Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Songs My Mother Taught Me

There is a wonderful piece of music, Songs My Mother Taught Me, by Antonin Dvorak. The song is a particular favorite of mine for a number of reasons. It's plain lovely to start with. More than lovely in fact, it's quite wonderful and emotive. When well sung, it can bring a tear to the coldest of hearts. Another reason the song speaks to me is that it reminds me so much of my grandmother. Again, if you've read much of my blog, you know how hugely important Granny was to me.

Yesterday, I had a long talk with my student loan lender, the lovely SallieMae. I'm but 12 months from paying off my loans. First, let me pause to bless the name of Jesus because given how things have been these last many years, I ought to be deep in the hole not within shouting distance of the finish line. Unfortunately, given that the end is an immovable object, the payment has jumped up just beyond where my hand can reach. During the conversation, the agent suggested that I take a loan elsewhere (at higher interest rates) to pay off this loan. For longer than a nanosecond, I actively considered it. I know it's a bad idea, a very, very bad idea, but I considered it just to get Sallie off my back. But I would only be trading one monkey for another. Cue the song......

While I was considering it, I suddenly had an image of my mother doing precisely the same thing throughout my childhood and youth. Mummy often robbed Peter to pay Paul. It wasn't that she was a poor money manager, but rather that she had three children to care for, support only from her sister (mother of one of the three) and zilch from the father of the other two. Though she was a professional and making what, I suppose, amounted to a decent salary, it simply wasn't enough. Things were further complicated by the fact that we would not stop growing! The shoes, the clothes, the food! We wouldn't stop eating either. And then there were school fees (by choice, she sent us to private school) and the ballet, piano, swimming and karate lessons. We were expensive pickney. She never complained, but she spent a lot of time denying her own needs and robbing Peter.

Yesterday, as I briefly (but not briefly enough) considered my own robbery situation, I realized that this was a Song My Mother Taught Me, as the lyric says, "in the days long vanished". It's not a good song. It's a terrible, terrible song in fact. It's a song, I am pretty sure, she wouldn't have chosen to teach, but still, oops! there it is (isn't that a line from an old song?).

monkey on your back photo: Monkey on your back 040321.jpgI've decided against robbery. This time. I've decided against trading one monkey on my back for another because at the end of the day, I'm still the idiot walking around with a monkey on my back! I'm working on a parttime job that will allow me to deal with SallieMae in a more reasonable way, that is to say: just pay the daggone thing off. The notion though that I even thought about singing the old song I heard my mother sing for so long, is sad and frankly, it's a consequence of bad retirement and end of life care planning. With a better plan, I wouldn't have been an unpaid caregiver for nearly five years. Mummy would have been able to better afford the care she needed and I could have kept working or taken a job out of state. No point dwelling on woulda, coulda, shoulda, much better to focus on how not to keep singing the same song.

Y'all gon' start saying I'm shilling for some LTC company. Nothing could be further from the truth (though it would be the best work I could think of doing at this stage of my life, given what I know and what I've lived). Truth to tell, I'm shilling for your kids, your grandkids, your spouses and your estate. Make a plan. Please. Buy the protection you need and buy it now because frankly, these songs need to be retired. Please. I ain't too proud to beg (another old school song reference).

When you know better, you do better. If you've read this far, you can't say you don't know better. What happens next is entirely up to you.

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