Uncle’s Story Part 3: Family and the Sad End

by Sandy L on August 11, 2011

These last couple of weeks I’ve been writing about my uncle’s amazing life story into 3 much too short posts.  If you missed the other segments, you can go read Love During War and Digging out of Poverty  first.

As my uncle dug himself out of poverty, he also did something very charitable.  He ended up sponsoring his youngest brother and my mother to come to America.  My other uncle was able to come over here when he was 14, but my mother had to wait 20 years before she was granted a visa and her first steps on American soil didn’t happen until she was 36 years old.   Apparently, young men were more desirable to recruit, especially with the Korean War just over and Vietnam right around the corner.   My other uncle ended up enlisting in the service and was never the same after that.   He had a falling out with the rest of the family and we didn’t see him much.

Slavery and Lack of Empathy

I’d love to say that my uncle was the perfect dad to his 2 children but he really was not.    Can you imagine being in the middle of some teen crisis and trying to confide in someone who spent those years of his life in slavery?  He just couldn’t relate to normal teen problems.   He did all the things his parents didn’t do for him.  His children were never hungry, they were never cold, and they never had to get a job in high school or college.   Trivial things like someone’s social standing in school or their desire to get a pet or do hobbies was so irrelevant to him.

I don’t know if it’s true, but my female cousin said that he always treated me much more like an equal than he did with her.  He was very traditional and he thought that a girl’s job was to find a husband and make babies.   It’s strange, but I personally never got that vibe from him.  Maybe it’s because I was all my mom had and I had to be the boy and the girl in the family, so it was expected that I not only get married, but I also fix my mom’s house and earn money to help her.

My parents never exchanged presents during any of the holidays or celebrated birthdays.  It wasn’t until my cousin got older that she would go out of her way to get me a present and sometimes a cake.  She also took me to movies and to the beach.  Again, like my uncle, my family didn’t believe in leisure activities that didn’t result in food production.  Those little excursions made all the difference in the world.    Even though my uncle was a tightwad, when I was growing up, I always saw my cousins as having so much more than I ever did.  They were 12 +19 years older than me, but I still saw them getting a brand new car when they got their license.  They had video games and nicer clothes than I did.  They had nicer furniture, a bigger apartment and a mom who was home all the time.  They also weren’t alcoholics.  They even got to go to camps and get to go to places like the girls and boys club. To me, their childhood seemed ideal.   When it was time to go to college, there was money set aside to pay for it.

My uncle is tough

I thought it would be appropriate to digress a bit and tell you one of my favorite stories about how tough my uncle really is.  Yes, he survived 5 years in a nazi slave camp and yes he was a roofer which is tough work, but he remained a tough old man deep into his 70s.  Once he retired, he fished a lot.  One day, he was deep in the woods fishing a stream with his gaiters on.   Somehow he slipped on a rock and tore the ACL in his knee.  He was all alone and this was before the days of the cell phone (not that he would have one anyway).   This brute of a man, hiked out of the woods, drove back home in his V8 manual transmission pickup truck, and hiked up 3 flights of stairs before he called his son and asked to go to the doctor’s.  He really was that tough.

Was Life too Good for the Kids?

Whenever someone survives such a traumatic event like the war or the Holocaust and then has children, there are very high expectations for those kids.  The parents believe that they survived because their children were meant for greatness.  I guess it’s a pretty tough spot to be in.   My uncle believed that my older male cousin would go on to be a doctor or lawyer.   He gave him every leg up that he could have.  My cousin didn’t have to work in high school or college.  Then partway through his schooling when my cousin got married, my uncle actually gave him 6 rental properties to manage and live in.   Imagine being given free housing and the equivalent of $40K/year (today’s $s) of  monthly income to cover all your expenses when you’re in your early 20s?

Well, it took this cousin about a decade to get his community college degree after some issues with drugs and trying to find himself.  He never did become a doctor or lawyer.  My uncle was hoping that he’d at least become a dentist but that didn’t materialize either.   Eventually, he did get a job as a car salesman and one by one the apartments fell empty.  Fast forward 20 years and the apartments had lost at least $200,000 of rental income and were in complete disrepair.   He sold the properties and moved into an expensive and prestigious suburb of the city we lived in.  His mom gave him some additional money to help fund this purchase (behind the back of my uncle).   My cousin always thought very highly of himself even though everything he’s ever had was given to him.  The first time he gave us the tour of his home, he made us walk the property line to show us how much land he had and he also pointed out the prestigious professions of his neighbors.  I’m 100% sure I’ve logged more hours in the working world than he has and I’m almost 20 years his junior.

My other female cousin fared a little better. She was always an A student and got into a very good school.  She only went there a year before she quit though.  She wasn’t sure she knew what she wanted to do with her life either.  She went back to school 2 more times.  Once to be a travel agent and the second time to be a computer programmer.   You see, when you don’t know anyone in the white collar world, you don’t have any role models. It’s hard to imagine what jobs will be like without mentors.     Although I came from a similar background, I got lucky because one of my teachers saw my potential and sponsored me to go to a women in engineering week long camp.  I was also dating an engineering student at the time. I actually could imagine what it’d be like in that profession as a result.  Thank you Mrs. 3M speaker who told me all about the chemistry that goes into the glue of the back of a sticky note.

Anyway, with both of my cousins, they did not like to work, but also had this narcissistic desire to get more and more and more.   No matter how much they seemed to have, something was always missing in their lives.  It most often manifested itself as the need for more money to buy either stuff or experiences.  My mom and uncle are both very hard working and simple people.  To this day, I don’t know how I got lucky and ended up being the hard working one of the family.   With all the things going against me with my loser alcoholic dad and the crazy sheltered existence I had, I should have been the screwed up one.   I still scratch my head and wonder what could have been done differently to the upbringing of my cousins to allow them to be happy with what they have.  Part of me definitely thinks that they never really got to understand how hard it is to earn money. They always had the bank of mom and dad to fall back on whenever they needed something.

Illness Strikes

In her late 70’s, my aunt had a stroke.  It was a tough blow for the whole family.  She was always the one who brought the family together. She made big holiday meals and always had something cooked from scratch.   She was one of these people who would fight you if you tried to kiss or hug her.   I’m trying to remember a time when I didn’t see her with an apron on in the kitchen.  None of us were ready to lose her.   She did survive the night and then another 8 years after.  The last 3 years though she was bedbound. It was really sad to see her deteriorate from such a vibrant, independent and active woman.

My uncle took care of her all up until the last 2 years of her life.   He also had prostate cancer and about 3 years into it, he was given 3 months to live.   That tough old bastard fought and lasted another 5 years.  I think he fought for many reasons.  He wanted to outlive his wife so she had someone to care for him.  He also did not believe in god, so he believed that once you’re dead, that’s it.  After enduring the evil that he has in his life, he no longer believed in a god that would allow such things to happen.

Towards the end, he allowed my male cousin to help.  He gave him power of attorney over his assets. The first thing my cousin did was put my aunt in a nursing home.  It was at this point that she shortly lost her ability to walk.  They stopped taking her out of bed and poof, now she was bed bound.   Very little time elapsed before the temptation to abuse his power of attorney was too strong to resist.   My uncle was suspicious because his son was going through his paperwork while he thought his dad was sleeping.  Then he found out the unthinkable. His son had gone from bank to bank and emptied every account he could get his filthy hands on.

During the last days of his life and with the help of his daughter, my uncle hired a lawyer to try to get his money back from his son so that there was something left to take care of his wife with.   My male cousin was outraged.  He called elder services and accused my female cousin of elder abuse for taking him out of bed.  He also claimed dementia and his dad had lost his mind for suing him.    He couldn’t believe his son could do these things to him. He thought that at 50, he had finally changed and grown up, especially after all the money and houses he’d given him over the years.  I’m talking hundreds of thousands of dollars and that was just the obvious stuff. It was sad.

I remember my uncle wanted to give my newborn son some money as a present and he was happy he found a $20 bill stashed in his bedroom that he could give him.  He confided in me that he felt so violated that he didn’t have control over his money anymore after all those decades of scrimping and saving. It was all for nothing.  This broke my uncle’s heart and shortly after he gave up the will to live.  The physical pain he could endure, but piling the mental heartache on top of it was just too much to bear.  My mom said my uncle told her he thought his son had given him a bowl of soup with poison in it.  I think he did ultimately kill his father but it was with a broken heart and not with poison.

About 9 months before this happened, I had moved my mom to town with me.  I wanted her to be closer to my new family and I also knew that my uncle was no longer able to take her grocery shopping and visit her.  We lived 2 hours away, but during those last 6 months despite having and infant, we turned our lives upside down so we could be there twice a week.  We filled the fridge with home made food during every visit so that my uncle wouldn’t have to live off  of meals on wheels.  My mother was sleeping on the couch by his side on the night he died.   His daughter was also there in the end. She lived in one of the apartments and continued to take care  of my aunt for 2 years after.  It was a sad and very tough ending.

During the funeral, my mom and I cried our guts out.  We cried for the terrible life that my uncle had to live. We cried for the misfortune of having such a  wretched son who was running around shaking hands with everyone accepting condolences like nothing happened.  We cried that his son didn’t even have the decency to buy him flowers.  For all the good in the world, this guy got very little of it and we were sad for him.  Last but not least, we cried because he was gone and we loved him.

The Aftermath

My female cousin has had it pretty rough since that time.  She was forced to care for her mom alone while battling her brother for the money he stole.  She got burnt out and was a little bitter that our weekly food runs and visits got further and further apart.   My mom and aunt never got along, so I wasn’t going to force her to do any more of it, so our visits became more infrequent.  Plus, we were burnt out from all the driving and cooking too.

I no longer speak to my male cousin.  I never particularly liked him but I tolerated him because he was family.  After he did the unthinkable at my uncle’s death bed, I decided that was the last time I will ever see or speak to him.   Now that I have a family of my own, how could I risk having this kind of person in our lives who’s capable of anything?   He blames his sister for turning me against him.   He tried making peace at my aunt’s funeral again by complimenting us to death. It was embarrassing and hopefully the only other public place I will have to encounter him at.   I suppose in his mind he doesn’t understand why we would be mad at him as he didn’t steal directly from me.  Nevertheless, the holidays are a lot more fun without him in the mix trying to run the show.

 The Lessons

You know, I really struggle with this one…what did I learn from all this?   Well my female cousin thinks that you can never trust anyone, not even your own flesh and blood.  That’s sad.

Here’s what I think I got out of it:

  • Choices and Options are Critical – As I think back to how my cousin could have done such a thing, I think it was because he was desperate.  He was like a trapped animal with no way out.  If you feel trapped by your situation, you become dangerous.  This guy has never taken care of himself financially for over 50 years and suddenly his income was about to disappear.  To him, his choice was to be without money until my aunt died or steal it.   It never occurred to him that he and his wife could get jobs again and pay their own way in life.   After all, jobs are for toadies and suckers.   No matter what the situation, you must always find options, even if they are not the perfect ones and even if they are painful and require sacrifice.  Options lead to freedom of choice and keep you from making bad choices and taking desperate actions.
  • Allow Your Children Independence – At some point, earlier rather than later, you have to allow your children to stand on their own two feet.   I’m convinced that if my mom had more money, she would have done the exact same thing for me.  She’s that giving.    I’m not really sure how to nurture independence.  Ive always felt that burning desire to take care of myself and not have to depend on others.  My mom even said that one of my first phrases was “I want to do it myself.”   One thing  you can do is cut the purse strings and let your kids figure out how to take care of themselves.   I know with my friends, it was also helpful when their parents set the expectation of when they’d be cut off.  (ie, I will pay $X for college but then you are on your own).   I know I will find this very difficult to do myself, but I just have to remember what happ’ened with my cousin as motivation.
  • Understand that spending time with family is a choice not a life sentence – If a family member is poisoning your life, remember that you don’t actually have to allow them to be part of yours.   I always felt a sense of responsibility to see and spend time with family members even though one of them I could not stand.   How silly that I didn’t see that this was optional sooner.
  • Make sure you have a support network outside your immediate family – My aunt and uncle never invited non relatives over the house and my whacked out  cousin didn’t even allow someone who I was engaged to to come over for holiday dinner so I skipped it.   If it weren’t for me and my mom, my uncle would only have his 2 kids to rely on and when 1 is evil, that seems hardly enough.   He did nurture and maintain his relationship with my mother and in the end, she was the one who was there for him on his last days.
  • Think about what you’d regret if your loved one was gone and fix it – My female cousin has a lot of regrets. She didn’t have the best relationship with her dad.  She thought it was really strange and was offended that my mom and I didn’t want to visit my uncle’s grave after  he died.  We thought it was strange that she was more comfortable talking to his headstone than  talking to him while he was alive.  I have no regrets at how I spent my time with him.  I gave everything I could. However, it made me realize that I should treat my own mom better.   So now, I try not to yell at her when she calls me the 20th time in a day. I try to make a date to visit her instead. I try not to break dates as often as I used to and I am glad she lives close by.  If she died tomorrow, I would be okay with what our last years were like together even though I’d think it came much too soon.
  • Don’t Forget to Give Yourself To Others – Aside from his immediate family, my uncle never gave anything to anyone.  As far as he was concerned the only person that could take care of him was him.  He never gave to charity, he never gave his time to help a neighbor fix something for free.   He didn’t even give to the  Red Cross who all those years ago helped him get resettled after the war.   I believe in the Karmic aspect of giving.  Whenever I give freely to someone, I always see something good come back my way shortly after.   Who knows, maybe his life would have had more in it if he gave more of himself to others.  Now, we’ll never know.

That’s the end of this story. I’m not sure what people will get out of it, but if you do get touched by the story, please comment below.

{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Nicole August 11, 2011 at 7:59 AM
Crystal August 11, 2011 at 8:54 AM

That is just tough. That story made me all teary eyed. It was like the Nazi camp kept ahold of your uncle throughout his whole life. There just never seemed to be light at the end of his tunnel. That’s the saddest thing ever. I hope I never meet your male cousin…I don’t know how someone can be that cruel to anyone…

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Sandy L August 11, 2011 at 6:56 PM

Crystal – that is an interesting analogy. My uncle did have many years of happy fishing, gardening, and hanging out at my mom’s house after he retired. He ate over her house 2-3 times a week and gossiped with her like that for like 20 years. Those years were relatively drama free.

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Nansuelee August 11, 2011 at 10:34 AM

Some very interesting thoughts. We all need to remember how our actions affect those around us. My folks did not have a lot of money to give but they were generous with their time. I think that was a great lesson for me.

I too have family members that just rub me the wrong way and a few years ago I decided for my sanity I would not participate in the insanity of their lives. I can get through a family event with them but I do not subject myself to them on a regular basis and I am good with that.

Thank you for sharing the story. It is touching and an insight to what happened to the folks that had to endure the tragedy of the war. We all need to remember that although there may not be physical wounds, the wounds of the heart and mind run deep.

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Sandy L August 11, 2011 at 6:52 PM

Nansuelee – for me writing helps sort out all these thoughts. Life is hard enough without someone else’s added drama.

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Acorn August 11, 2011 at 11:29 AM

Such a poignant post, it made me teary eyed.
I wonder what makes some people yearn for self sufficiency while others seem to have a sense of entitlement. Is there a way to cultivate self sufficiency? It feels good to be self sufficient so maybe once tasted the idea sticks.
It is interesting how some children grow up in affluent families and remain grounded and responsible, while others turn out entitled like your cousin. Still, I’ve noticed that it seems to be human nature to avoid hard work if you can. If you look at popular culture and the glorification of privileged kids (Paris Hilton, Kardashians, etc.) it is noticeable how few of them go on to do anything substantive. I keep saying I want to see more children born into wealth that go on to become doctors or even complete higher education.
It seems like kids need something to push up against, some kind of challenge. It is human nature to struggle – it is what we are designed to do. Life is supposed to be difficult and when things are too easy it seems like we lose some essential “human-ness”.
Thank you for sharing your uncle’s story.

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Sandy L August 11, 2011 at 6:49 PM

Acorn – I got teary eyed writing it too. You make some great points about people avoiding hard work. It certainly is harder to keep up the pace as we age. A little struggle is surely good for one’s constitution.

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Ella August 11, 2011 at 4:25 PM

Thanks for sharing his story. For all the faults your uncle had, I don’t think he deserved a son who would do that to him. Even if your uncle never gave to charity, he did give a lot to his son and I am appalled that someone would actually try to cheat their dying father. I hope your uncle is in a better place now!

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Sandy L August 11, 2011 at 6:47 PM

Ella – I know. In a sense he cheated everyone…his dying father, his bedridden mother and also his sister. He had cashed some accounts that were earmarked for her. But he’s resting in peace now and we will always have the memories of his life to comfort us.

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Everyday Tips August 11, 2011 at 5:18 PM

I think that as parents, we try to make sure we don’t repeat the same mistakes we feel our parents did to us. (Or in your uncle’s case, the crappy world did to him.) The poor guy so wanted his kids to have every opportunity, and his perception of the world was so skewed by what he saw during his crucial teen years that he probably didn’t have a good baseline to start with.

I want to smack your male cousin in the head. As a matter of fact, I want to go out of my way to be nice to him, and then slash his tires. I am sure that makes me sound awful, but what a soul-less person.

I hope your uncle was able to find at least a little peace before he died. I don’t know how he could have, but I sure hope he did.

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Sandy L August 11, 2011 at 6:45 PM

Everyday Tips – he wasn’t alone during those last dark days. He had the rest of his family all around him. Also, my 9 month old son brought him lots of joy. He never got to have any grandchildren of his own, so it was nice to finally have some young blood in the family again.

I’m sure my cousin will go through some really hard times before all is said and done. Even with all the money he got, it’s still not enough to last him the rest of his life and I’m sure poverty is a lot harder to deal with when you are older than in your early years.

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zazen August 11, 2011 at 8:17 PM

Sandy, I’ve been reading your blog for awhile and commenting for the first time today.

My perspective: my mother emigrated to the United States from Czechoslovakia, and like Babci, she was sponsored by an uncle. Interesting that uncles have that role in sponsoring a visa.

Reading at the beginning of your post about lack of empathy — your great-uncle spent his formative years in a Nazi slave camp and as a result couldn’t relate to teenage angst and the drama of middle and high school — that struck a chord with me.

My mother grew up on a farm in a rural area. When she was in the age range of 10-17 she was involved in farm life and farm tasks. There was no school or time for anything other than farm tasks. When I was in middle and high school dealing with cliques and teenage angst and all the social drama, I would come home from school upset and looking for empathy and some advice about what to do. I never got that from her. I never got that empathy from her because she hadn’t lived through the social drama of middle and high school and I don’t think she knew what to do. When I was a teenager that wasn’t OK with me and it made me very angry. I was angry that we didn’t have a shared life experience and that she couldn’t help me. With the help of therapy and a support group, I’m still working through that anger 20+ years later. The support I got from my mother was making sure there was food on the table and clothes cleaned and a tidy house because that is all she knew.

I’m grateful for the physical support I received from my parents (my father is a native-born American). What I didn’t get growing up was the emotional connection that comes from shared life experiences. That’s where the anger comes from, not having emotional support at an important developmental stage in life. I love my mother and am grateful for my life, and working through a lot of anger. My hope for my life is that I can find a way to connect with my mother from a place of compassion and not anger.

My mother is the only one in her 6 child family that emigrated to the United States. Her parents, siblings, nieces, nephews (my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins) are all in Europe. Growing up I didn’t know any of my extended family on my mother’s side. My father is an only child. There was no extended family support network to help me. That’s really hard when you are a struggling kid dealing with teenage angst and social drama. Having to build a support network from scratch when your blood relatives are not around is a challenge. Would love to see posts on that topic.

That’s my two cents. Thanks for listening. My hope in writing this is that I can give the kid perspective of what it is like to be raised by a parent without similar life experiences and how difficult emotions are a by-product. What we do with those emotions is up to us and each person handles those emotions differently.

Thank you for your efforts in this blog!

All best and namaste.

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Sandy L August 12, 2011 at 5:57 AM

Zazen – thank you for commenting. Yes, my mom was very similar where kids were expected to work on the farm and do little else. I totally understand where you are coming from. In fact, despite our great relationship now, my mother and I fought like cats and dogs for years. I couldn’t wait to move out. It’s just recently having realized all that she’s sacrificed for me that I’ve softened. I will think about what I did specifically. Not all of it was good. I had girlfriends I confided in, but also started dating very young to replace that emotional connection that I didn’t have with my parents.

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Linda August 11, 2011 at 8:47 PM

A sad ending and a very powerful story. Like you, I believe in karmic forces so I’m sure bad cousin will meet with a lot of grief. Poor uncle for not knowing how to connect to his kids; poor bad cousin for not seeing how much opportunity he had been given, and that he was loved in the only way his father was capable.

What makes people turn out the way they do? I wish I knew. I sometimes ponder why my sister and I are accomplished professional women when my cousins (father’s brother’s children) are stuck in low paying jobs. My parents were/are working class, while my uncle had a professional job. But not one of his children earned a Bachelor’s degree or ended up in a professional career.

Family dynamics can be quite odd. My own father took money from my college savings bank account (funded by my maternal grandfather’s yearly bonds at Christmas) when I was 14 for a wacky investment scheme with the promise to pay it back with interest by the time I was ready for college. He never paid it all back, much less gave me the 8% interest I lost over the years. Furthermore he cleared out an account holding $10K due to my mother’s uncle that was borrowed to pay off their mortgage. Why did he do this? I don’t know. Yes, there was a nasty separation and divorce going on, but why screw your own wife of 25 years and your own child?

Still, I do keep in touch with my dad. It took me many years to overcome the extreme anger, and I still harbor some. (Can you tell?) But our time in this life is all we have. I want to make the most of it and that includes forgiving my parents for their mistakes.

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Sandy L August 14, 2011 at 6:33 AM

Linda – I don’t know why two people from the same family end up so different. In the nature vs nurture debate, I’m a big fan of nature. I’m convinced some people are just born with really negative traits that prevent them from living up to their potential. (laziness being one of my least favorite).

My dad took my gold jewelry back to poland with him. It’s the only thing I had of value growing up and he took it. I received it from my godparents at my christening. I can relate. I’m sorry yours took even more from you. The bitterness for mine him is gone. All that is left is pity.

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Acorn August 12, 2011 at 5:48 AM

You know, I don’t think your uncle lacked empathy, I just think he possessed perspective. Having experienced such difficult times he was truly able to prioritize and appreciate what life is about. It is something most of us have lost. We take teen angst so seriously when there are starving children in Somalia, we worry about cleavage wrinkles (see the NYT article) when there are neighbors who have lost their jobs. Your uncle was lucky enough to know what really mattered. I hope his son can someday learn the same truth.

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Sandy L August 12, 2011 at 6:05 AM

Acorn – true, perspective is a big part of it. His children didn’t have any and certainly I also feel similarly to him that some people don’t know how good they have it and should stop complaining. But a psychology friend of mine said that to them, the pain is very real and very intense, even if it is unfounded. I try to remember that when someone has very little to worry about in life but still feels anger or sadness about something. I found that traveling to developing countries helped me realize just how much better we have it than most of the rest of the world. Although my uncle never wanted to step foot in Poland again, maybe he should have paid for his children to see it back in the 80’s when most people still didn’t have indoor plumbing and the streets were filled with horses and not cars.

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Invest It Wisely September 10, 2011 at 8:15 PM

Good way of looking at it. Even if unfounded, the emotions are still real. I can definitely say that my own experiences and trips have definitely helped me out a lot here.

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Paula @ AffordAnything.org August 12, 2011 at 8:58 AM

What a tragic story. I’m disgusted by your male cousin, the one who stole your uncle’s money. I think it’s so sad that your uncle trusted him enough to give him power of attorney — but I also come from a culture where you tend to think highly of the people within your own family, especially the men, regardless of their track record. The heartbreak that comes from having your trust betrayed, to the point to which you have to hire a lawyer against your own family and you suspect your own family of poisoning you, is saddest of all.

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Sandy L August 14, 2011 at 6:54 AM

Paula – yes, males definitely held a higher ranking in the family and that I think clouded my uncle’s judgment a bit.

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Paula @ AffordAnything.org August 12, 2011 at 9:04 AM

Oh yeah, also – like Zazen commented — I can also relate to having parents who can’t empathize with the teen angst and drama of high school and therefore feel disconnected. In fact, my parents took it one step further — they caused most of my anger in high school by blocking me from enjoying “normal” teen experiences. I wasn’t allowed to go to football games, to talk to boys on the phone (obviously, no dating boys, but also I couldn’t have male FRIENDS), or to do a myraid of other normal teen things. When my high school sponsored a 5K Walk/Run to raise money for AIDS, I wasn’t allowed to go, since my parents didn’t walk me involved in a charity that — in their worldview — helped people with “loose morals.” I’m 27 now, and I’m still mad about all the “normal” teen stuff — prom, football games, late-night phone calls — that I never got to fully experience.

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Little House August 12, 2011 at 3:10 PM

What a tragic end to a hard life. I definitely agree with cutting the purse strings, or what the Millionaire Next Door book calls “economic outpatient care.” It really makes people financially dependent and useless in a sense. I understand why your uncle wanted to help his kids given his childhood, but there is a point where they have to provide for themselves.

It’s good that you can reflect on his life and interpret them into your own meaning to make your life happy and fulfilling.

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Sandy L August 15, 2011 at 4:05 AM

Little House – I find it a shame if something tragic happens and you can’t get a lesson out of it in the end. It’s good to try to learn from these types of experiences.

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Squirrelers August 13, 2011 at 12:57 AM

This series on your uncle’s life is surely one of the most compelling collections of posts on any personal finance blog that I’ve read. Also, I know you’ve mentioned your cousin before (and I’ve commented before), but people like him are very hard to understand.

Anyway, this was a very poignant story with much wisdom. Thanks for sharing.

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Sandy L August 15, 2011 at 4:06 AM

Squirreler – thank you for the complement. It certainly can be draining digging up these memories but people seem to enjoy reading them, so I’m glad I finally got around to posting this story..it took over a year, but I did post a small bit of it which is good.

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Cesar August 13, 2011 at 10:55 AM

Sandy,
Thank you for sharing your stories with us. I enjoy reading the stories because we all can relate with the joys of familyand life and the misery of selfishness and hate. This is a great way to honor your uncle’s memory. He is still teaching all of us that we must be strong and enjoy life but careful with our actions. I am ready for you to write a book.

Cesar

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Sandy L August 15, 2011 at 4:08 AM

Cesar – thanks. What should the book be called or be about?

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retirebyforty August 14, 2011 at 2:32 AM

Sorry to hear about your uncle’s last few years. Your male cousin will run out of money and then he’ll be in trouble again. He’ll get his due.

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Sandy L August 15, 2011 at 4:12 AM

Rb40 – yes, his golden years will not be so golden. He has no parents left to suck from and no children to take care of him when he gets older and the money won’t last forever. I’ve done the math and he’s got to be running low on funds pretty soon.

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Molly On Money August 14, 2011 at 11:00 AM

Beautiful, beautiful series. Keep writing- I know I’ve told you before but your stories make an amazing book.

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Sandy L August 15, 2011 at 4:13 AM

Molly – thank you. If I write a book, it would have to be funny though.

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101 Centavos August 21, 2011 at 8:27 AM

Some people are just no damn good. Your cousin remained a piece of shit no matter what your uncle did for him. My maternal grandmother passed in similar circumstances, with her own daughter and son-in-law stealing her jewelry to pay off their debts.
A sad ending for your uncle, but at least he got to enjoy some good times in retirement.

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Sandy L September 12, 2011 at 12:15 AM

101 – You’re right. It was not all bad. While I’ve been mushrooming with my mom this week I’ve thought of him often.

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Invest It Wisely September 10, 2011 at 8:11 PM

Hi Sandy,

This story did touch me personally. I’ve had it on the reader for a long time now because I wanted to really sit down and read it, and not just skim over it quickly while at work or something.

I would have liked to know a guy like your uncle… what a story! I feel really bad for him having a son like that after everything he went through in his life. I wonder if that’s the misfortune of loving your kid so much that the love turns them rotten… I don’t know. I think you really can’t give your kids too much because it leads to so much damage, even more than mistreating them.

I never knew my dad, and my mom couldn’t care less about what I’m doing, but that kind of pain has made me stronger. On the other hand I see a close friend who is losing it mentally and really has no value of money because her mom has showered her with hundreds of thousands of dollars since she was young. Her mom still loves her, and this girl has a family and a home to return to, but in some ways it seems even more damaging than what I had to go through.

Thanks for sharing your story; I’m grateful that you shared it with us.

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Sandy L September 12, 2011 at 12:18 AM

Invest it – Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I think that those of us who’ve had to go through rough times and persevered have gotten stronger. Those who’ve never been challenged lack perspective which can make little problems look huge and big advantages look meaningless. I am so afraid of spoiling my children. I really hope to learn from this lesson because it would be so easy to want to give them a leg up. I guess I have to set some limits on myself.

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Gavin September 19, 2011 at 9:56 PM

Thank you for the story. It was gut wrenching but full of substance.

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