Thursday, November 22, 2012

Up, up, up... Down, down, down...

I've been debating with myself whether or not to write this post for the past 24 hours.

On the one hand I know some people continue to read my blog mostly to cheer themselves up if I'm struggling (lots of grist for the mill here, hey?), on the other hand, I know some of my readers are rooting for us and want to see us get to that better place we are striving for and those readers I am loathed to disappoint, yet again.

Ultimately though, this blog is a true representation of my life and hopefully one day this part of my life will be a dark memory, but it will show how far I've travelled, our little family has travelled, when life is good and things go our way.

Back in August I wrote about my fears about us becoming homeless next year. At the time I was desperately depressed - crying every day and not sleeping kind of depressed. Soon after I wrote that blog post MIL had a tree fall on the roof of her house and while trying to sort out insurance to cover fixing it, discovered the entire roof was asbestos and needed to be replace for her to continue being covered by her insurers in future. The cost of replacing it would be on her and she was not keen to spend that kind of money on a house which will likely be demolished within a few years.

So, she started to think about selling and buying a property we could all live in because she is getting on and needs a fair bit of assistance from us. She no longer can run her own errands to the supermarket which is a couple of minutes walk from her house. In fact she often needs help just to get her bins out and in again for rubbish collection. She also requires assistance for jobs around the house, changing lightbulbs, moving furniture etc. She has a cleaner come every week, a gardener every few weeks, and had meals delivered weekly.

With the prospect of getting out of the rental market suddenly on the table I found my stress levels dropping considerably. Also, Ari got into the kinder we hoped for and Erik was offered a place at the brilliant high school we'd been told about. Things were starting to look up.

We've also long been talking about getting a car. After more than three years of driving lessons, mostly paid out of our own pocket, though some from the ILs, and 9 tests, the Grumpy Old Man finally got his licence in June this year. The plan had been for him to get a manual licence and drive FILs as new 2002 Mazda Protege (13K on the clock!), but in the end the GOM went for an automatic licence and therefore can't drive the Mazda which has sat idle in the garage for the past four years. We thought MIL would sell the Mazda and buy an automatic car.

We've always known the ILs had some investments and a bit of a nest egg 'for a rainy' day, but we've never known how much.

So, the months passed since the GOM got his licence and MIL was reluctant to spend any money on a car, or to even sell the car sitting in the garage. We tried to explain to her how much easier it would be to help her out if the GOM could drive around. Getting to her place by public transport takes an hour on a good day, on a Sunday it takes an hour and a half or more. The Grumpy Old Man goes to her house often, every week and as time has passed more often several times a week. Each trip to her house is a minimum three hour return trip. Often it's more like five or six hours. Driving to her house would take him twelve minutes.

In that sense it's probably good that he doesn't work. I don't know when he'd fit in trips to his mum's around working as well.

Anyway, with the sale of the house looming on the horizon, and with Ari going to kinder, and Erik to high school and the other two at primary school (and me possibly at Uni), we've been saying we really need to do something about getting a car. The GOM decided he just needed to get on with selling it, himself. So last weekend he went and washed it. He told his mum to get the RACV out to charge the battery on Wednesday and then he could drive it out of the garage to take photos of it.

Wednesday came and he rang to see if she had arranged for the RACV guy to come out. She hadn't. She said she didn't want the same guy as last time - for whatever reason, I'm not sure.

She also said she had been talking to the neighbour across the road and he was saying to her that maybe it would be better for her to just stay in her house for another year or two and she could probably offer to go guarantor for us if we did receive a notice to vacate once our six month lease is up in February next year.

She said she didn't want to dip into her savings for a car (she's assuming, probably correctly, that even with selling the car there would be some extra cost for another car in reasonable condition - we're not necessarily looking for a people mover, mind you, at this point even a hatchback would do the job!).

The thing is, she told the GOM last week that her investments total more than six years income for us. In fact, she had savings with the now partly bankrupt Banksia to the tune of over a years income for us all this time (and she let us believe that buying a second hand car after selling the Mazda would 'stretch' her). She's probably lost a chunk of the Banksia money. It's frozen but she 'may' get some of it back. I can't help but think if she'd bought a car back in June, then Banksia couldn't have taken that money from her and she'd now have a car which would mean the Grumpy Old Man could far more easily get to her when she needed him!

She really is in a position to help us but she won't.

It's fear.

She has to leave her (asbestos ridden) home of forty years, she has to sell the last car she and FIL bought together, she has to give up many of her possession because her personal living space would be smaller no matter where she goes. She's turning 84 this week and she's afraid.

I get that.

The thing is, we have four children who rely on us, and she relies on us (whether she acknowledges that or not). To maintain stability for our children and for her, we - the GOM and I - have to keep living in this area - three suburbs away from her current house (12 minutes by car if she would help us get one). This area we live in expensive. It has lots of infrastructure, which is great, but an average three bedroom rental is $430 per week.

With four children and no taxable income and 30 applications for every property, we have Buckley's chance of getting another rental in this area, even with her as guarantor. We only got this house we're in because a) it was in such poor condition no one had applied for it in three months and b) we basically lied on the application about the GOM's employment status.

This means we'd have to move away from her and away from the great kinder and schools. Ari would not go to kinder next year at all. Erik would have to go to whatever local high school wherever we ended up. Lukas would have to start a new school part way through year six (Erik part way through year seven, I'm not sure which is worse).

As well as this, we would not be available to MIL at all because further away with no car means even longer on public transport and with children in three different kinder/schools we'd been hard pressed to fit in whole days to get to her to take her wheelie bins in from the kerb.

That's if we even got a rental property. I'm not convinced we would. Which means we'd probably end up living in motels paid for by the Government, moving every few days. The kids would be so messed up. Thinking about it makes my heart race with anxiety and rage. Why can't she see this? How can she sit on her nest egg, her 'money for a rainy day' willing to let her grandchild be uprooted like this. This is the rainy day! It's pouring right now!

So, the haters out there are saying, 'Why don't you or your husband get a job?' Well, it's like this. We can't. We've tried, and tried, and tried.

But let's say there was an everyday miracle and one or both of us got a job...

Who would care for the kids and who would care for MIL? One person cannot be on call for five people in four different places, all of them at least 30 minutes public transport away from one another. That's a two person, full time job.

And the crazy thing is, the ILs helped me encourage the Grumpy Old Man to get a licence because we all knew the day was coming when he would be needed to run around after them and our own children. That day is here and MIL has her head in the sand and her heels firmly dug in the ground.

There is nothing we can do, though.

In the end she holds the purse strings.

In the end it's up to her to decide how things will play out and we can only paddle furiously to try and keep our heads above water and still be there for her as long as we can - until we receive the inevitable notice to vacate.

I've cried many tears of sheer panic in the past twenty-four hours. I fear for our relationship with MIL. I fear for the psychological and emotional, and even the physical well being of our children. I fear for the health of the Grumpy Old Man (he is enormously stressed about all of this).

I cannot understand her thinking at all.


Sarah said...

Sif - I would hope that no one would be small minded enough to read this and feel smug about there own situation or even judge you in anyway.

I see someone who wants to be able to do the best and the right thing by everyone and needs help to do that.

This isnt in any way one sided - everyone would benefit and I totally understand your frustration and fears.

It's such a difficult position to be in, I really hope you can work something out.

Jayne said...

Sarah, hard to believe, but sadly such small minded people do exist. I've seen some of them here in the past, so I get Sif's reluctance to post. Many people think being welfare dependent and poor is somehow the fault of the individual, rather than seeing the bigger picture and acknowledging the structual inequities that lead to social inequality.

Basically, they suck and I don't like those people at all. LOL

I really feel your stress :( I would be exactly the same. Being unsure of your future, feeling like the roof over one's head is precarious is a horrible feeling. I really REALLY hope MIL comes around soon. her way of thinking seems almost cruel :(

Sif Dal said...

Sarah, sadly, Jayne is right, there are definitely people who come here to reassure themselves they are better than I am because they don't struggle as much - my blog provides entertainment for those people, they have told me so in many ways.

The GOM and I keep going over this situation again and again because we cannot make sense of it. The woman is not being rational and has a false sense of economy. As well as this she seems not to trust us - and in fact, she seems to be systematically isolating herself from all family and friends over the past 20 years. We can't fathom that she would like to die alone but she has repeatedly pushed people away. It's all very frustrating and upsetting.

Kathy said...

Ugh, this must be so hard :-(

I can empathise completely with having a MIL who relies heavily on you for support but is making irrational decisions about lots of things, including holding onto her assets with a death grip even when it makes no sense for HER, forget anyone else. I have one of those my ownself.

In our case we are lucky enough to have bought a house in easier times financially (before kids when we were both f/time employed) so although things are MUCH tighter now, we aren't at risk of losing our home unless we default on the mortgage, which (hopefully) if not likely as hubs is still employed, albeit not as gainfully as he was 10 years ago.

Nonetheless, MIL (who has savings of her own and an extremely valuable property) wants us to not just care for her - which we do, of course - but outlay for medical treatments, equipment etc for her, which we just can't easily afford.

My SIL lives with her rent-free and works fulltime, and has been left the entirety of MIL's estate in her will (which, fair enough - it's MIL's money, she can do what she wants with it) but SIL is never asked to contribute to the costs or do any of the running around. (To be fair, she does cook MIL's dinners when she makes her own, and buys both their groceries, plus she is company for MIL, so it's a symbiosis).

I just don't get the thinking. Hubs has been really forthright with her, he said, Mum, we love you and when we can help you with taking you places and doing jobs, we will, but you have money you could use to buy those things. We have to make sure we can pay for everything for our own children first. She says yes, yes, but next time she asks again and is offended again when we say no.

Sif Dal said...

Kathy, that's a really hard situation to be in as well! I can't understand the thinking either! Just WOW!

This morning was 12 days since the Grumpy Old Man last spoke with his mother. He called her expecting a whole lots of attitude and vitriole (this has been the pattern in the past when we didn't call her for a week, even when there was no dispute).

Instead she was mellow. He said if he was a drinking man he'd having gotten off the phone and had a stiff drink in shock. She was all about planning Christmas and talking about how her gardener hasn't been able to come over because of other committments and so she's ankle deep in leaves...

Maybe she's just losing it? Maybe she realised he was pretty upset. Who knows really.

He did tell her that we're pretty much past the point of no return if the landlords want us out at the end of the lease. We have an inspection coming up in two weeks - which is basically 64 days from the end of the lease.

I had another panick attack about it overnight... But she's in her secure home with her bank roll, so what does it matter to her that our lives have not security?

Good Job!