My parents each turned 60 last year. This May, they’ll be celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary. I love them both dearly, but I fear they have lost their minds.
Last year was not a good year for celebrating milestone birthdays. My grandfather died in the middle of January, and then I had a stroke at the end of March and my entire family had to fly to California. So, since my Mom’s birthday is in February and my Dad’s is in April, any notions of grand celebrations were scrapped and they celebrated by taking off to New Hampshire and shutting out the world. Which seemed fine to me.
Some family history that is important to note: my parents are notoriously awful with finances. We were never the family that had cool vacations or the newest clothes (I had hand-me-down clothes from the 70s…from my male cousins). We didn’t go out to eat often if hardly ever (does McDonald’s count?). Yet, for some reason, my parents decided to send us to a private Catholic school for an ridiculous amount of money, where we got a very sub-par education. So any disposable income was squandered at St. Francis of Assissi. See what I mean about bad with finances?
I think my parents (or my Mom – my Dad generally follows suit and agrees with her regardless of subject matter, as a method of keeping his own sanity) are in the midst of some sort of mid-life crisis or nervous breakdown where they’ve decided that they are sick to death of being the people who don’t get to do the fun stuff and are going to make up for lost time by cramming a stupid amount of family fun into one year.
At the risk of being annoyingly repetitive, I would like to draw a fine point on the fact that my parents are bad with money. This is important because I’m still unsure how they have decided to bankroll this Family Year of Fun. This is further upsetting to me because, much to my sister’s and my mutual horror, my mother likes to go around telling people, “My retirement plan is to be a burden to my children!” It is the unfunniest joke in the history of jokes. I think my sister automatically gets the short straw on that one because 1) she lives closer and 2) is the one with my parents’ grandchildren.
To be fair, I know that one way they have some money to pay for these activities is from the sale of my deceased grandfather’s house. However, my grandfather built that house himself back in 1955. It was in decent shape, but my sister was right when she said he was a “Level 2 hoarder”, so it probably needs a fair amount of work. It’s in a good location close to the city, but with the real estate market what it is, I have a hard time believing that the proceeds from the sale of that house – split five ways amongst his children – amount to a substantial amount of money.
I try to ignore the non-logical nature of it, but it’s getting more difficult with each passing conversation with my parents because they are so excited about everything coming up. Here’s the timeline of activity:
* May: An anniversary party for my parents on their actual anniversary, which happens to be Memorial Day weekend. We will have 80 people in a function hall. Now, my sister and I, hardly financial whizzes ourselves, will be chipping in for this. We are scared. My mom asked if we should get a DJ and I snapped, “No, we can just load Sinatra on an iPod and hook it up to some speakers.”
* June: My parents are taking a 7-day cruise from Boston to Bermuda. This is actually the one activity I approve of because 1) it doesn’t involve me and 2) they went to Bermuda on their honeymoon, so it seems very fitting.
* December/Christmas: My parents are taking my sister, brother-in-law, their three kids, me and my boyfriend to Walt Disney World for Christmas and New Years. This is the one I can’t quite get over. It’s a full week! In Orlando!! Besides the expense of it, I think the rest of my family has failed to take into consideration that the last vacation two adults sans children want to take is to a place that is crawling with other people’s children (actually, people with their own children probably don’t want to do this either, but that’s one of the benefits of not having children; sure, you have no one to love you in your old age, but you get to take vacations that are blissfully free of screaming children who have just pooped themselves).
The kicker of my parents mad spending spree of 2012 was the conversation I just had with them, when they told me they just found out from their mechanic that my mom’s car won’t make it much past the Spring. My mother hates to drive. Hates it. So she only drives herself to and from work every day, which is approximately 1 mile. If she were less lazy, she could just take a bus. The moral of the story is, spending any amount of money for my mother to have a new car is quite possibly one of the stupidest ways to spend cash that I’ve ever heard of. Yet, they are talking about leasing a new Corolla, because at the end of the lease, they can “just buy it out.” Well, kids, I have done this, and I’m here to tell you, it’s a superbly dumb idea. My 1998 Corolla was brand new when I leased it for three years. At the end of the lease, needing a car but unable to afford a new one and wanting to break the lease cycle, I decided to buy out my lease because at least I knew where that used car had been, and it had really low mileage. I ended up making payments on that car for seven years. I still drive it because I can’t bear the thought of having a car payment again. I can’t even imagine how much over sticker price I ended up paying because of that boneheaded move. When my parents told me they’re going car shopping over the weekend and I said, “Don’t make any rash decisions!”, they seemed insulted by my lack of faith. But, given their recent track record, I think someone needs to keep them in line.
I really, truly do not want this to be my job. I am not prepared to parent my parents. But, since it seems most likely that my sister will be the one saddled with them on a day-to-day basis, it’s the least I can do to contribute.