Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Quandry

My brother-in-law is a good father and a hard worker. He's also having employment problems these days. His boss, a developer, hired a crew to update and convert condos back into an apartment building. The boss planned to pay his workers, including my brother-in-law, once the sale went through. Due to delays on the buyer's side (including a vacation over Labor Day), the closing now won't happen until this Wednesday. So my BIL hasn't been paid at all yet in the month of September.

Some of his coworkers are threatening to quit but not my brother-in-law. He reasons, correctly I feel, that as long as his boss is still providing medical benefits and a company vehicle (a fully gassed truck), it's better than being unemployed. Three weeks without a paycheck has left his family struggling.

I would be eager to help out except my brother-in-law is married to my kid sister. We have an ugly history when it comes to finances. In a nutshell, she believes our family (mostly my uncle and me) are somehow obligated to help her family. I can see how I may be partially to blame for this more-than-healthy sense of entitlement -- since she's the baby of the family I did my part to spoil her when we were growing up. Still, her complete lack of gratitude is disappointing.

On the other hand, when our mom was ill earlier this year, my kid sister was completely there for her, providing the lion's share of the hands-on work to care for her.

What to do?

I am helping her family but not her. First I sent my niece and nephew each $25 gift cards (hers at Penney's, his at GAP) to help with back-to-school clothes. Today I sent her cat a 41 lb. bag of litter and 12 cans of cat food. The package is addressed to "Amelia" the cat herself, and the note inside is signed from two of my own cats.

Pets are expensive and, like children, they have no control over the work history of the adults they depend on. Also, my brother-in-law is doing the best he can in a difficult situation and I want to lighten his emotional load. Lastly, I feel I owe my sister something for stepping up to the plate and helping my mom when Mom needed it most.

I am confident I have done the right thing.


  1. Anonymous5:09 PM

    I think you are on the right track with not handing over money, rather helping them out in other ways such as the gift cards and the cat stuff. Just keep it up, if your sis doesn't appreciate it now...she will eventually.

  2. Yes, you've done exactly the right thing. You will know when you've done all you can and decide from there.

    My cousin was in a similar situation and I sent her money, cards for support and even went so far as to disguise where the money came from so she wouldn't feel bad. And she was the one who sent me the email that was, without question, the cruelest thing I've ever received. And you know what? I decided that it was time to stop my giving. Not as a punishment, but my higher self said that I had done what was in my heart to do and now it was time to let go. So I did.

    You'll know.

  3. I think you made the right decision, too.

  4. Snowbird9:14 PM

    Your sister, her husband, and the two kids are very very lucky to have someone like you in their lives.


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