Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Our Kind of Family . . .

I grew up in a family where anyone would do anything for you if you needed help. At the same time we grew up to be independent and handle our own business. Asking for help from anyone was a last resort and, because we all knew that, help was usually offered without ever having to ask.

My brother and I grew up knowing we were going to college. There was never any talk about who would pay for it or where the money would come from. Without any thought about the expense, we applied, got accepted and we each paid for our own education, including books, fees, tuition and transportation. When I graduated, I paid back my student loans in full within a year. We found jobs, saved our own money, and contributed to the family household. The money my parents collected from us would eventually come back to us in the form of birthday and Christmas gifts, but we learned a valuable lesson about standing on our own two feet. That's the kind of family I was raised in.

When my husband and I got engaged, we planned and paid for our own formal wedding. We never thought about asking our parents to contribute towards the expenses. We paid for the venue, the limousines, the flowers, the rings, the photographer, invitations and favors. We had enough money left over for a two week honeymoon in Hawaii. No one offered to help us out, we did it on our own. But, knowing we had so many expenses right before we were married, my mother offered to buy us our first living room furniture as a wedding gift and my brother got us a complete, queen size bedroom set so we could furnish our home. That's the kind of thing my family does.

Before I had my first baby, my husband and I couldn't afford to buy a home. The houses were priced high and the interest rate was 14%.  I wanted to be a stay at home mom, so we could not count on my income to pay expenses. My mother offered to finish her basement for my cousin to live in so that we could have the apartment on the first floor of her house, at a modest rent, and continue saving money towards our own home. When our first daughter was 18 months, we began looking at houses again. The rates had come down to 10% and that was still high. We found a home we thought was reasonable, but we worried we didn't have enough of a downpayment to keep the monthly payment affordable on one salary. My parents and my husband's parents both kicked in an equal and substantial amount of money, as a gift, to help purchase our home and ease our minds about the payments. That's the kind of help you don't dare ask for, but gets offered with no strings attached.

The outside of our house needed painting because it was faded from the years of sun rays hitting it. I mentioned to my mother that we were looking for a painter and getting estimates. The lowest one we got was for $900. After our conversation ended, not ten minutes had past, and the phone was ringing. It was my mother. She said she had spoken to my father and they wanted to pay for the paint job on the house. They wouldn't take no for an answer. And, that's how our new house got painted. It was never mentioned again. That's the kind of parents I had.

When my second daughter was three years old she needed private speech therapy. We learned it would cost $90 a session for 45 minutes every week. We weren't sure we could afford an extra $360 a month at that time and we didn't know how many months this would last. While we were considering our options, we got two phone calls. One was from my brother and the other from my mother in law, each of them offering to pay for half of the therapy sessions so we wouldn't have to worry or fall behind on our bills. No mention of a loan. Just something they wanted to do for us and our daughter. That's the kind of thing our family does.

Our parents lived for their children. They gave us life. They gave us unconditional love. They gave us strong family values. They gave us their complete support. They made sacrifices every day of their lives to make sure we always got what we needed. All of this went unspoken, but it was understood. It was ingrained in who we grew up to be because we lived it every day. We were blessed beyond measure to have had them and to have grown up in such a loving family. And, I can say without a doubt, that their legacy of love has been continued with my own girls, who have been raised with the same values. I know it's how they will raise their children because they don't know any other way. And I hope one day, when they look back on their lives, they will feel the same way about my husband and I.

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