In a Boat

My sister Gina is diagnosed with Narcolepsy. It takes the average person about ninety minutes to enter into the REM stage of sleep; it takes Gina ninety seconds. Due to this handicap the government says she is only required to take about seven or eight credits to be a full-time student, she has an extra week to turn in all assignments, an option of having another student take notes for her in class, and (I believe) she can start collecting Social Security. And now, it is making it rather difficult for me not to resent her.

A few weeks ago my Dad said, “Son, I have a dilemma.”

“What can I help with Big Guy?”

“Your sister, Gina, needs a new computer for school and she wants a Mac Book. The computer she has now is on its last leg. She is able to pay for a little bit of it, but definitely not all of it. What do you think is fair?”

(Last year when I told my parents I needed a computer for school. They responded, “Go buy one then.”)

I thought logically, “Well it is good that she is paying for some. I think you should give her what she needs and not what she wants. She wants a Mac which is going to be a few hundred dollars more expensive, not that much when you are already spending eight or nine hundred. A regular PC will be fine for what she needs though. It isn’t so much a money factor, it is the principle she needs to learn. Until she pays for it all by her lonesome, give her what she needs, not what she wants.”

My Dad leaned back in his chair and thought about it. “I like that idea; I will take it to your mother.”

Last night my Mom sternly spoke into the phone to the Northwest Airlines customer service rep. She wanted to change Gina’s return flight back to Idaho that was supposed to be used at the end of the break, and use it for a flight to Orlando for her Disney internship. (They’re also paying for her rent while she stays there). Because Gina already used half of the ticket itinerary, NWA could not change the destination, only the date she flew back to Idaho. My parents lost half of the now unusable $488 ticket. They need to buy her a ticket to Orlando and pay for her flight back out to Idaho. My Mom was irate. Gina just looked flustered and went off to play with her new white Mac Book. If it was her money, she would be more animated.

(I purchased the same itinerary before I found out I would be driving home a bit earlier then Christmas. When I found out I couldn’t use the non-refundable ticket, I transferred it to another day and flight to fly to Oregon for Thanksgiving; the change cost an extra forty dollars. I purchased the ticket, and it cost me an extra forty dollars. I also had to pay for food, gas, and hotels for my drive home.)

As we walked into Lynsey’s Christmas chorus concert last night, I told my dad, “Pops, I don’t think I can afford to go to school this semester. I just don’t have the money.”

“Mom and I already talked about this and we are adamant that you go, even if we have to pay for it.”

“Dad, you can’t afford it. It is my school, my debt.”

“You don’t know how important it is for you to keep going with your education. You are going.”

“Dad, it’s not your decision, it’s mine. I can’t ask you to spend more money you don’t have. It is either going on your credit or mine.”

So now I plan on working through next semester to save for school and pay off some debt.

My parents did pay for my mission. However, when I was fourteen and asked my Mom for some money, she said, “Eric, you are old enough to have a job.” Two weeks after my fourteenth birthday I started working at Chick-Fil-A. Since then, I have been unemployed for a cumulative five months. Every paycheck I gave them a hefty portion to help pay for the car, car insurance, and other things. Our arrangement went unsaid as, “you support yourself and help out with payments before your mission, and we will pay for your mission.”

I understand Gina struggles with narcolepsy on a daily basis. I understand my parents struggle financially on a daily basis. I cannot help but be frustrated with my sister. I just feel she doesn’t understand.

When she walks into the room it is like I am in a row boat in the middle of the ocean. I can jump out of the boat and wade in frustration; or I can sit in the boat and wait in silence.


Ky ky said...

Hi-ya Eric! (just thought I'd do that for everyone's benifit) I just wanted to thank you because I now feel even more selfish and immature. Here you are--with real problems--and I'm whining about nothing. Thank you. (And I'm not being sarcastic, your problems really are worse. It seems like something that would happen to me with my sister (infact, it often has...)I'm sorry.)

Eric James said...

Hey not a problem, I;m not offended at all. I just love posting on the blog because it is a way for me to vent. Maybe my next post should be a happier one.

Chan said...

I like that last bit. My interactions with some people are so loaded that it's like that: I can either jump in and get tangled in all the frustration, or I can grit my teeth.

Eric James said...

I think what I want the most is for Gina to understand and appreciate the sacrifice that my parents are making on her behalf. And yes, my parents do know how I feel about the situation, and they are empathetic.

My biggest concern was Gina finding this essay, reading it, and taking it the wrong way. I talked to her about it and asked her to read it. It was a great conversation too. She is going to start giving my parents a small portion of her paychecks from Disney to show her appreciation. Her concern is the money she gives to them she can't use for tuition, and my parents will end up making up the rest, so why bother exchanging the money in the first place. After a bit of discussion, we talked about how it teaches financial responsibility.

I feel very good about the whole thing now. It is amazing what talking honestly can do huh.

Crystal said...

Go Eric!

(Incidentally, quit being so much nicer and braver than me. I end up eating chocolate to console myself and since it's too cold to exercise, that's not good.)