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”.