightmare.

  9. gnukid – sometimes i wonder… maybe they all have blogs and make fun of me…

    kono – exactly. she is the poster-child for smart & lazy. milking every circumstance to her advantage.

    tNb – i’ll be nice. no trouble from me. and count the days til i can retire and leave town forever…

    renalfailure – a sound philosophy for much of what ails me. i need to learn to say that in ‘dog’, however, so Mr. Pickles can learn to walk himself…

    stephanie – oh, there will be lots of dramamamalama stuff… i’ll maintain “NATO Observer” and journalist status.

    blazngscarlet – yep. my stock response will be “wow. that sucks. bummer.”

    cew – it does work as an all purpose mantra, doesn’t it?

  10. I knew it was only a question of time before we got to hear another episode in the old family flim flam saga. I think your ability to say “Not my problem” is admirable. I have just been learning the same thing vis-a-vis my dear family, and it is a lot harder to maintain that distance than it should be. They are always trying to suck you in.

    A pink Smith and Wesson? Oh, doesn’t that just seem like an oxymoron some how?

  11. rob – BJ is capable of doing the work, and should be paid for it, so he doesn’t have to work insane hours. problem is? mom paid him in dirt and trees BEFORE he finished the job, and he STILL has to feed the family. i am grateful that i’m 60 miles away. it helps…

    HMH – my initial reaction was anger, frustration and hurt. Mom has a long history of keeping secrets, in the name of “avoiding trouble”. Fact is? She’s done it to exercise control, and establish a position of influence and authority. i’m over my tantrum. back to my happy place… it was a pretty good time for a business trip, it turns out. i’m not answering my phone.

    cew – nice find. suspect that’ll be a future purchase after mom dies and she gets the rest of the money.

    archie – yep. “wow, that’s a bummer!” is a great way to deflect the incoming attempts to make me feel guilty.

  12. Arghhh, family. You deal with it so well and seem so collected! I’d be pulling my hair out day and night despite it solving nothing and only serving to send me bald….

  13. I had to laugh when I read Archie’s comment. When Jim was in the Navy his last station was at Mare Island, his job was Fleet Liaison, which he did so well he received TWO Navy achievement awards for. On his desk, which I was privileged to visit a couple of times, which involved being tagged “visitor” and escorted through the hallowed halls of Tippy-Top-Secretdom, there was a stack of those paper holding racks that was three deep. The top was labeled “In”, the middle one was labeled “Out”, and the bottom one was labeled “Things that will go away if ignored long enough” — a tag that had print so fine you had to get right up close and personal to read it. I suppose the reason he got the award was that the top was empty, the middle had several things in it, and the bottom was rather liberally filled, and there was nothing on his desk except the morning paper.

  14. ruby – oh, they fluster me, and i COMPLETELY lose my cool with this stuff. the purpose of my blogging about it is to help me sort out my thoughts, pull together the thread of what’s going on, and get over it… i’m still mad at mom for her lifetime of secret deals, but am trying to stop short of calling her out on it… at this point in her life, there would be no purpose to throwing that flag…

    artswebshow – not cool temperment at all. but when i write it, i have to sort it into a logical flow, so it seems calm and collected. once i sort out the issues and triggers, i’m better with it, but i’m still pretty mad. surprised that my sister, S, took a risk to tell me. very much appreciate that…

    HMH – that’s fantastic! i may have to set up a similar filing system in my new office (moving in a few weeks). that’d be pretty much a showstopper for the nerd-herd!

  15. Jeebers chrispies. Srsly? Ag, man. Why can’t family be more grown up? Bloody hell. Mind you, I’m with you on the relief. Now they can just duke it out all by themselves. *sigh*

  16. Gee, it sounds like you’re off the hook here responsibility-wise. My mother never takes my advice and always runs things past neighbors, my brother’s ex-wife, or the cable guy and then, when they’ve all basically concurred with my take on it, she’ll make it out to be something SHE came up with on her own.

    Enjoy whatever peace of mind you can get whenever you can get it. 🙂

  17. dolce – they can duke it out. i’m just that nice woman who stops by sometimes to take mom to the doctor, and then out for a tasty meal…

    texastrailerparktrash – seems no matter what we do, family can always find just the perfect hook that sneaks under our skin. pesky li’l bastards, aren’t they?

    annie – if they had any idea? i’m sure it would rile them up to see me walking away, reasonably responsibility free….

    carlae – i love my family. really do. and sometimes, they crack me up, and there are moments (however brief) where i’m proud of them for a variety of achievements. the fact is, they are living their lives the best way they know how. if it bothers me? i guess that makes it ME that has the problem, so i’ll stay a few miles away, and have a few more drinks!

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