The Ledger

Dearest Rachel –

I’ve mentioned this speech before, and I’m sure I’ll mention bits of it in future, but here it is as we first encountered it, for the benefit of those following us:

The reason it came to mind today was because (in preparation for Jan’s visit today) I was going through more of the papers stacked up on your side of the bedroom, and came across a box filled with… mostly old bank statements.

Keep your old love letters.

Throw away your old bank statements.

Mary Schmich, Chicago Tribune,  June 1, 1997

So how much less then, should we have been keeping bank statements from someone else – even if those someones were your parents?

I’m sorry, honey, but whatever their financial position was seven, ten, fifteen years ago, it really isn’t of any importance anymore. That money has either been spent, or it’s rolled over into our savings and investments.

Well… I guess it’s my, and Daniel’s, now.

You know, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the first person singular.

Amongst all the various bank documents, I also found documentation regarding the mortgage we took out from them; all the legal hoops jumped through, as well as years and years of those annual pages stating how much interest versus principal we’d paid back to them (so that we could include the former as a deduction on our taxes – appropriate given today, now that I think about it)

And deep within this box of papers, I discovered your mom’s ledger.

A fairly standard looking volume
Recording activity going back to 1995… quite a stretch
So many transactions, in such small handwriting. I’m almost jealous
So many records of the monthly checks we sent in here. She mentions in the upper left about the ‘only one lost,’ and that we sent a new one to cover it (while wondering if the lost one ever showed up – I don’t recall it even having been cashed, even to this day, for what it’s worth) In the upper right hand some mention is made of having lost another one of our payments but ultimately finding it in the waste bag. A little further on, she admits to being to old to drive to Middle Bass Island anymore, so this means this current year marks the tenth anniversary of their last visit.

It seems they were using our monthly mortgage payments as their ready cash for groceries and whatnot throughout the month. I think I recall you telling me about the difficulties they had in getting cash out of one trust or another, especially as their local banks would be bought out by bigger banks further away, and it grew harder and harder to get in touch with anyone who could do anything for them regarding setting up a cash flow from any of them – not that they wanted to liquidate any of their assets if they could help it.

Bill, in particular, found it amusing to have so many banks call them, offering to take the loan off of their hands and become the mortgager – all of which they politely refused. As did we whenever someone called us offering to re-finance our mortgage. In fact, I believe when you explained our situation to one of these callers, not only did they back down, they actually said something to the effect of “Wow, could I talk to your folks about a loan?”

It was funny enough, but no, not possible.

Oddly, much further on in the book, on the upper left, she notes that she hadn’t been keeping up with keeping track of our payments (“Dumb me!” she even says. Imagine if she went back a few pages to see the notes pictured above) Looks like she offered to forgive the April mortgage payment as a birthday present in 2013 – which, even then, was as good a present as I could ask from them.
This looks like where she left off, but the page above includes later dates, so it’s hard to figure out.

I’m not about to fault her for all the notes – after all, I’ve been keeping track of our expenses since 2006 (albeit on an Excel file, which I consider to be so much easier. But your parents weren’t much for computers, and it’s probably just as well, for reasons we’ll probably discuss some other time). I might take issue with the fact that she moved around in this book regarding activity, which is what led her to that confusion about whether she’d recorded the payments we’d made to her.

At any rate, it’s amusing to note that how often she would put “on time!” on our payments, as if that was somehow remarkable. But apparently that was not always her experience with loans she had made to family – or that they’d be paid at all. I think you mentioned a cousin who was left out of the bequests because she had received a loan for one major expense or another (I forget if it was a car or tuition or what, exactly) and, having never received it back, your folks determined that she’d gotten what they would otherwise have bequeathed her. So… yeah.

But again, your folks didn’t seem to have a lot of faith in us. So, when we managed to exceed expectations, they were apparently pleased about it.

So pleased, in fact, that by 2014, when they (or at least she) determined that they a.) had enough running money to get by, and b.) she was starting to lose her ability to keep track of these sorts of things, they basically forgave the remainder of the loan. We made the last payment on the house in March of that year, and have been living payment-free ever since.

All because we proved we could be trusted with such a loan, much to their surprise. It’s always nice when you perform better than your in-laws expect you to – as long as they weren’t counting on you to fail.

Of course, it was supposed to be our house for so much longer.

I’ll do my best to take care of it from now on, honey. Wish me luck.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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