Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once, and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.
They were submitted by: On the Border - Thank you, Diane!
I hope I'll manage to use these words while telling you what I need to get off my chest. Best case scenario, by the time this post goes live, things may have settled down. On the other hand it's been two months already.
Where do I even start?
I guess I don't mention my Dad as much as my Mom. I think it's fair to say we are not as close. Growing up I perceived him as authoritative and strict. Many times my baby brother and I felt we had to tiptoe around him in order to not upset him. Our playdates had to leave before Dad came home from work, so nobody was irritating him when he wanted to unwind.
We had to work hard to impress him. I was a good student in elementary school, and my report card was usually full of straight A's. While relatives and neighbours were full of praise, he didn't think it was worth mentioning.
One semester, however, there was one B among a handful of A's. He raised his eyebrows and went "what happened here?" I was crushed.
We rarely got anything without having to earn it first: privileges, freedom, money.
"May I go to the skating rink with my girlfriends on Saturday afternoon?"
Rake the leaves first and pay for the train ticket and entrance fee yourself.
"Can we watch the TV show tonight?"
Sweep the patio and mow the lawn.
He often explained to us that when he was young he had to walk barefoot in the snow, uphill, both ways to school, blablabla.
When he was twelve, his Mom died of coronary artery disease. She was only 42 years old. Dad was the oldest of four children and had to grow up fast, help around the house, be the reliable big brother, I get it, and I feel for him. It was the post war era, they didn't have a lot of money and food, they didn't get to go the ice rink at all, and they didn't have a TV.
Wouldn't the logical reaction be to want a better life for his own kids? Let them feel nurtured and enjoy their childhood?
We did have a TV, and when my parents let us home alone unsupervised, Dad would hide the remote control. Well, my brother and I weren't born yesterday. We always found it, watched TV and hid it back.
Instead of getting to know my friends I went out with he insisted in defining and enforcing early curfews.
All through college he didn't approve of my boyfriend, and we barely spoke. Meaning I preferred not to ask him for money for my train card, lunch and books. I'd rather spend my summer breaks working and financing my schooling on my own. A couple months after graduating (he didn't attend the celebration) I moved out and didn't look back.
I paid for each and every of my driving lessons, and when he bought a new car he sold me his old one. The new unexperienced driver that I was I didn't take long and I hit another car. It was completely my fault, and I paid for the other party's damage as well as my own. Shaken up I called home. I just wanted to tell my parents what happened and let them know I was OK.
His first reaction was "I can't believe you ruined my car."
Fast forward to his mid-fifties. I didn't even experience the deterioration of his health condition up close. Maybe my parents didn't want me to worry, but at some point I was invited to his "last supper". He was expected at the hospital to get a few bypasses the next day, I learned.
What? Damn! Open heart surgery was no joke.
A few days later I visited him at the hospital. According to the doctors, everything went well. To me, he looked super weak and frail, and I think he understood he got a second chance at life. He took doctors' orders very seriously and finally quit the "only a handful of cigarettes a day, I can quit any day", went for daily walks, and a few years later he retired early, which was probably the best thing to do. He seemed way more relaxed and sociable.
His job must have stressed him out. I would later work for the same company and got to know the environment and organisation and was like and this stressed him out? They had a nice life! Everybody perceives pressure differently I guess.
Anyway. Fast forward even more. My brother got married and had babies - in Israel. Speaking Hebrew and English, which my Dad doesn't. His grandkids were cute little strangers who visited every other year, best case.
He could have joined my Mom who keeps flying to Israel - her first home - twice a year, but he chooses not to.
Colin's birth changed my Dad's situation. He now had a Swiss grandkid who lived in the same village. He proudly pushed his stroller acrosss town, as far out as to the chicken farm and the forest, and told everybody how smart the baby boy was.
For the first time in my life I felt like I did a great thing in his eyes.
Forget college, my international HR degree, my management jobs - I gave him a grandson.
I enjoyed watching the two of them together. Dad was much kinder, more patient and lenient as a Granddad to Colin than he was a father to my brother and I, and I was OK with that. He didn't have to worry about his job, pay for our braces and make sure we turned out fine anymore.
So far so good.
Earlier than expected I went back to work part-time. Colin went to daycare two days a week and to his grandparents' for one day every other week. I wanted to pay them for it. Granted, I only talked about it with my Mom, but I assumed she spoke for the both of them when she said "are you kidding me, we're happy to have him around here, we're not going to take money for something that brings us joy."
In order to still compensate them in some way, I made sure to keep coming up with great gifts: balloon rides, wine tastings, concert visits, fancy dinners,...
Everybody seemed happy.
Fast forward to Christmas 2019.
After procrastinating to invest in a new computer for years, my Dad knew he needed to replace his PC because Windows 7 was not going to be supported any longer, and his old one was not suitable to install Windows 10. He asked us for a quote to replace his entire equipment, but made it clear he didn't need a Rolls Royce.
Translation: he wanted a great product for a low price.
My parents are not wealthy, but they sure as hell don't need to crunch numbers either, and it always bugs me to observe when he's being cheap. How many times have we been out and about, went to a place to grab a bite, and he had conveniently forgotten his wallet... They both have a car, but he prefers to use hers, without ever stopping at the gas station. When Mom goes on vacation alone, he drops her at the train station and she has to shlep her bags, but when they leave together he
I could go on, but I am not here to air dirty laundry. Well, I might. Later.
Back to his computer project. The IT field is my husband's business, and we offered Dad a bargain computer, screen, storage system, you name it. Since we had a feeling how this was gonna turn out, hubby explicitly asked "do you want to set it up yourself?"
I have to mention that hubby saved Dad's ass many times after he had messed up his internet router or an installation. When all was done, Dad would comment "oh, I could have done this by myself."
Not the thanks one expects, especially considering hubby works six days a week and doesn't have time for this sh**.
Dad admitted he'd feel better if an expert took care of it, and hubby made it clear that he had to task an employee with it, and it was gonna cost (for the first time). "Sure", Dad said.
On our way home, hubby was like "this is not going to end well."
What happened was that my coworker spent an entire afternoon with my Dad, and it turned out that Dad had changed his e-mail password, forgotten about it and therefore denied it. Cost them several hours to recover everything. Hours that my colleague billed.
January 2020. Dad sent me an e-mail telling me that his e-banking software kept crashing (was this my fault? Was this the reason he had not paid his bill yet? Was it just an info?) and mentioned it'd be nice if we granted him a discount since he never charged us for taking care of Colin.
I was shocked. And appalled. Where was this coming from?
Hubby was upset, too. "I told you this wasn't going to end well."
I slept on it. For several days.
On one hand I wanted to storm into their house and be like are you effing kidding me? You let us give you the equipment, accept our services which take much longer, no thanks to your forgetting your password and you want to negotiate after the fact? Why are you even writing to me, it's hubby's company? What's your idea of a discount, 25%, 50%, not to pay at all? Would you ask me for a discount on your groceries if I worked at the supermarket? How dare you using my precious son as a leverage? Colin turns 12 this year, for how long do you think he's going to still find it cool to stay at his grandparents', you should not mess it up now.
On the other hand I didn't want to do or say - especially not write - anything I might regret, and a stupid computer was not worth getting into a fight for.
I got busy, and I think I was hoping he'd drop it. But no. About ten days later he forwarded his original message saying he didn't hear back from me, was he gonna get his family discount or not?
This was a no win situation, I wrote back as nicely as I could, thanking him for being such a wonderful Granddad, repeating my conversation with Mom about paying them. I pointed out that my coworker, who had patiently helped him, had nothing to do with the grandkid situation and expected to be paid.
February 2020. Dad would not let it go. He grudgingly answered he was gonna pay our bill in full (which he hasn't done so far), he loved taking care of Colin but would not forgo taking money for it in the future. Plus he was going to take his IT needs someplace else in the future.
Colin usually goes to my parents' on Tuesdays for lunch, and let me just tell you - there have been reasons beyond my control for him not to do so since... Field trips, my Mom was sick and didn't want to infect him, ski camp... Until further notice, the department of health does not recommendi fthat Grandparents look after kids. And we may have to face school closing its doors. This is gonna be interesting.
I know I'll have to face him at some point, but I'm in no hurry.
For my birthday he sent me a generic e-mail. We were supposed to go to their house for coffee and cake, but Mom was sick and cancelled.
Want to see what my Godfather (=Dad's brother) sent me? These gorgeous flowers and a handwritten card.
What am I missing? Is this really about money? Am I being an ungrateful daughter?
Update: the bill was paid yesterday.
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