Monday, October 23, 2006

Fall into winter

The beautiful fall leaves are almost at their peak

This morning I sold my mom's car, a '93 Toyota Camry wagon with just 85,000 miles on it. If you recall, I'm taking Dave Ramsey's course on fiscal management and I need to pay off debt. Since I had two vehicles I decided, with a lot of mixed feelings, to get rid of the car since my SUV will probably sit on the market awhile with gas prices so high. But it wasn't an easy decision.

I have so many great memories of hours in that car. It was originally my aunt's, but at 88, she stopped visiting Arizona for the winters so she sold the car to me to transport my mom. I could no longer get mom up into the SUV without a step stool and a great deal of commotion and laughter. The final straw was the day we had to hang around in a parking lot until some friendly stranger came along to help push her into the vehicle.

The car stayed with her in Arizona so her live-in attendant could take her places; but eventually when I moved her to Missouri to live with me, I drove her with two caregivers, three dogs and a cat across the southwest to Missouri. That event is enough for four blog entries, one for each day of the terrible trip at least, so I won't go into details about it now. Suffice it to say as I told my friend Pat, who came long with me on the trip, as we debriefed one night of the drive, "It's kind of like a wagon train. You know you're probably going to get there, but you may lose a few along the way."

One of my favorite times driving mom in that car was a day trip we took to Prescott to see the cabin Dad and she still owned, which was rented. She loved to take trips until late into her life. Because she had Alzheimer's, I would often talk to her as I drove of her childhood, trying to stimulate her long-term memory. On this particular day about Cordes Junction, I was asking her about her father, who died when she was fairly young.

"So how old was he when you died?" I asked, meaning to ask how old she was when he died. "Hey," she said, laughing and waving her hand at me from the passenger seat, "I'm still alive over here." She was terribly funny without trying to be.

One night about 2 a.m. right after dad died, I was staying with mom. She fell out of bed with a loud thump and I ran into her room to make sure she was okay. I got her back in bed and we both went back to sleep. The next morning when I got up, she was at the breakfast table with her faithful cat Mr. Bill eyeing her cereal bowl for the leftovers. Mr. Bill also slept with her.

I was worried that she wouldn't remember her fall and would wonder why she was sore, so I said "Mom," after I kissed her cheek, "Do you remember you fell out of bed last night?

She narrowed her eyes and said, "Maybe Mr. Bill pushed me." We both cracked up. That was mom in a nutshell; no matter how bad things got, she always had a joke and a positive spin.

Selling the car is like selling a little piece of her memory. But just like I priced shopped her cremation, saving about $1,000, I know she would approve of the sale. She'd want me to take the fiscally responsible action.

It's funny that our parents, children of the depression who had so little and lived so frugally despite whatever gains they made in their lifetimes, raised kids that frequently have problems with money. One thing, besides feelings, that wasn't discussed openly in my family was money. The extent of my budgeting lesson I got from mom was "First you pay bills, then if you have any money left over, you eat." Unfortunately, with easy access to credit, one of the first seeming 'gifts' of recovery, that lesson never sunk in. Credit is a gift with a steep price.

I remember one of my brothers, who worked for Microsoft in its early days, bought a beautiful house in Redmond, Washington. My parents went to visit and my brother told me my dad seemed uncomfortable. My brother was upset about it and surmised that parents didn't want to see their kids do better than they did. I now realize that my brother was wrong. Our parents wanted us to do better; they just wanted us to be fiscally responsible and not use credit to buy more house, more cars, than we could afford.

In my parents' day, they paid cash for just about everything. The envelope system Dave Ramsey uses, where we put aside enough money in envelopes for certain categories like food, clothing and entertainment, isn't his invention. It's the invention of our grandparents and their grandparents. Taking this course has really opened my eyes to a lot of things and I wish I'd taken it twenty years ago, when I got sober. Some of my friends chortle when I get out my envelope to throw money in the basket from the one marked "charity," but then they say "I should be doing that, too."

So, the car goes to a new home, one that would make my mom ecstatic. My friend Liz and her husband Joe are buying it to cart around the four beautiful kids they adopted from China. I can't think of anything that would make mom happier than to know that their four wonderful kids will be riding around in her car.


SCoUt said...

Very sweet post. Thanks for sharing it.

DEBTective said...

Very touching post, kid. It's tough letting go of that stuff, ain't it? Just wanted to say I'm big-time proud of you for working to deep-six your debt, Dave Ramsey style. Thanks for spreading the debt-free word, baby. Glad to hear that you're doin' better.