This weekend will the third anniversary of my father passing away. It seems like that was ages ago and yet so much remains the same. Three years ago I was stuck in a job I hated and busting my butt to find a way to quit and go back to school. I was also making a ludicrous amount of money. Flash forward three years and I'm stuck in a job I dislike and busting my butt to find a way to quit and go back to school. But there are differences. I'm just making enough money to get by. My boss is helping me with my goal by giving me time off during the day to take one or two classes each quarter. Where three years ago I was absolutely miserable with regards to work, the misery is now endurable. And even financially speaking, I'm in a better place. It is true that I'm barely making enough money to pay the bills, but I'm in a spot where I can afford to do that. Due in large part to the relatively small amount of money my family needs, we're just a stone's throw away from being in the luxury class. The key to financial freedom is low material expectations. Cooking for a family of four (or five) takes far less cash than buying four (or five) value meals at McDonalds.
In a way, it's funny how I've changed. Back in 1995 when I took my first `real' job making a whole six and half dollars per hour, I set a five year goal of making fifty grand a year. I missed that goal by two or three years and then exceeded it. Then I gave it up because making that money was part of a mode of living that was killing me. Now I have a new plan. It's going to take much longer than five years. It isn't aimed at money, but at changing the way I live. What I want is not material wealth, but a mode of living through which I can be the person I seem to be becoming rather than simply living in such a way to only supply myself and my family with our base material needs.
My daughters are growing and maturing. The oldest turned 13 yesterday. She's full of sass, independence, laziness, attitude and love. Like most girl's her age, it's all about her. Hopefully she grow out of this stage sooner rather than later. Although, as long as she grows out of it at all she'll be ahead on the bell curve. My youngest daughter turned 9 back in June. She is getting to the age where she's consciously making moral decisions for better or for worse. That makes life complicated for her. I've been truly blessed by both of my girls. They are wonders.
These three years have been a very bumpy ride for my wife. She's had to deal with me dealing with my own baggage on top of the very heavy burdens she already bears. But her story is hers to tell. And tell it she does. I can only imagine what she goes through. If you Google™ for ``spinal muscular atrophy'' and ``life expectancy'' you find a considerable number of pages that mention the very significant numbers twenties to thirties. Of course, when she was two her parents were told that she would be lucky to see five. The feeling of living on borrowed time certainly isn't new to her. I'm not certain that this makes that feeling any easier to deal with.
Then there is my sister and her family. The only reason I'm including them in this retrospective is that my fate has become tied to theirs throughly the magic of my name sharing a spot with my sister's name on the deed to a piece of real estate. It is really hard to exaggerate just how much of a fuckup both my sister and her husband are. A large part of this neither she nor he can help. Genetics are genetics and we all are stuck playing the hand dealt out to us by Mother Nature. But whatever cards given us to Mother Nature, it is our choices that decide whether we bluff, go all in, raise, call, or fold and walk away from the table.
By the first anniversary of my father's death, I was still hoping that my sister and her husband will help clean up the mess. By the second anniversary, I had realized that I was going to do the lion's share of the work with little or no recompense aside from 50% the increase in value of Ye Olde House of Doom that came from my own hard labor. Now we grow close to the third year and I've reason to hope that she and her husband might be getting their act together. Her husband found regular work this year after being unemployed since before my father died. Ye Olde House of Doom is almost as clean on the inside as it was before my sister's family moved in. It boggles my mind that for the past three years she's been making far more money than I have, has lived rent free for almost the past two years. (To be accurate, they've lived rent free in Ye Olde House of Doom for the past twelve months, but I don't think that she or her husband paid their old mortgage for the twelve months prior to that which is why their house was foreclosed on last summer and they moved into Ye Olde House of Doom.) One can always hope. Although hope often leads to the pain of unfulfilled expectations.
Soon another year will go by. No one knows what it will bring. I have my suspicions. I have hopes. I have dreams. I find myself hoping for the worst and steeling myself for the best. I find the rational part of myself struggling to rise above those hopes and work on my dreams. And, Lord willing, there will be another beautiful summer night down the road and I'll look back find out whether I've risen or I've fallen.
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