In 1968 we moved from Jacksonville, Florida to Birmingham, Alabama. My parents were uncertain about how long we would be gone and so they kept and rented out our house on Harrison Avenue. The house was let (don’t you love old English) to a young couple who were friends of one of our neighbors. They were good tenants. The husband was a butcher and during the first year he severely cut his hand requiring weeks without work. Never-the-less, by the end of that year they offered to purchase the house.
Mom and Dad agreed to sell for $8,500. Now I was not yet 16 years old but I was aware the house was valued at closer to $12,000. “We” had paid $5,700 for it in 1957. When I approached Dad with my financial acumen his response was to the point, “Son, I would rather someone take advantage of me than for me to take advantage of someone. I think it is a fair price and they need the help more than I do.”
As every child knows, if you don’t get the right answer from Dad, go to Mom. This was my inheritance or college tuition we were talking about. “Son, they’re a young couple. He’s been injured and laid-off from work. It just wouldn’t be right to ask more money than they can afford to pay. We’re not going to lose money on the deal. God will take care of us if we help take care of others.”
The agreement was to sign all the papers when my parents came down on vacation a few weeks later. The week before the trip the couple split up and moved out. With less than a sanctified heart, I privately thanked God for divorce. I was 15 years old. What do you expect? Somebody’s got to look out for foolish aging parents. After all, they were in their late thirties and early forties, facing retirement and the nursing home.
My parents were full of compassion. They were frugal but never stingy. They “lent” thousands of dollars to family members and others knowing they probably would never get it back. (I say “they” because Dad was fully aware of most of it. OK, some of it.) My guess is that 10 cent of every dollar was returned. I never heard them complain about it, except when one of my cousins got a boob job instead of repaying her debt. Even in heaven I suspect my mother wants her money back; it’s the principle of the thing, don’t you know.
May 19, 2010