Monday, December 13, 2004

You Can't Get Blood from a Stone

Any time I ever post something so disgustingly positive as my previous entry, I would very much appreciate a reality check BEFORE Reality actually stops by the house to bite me on the ass.

I was feeling really stable on Friday afternoon and pretty positive about life in general. Husband came over to visit Duckie in the evening and even though it blew our routine, it didn’t really bother me. I figured out rather late in the game, after Husband had left, that the best thing to do would be to feed the hyper little girl, so I plopped her in the highchair and presented her with one of her favorite dishes -- spaghetti a la Parmesan. I like it too -- it heats up in less than a minute and takes no effort to put together. Not the most balanced of meals, but it does well for a snack. Sometimes she'll even eat the broccoli I sneak in (covered with cheese, of course.)

She was asleep in her high chair in five minutes. Just as I was about to clean her up and put her to bed, a very large, loud, obtrusive, bright truck came down the road towards the house. When it didn't turn left or right, but continued on into the driveway, I knew that my previous paranoia several weeks ago wasn't entirely misplaced -- it was simply premature.

Sheba was freaking out and for once I didn't try to hush her up, just closed the porch gate to keep her from going after the very large, loud, obtrusive and bright tow truck.

Duckie was still asleep, so I took the chance and went out to meet the truck.

"Can I help you?" I hollered over the bellowing of the engine.

"Yes, ma'am," the guy said. "I'm with Bank of America."

"Oh," I said, with what I thought was impressive calmness. "You're here to repossess the car."

"Yes, ma'am," he said. After verifying my name and the address of the house, he asked, "Where is the vehicle currently located?"

"I just sent you a payment!" I protested.

"Well, I'm sorry, ma'am, but the car is out for repossession."

"I don't have it," I said, feeling uncomfortably numb. "My husband has it, and I don't know where he is right now. Listen, what do I need to do to stop this from happening?"

"Well, I s'pose you could call the collections department..."

"It's Friday night at ten o'clock. Will they be open?" He said they would.

Duckie woke up at this point and started to cry -- startled, no doubt, by the barking of the dog outside, her mother's evident disturbance, and those invasive lights pouring in through the living room window. The full diaper didn't help, either, I'm sure.

"It's going to be a minute, I have to change the baby," I said.

Collections was still open (they're based in California), and I had the unpleasant experience of trying to explain the whole pathetic situation to a woman who lost her claim to humanity that night, as far as I'm concerned. I tried to explain that Husband and I are separated, it's a recent separation, and I didn't know where he was staying. He was driving the car and I was driving his vehicle because he drives more and needs a car with better gas mileage.

And towards the end of the conversation, she was actually yelling at me -- literally screaming, as if her pent-up rage at all the accounts she couldn't get current had finally found an acceptable target. "This is your debt -- you and only you are responsible for this, and you need to get that car in your possession right now, ma'am!"

"Excuse me," I said, trying to remain as calm as possible -- which, let me admit, wasn't very calm under the circumstances. "Please stop yelling at me. I understand how serious this is, I understand it all too well, and your screaming at me is not helping solve this problem. I just want to know what to do to call off the repossession."

"You need to pay $_____ tomorrow."

"Where can I pay it? I don't know that Bank of America has a collections agency anywhere around here."

"I'm in California, I don't know where there would be one. Are you anywhere near Charlotte?"

The rest of the conversation passed without much more useful information being exchanged. But at least she stopped screaming at me.

I couldn't reach Husband immediately. I left several messages and he called back a couple hours later -- his cell phone battery had died. He was evidently having a better evening than I was, and has gone through this before. His attitude, it sounded at the time, was pretty nonchalant. He was trying to comfort me in a way, I'm sure, but saying "Everything's going to be all right," is not terribly effective when you're dealing with a semi-hysterical mother.

I called my 401K management company the next day and started an application for a hardship withdrawal. I'll take a tax penalty, but it will get the car and the mortgage caught up (when it finally comes.) I can't seem to rush anything -- Vanguard won't fax or email me the hardship application (it's against Plan rules, said the sneering bastard I spoke to this morning after being on hold for twenty minutes) and Bank of America won't put a hold on the repossession notice until I give them $_______. So, while I can't do anything else to set this right today, at least I've tried everything I can, and I can get back to work once I post this blog.

I'm posting this because I promised complete transparency when I started -- and this is exactly the kind of thing I would have hid from everyone I knew, out of shame, out of heartbreak, and because I don't want to be a burden on anyone. But I won't hide anymore and while I'm sorry this disappoints some folks, at least we're square on how messed up things really are in AndiLand -- at least down the street where the checkbook lives.


I was talking to Buffy about some of this on Saturday evening and she was running me through some options -- doing the Buffy thing, making suggestions and being awfully sane about it. I heard her home phone ring, and I heard her say her sister-in-law's name. I recognized the note of intense, immediate concern. She said, "Andi, I gotta go." I said, "OK." And wondered if it was about Phyllis, Brett's mother, who's been pretty ill over the last few months.

Duckie and I had a nice bubble bath together (I don't give her bubble baths often, but we were both in need of some pampering) and I heard the phone ring -- knew it was Buffy from the ring tone. Not being in a place to be able to grab it, I figured I would check the message later. I had a pretty good idea of what it would be.

Duckie went down to sleep pretty quickly. I checked my messages and there it was, Buffy's voice, solemn and sad, saying that Brett's mother had passed away. I called her back immediately and said, "Can I do anything?" I knew it was a stupid question, but it's the sort of thing you have to ask, just in the hope that there actually is something you might be able to do to help alleviate the overwhelming feeling of loss when a parent dies.

And of course there are things I can do -- things that we, as a group, can do to help out the Satz-Weathington clan right now. But it's up to us to figure out how to do it. I wish there had been time for me to put my arms around Brett and squeeze him really really tight before he left for Miami, but there wasn't, so I'll have to do it the next time I see him.

Yeah, Brett can be terribly annoying when he channels Ishkabibble unasked, but the fact remains that he's an incredibly strong and steadfast person who has made life-altering changes to become a better person, for himself and for his family. And the changes haven't messed with his essential being -- the playfulness is still there, the incredible sense of humor, the intelligence, the love, warmth and forgiveness -- all still there, even though his vices are pretty much gone. He's a hell of an inspiration to me, and a great friend.

Phyllis, I know you're probably not reading this post -- I'm sure you have better things to do, like meeting God and dancing through heaven on newly-healed legs -- but I think you should know what a blessing your son is to me and to a lot of people here in the mountains. Thank you, and good luck to you on your journey to the next place -- wherever it might be.


Anonymous said...

These two things are a hell of a posting. WOW. wow.


Sam said...

i just want you to know how glad i am that you aren't hiding. it's so easy for us proud folks to forget that people can't read our minds and know what we want and need unless we make it clear. you'd think that heterosexual* women would have gotten that through their heads by now, wouldncha?
thank you also for your sweet words for phyllis and brett. she would be pleased.
BIG love,

*well, mostly. :)

EB said...

Commenting a little after-the-fact but this phrase struck me:

"I'm posting this because I promised complete transparency when I started -- and this is exactly the kind of thing I would have hid from everyone I knew, out of shame, out of heartbreak, and because I don't want to be a burden on anyone. But I won't hide anymore and while I'm sorry this disappoints some folks, at least we're square on how messed up things really are in AndiLand -- at least down the street where the checkbook lives."

Boy o boy: try this on for size- I have not paid my 2000 taxes and one of my student loans is in default. I am ameliorating both of these uh rather embarassing situations this quarter, but I gotta say damn it's not easy getting your financial shit together once you've messed it up.

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