There’s an empty space across the street where my neighbor’s Cadillac usually sits. Earlier today, I looked on through the window as a tow truck parked in front of it, pulled it onto the bed, and took it away.
My neighbor watched the whole thing from his front porch, too.
I can’t really explain what happened over there, or why. It’s possible that someone no longer has a car and some bank is one car richer, but who knows.
That’s just what happened to my family once.
My dad used to have a silver Toyota Highlander. A 2002 or 2003– something of that era. He bought it after winning a lawsuit over a faulty ladder and an ankle injury that made it so that he never walked right again. I had tried to talk him out of an SUV because I was a teenager with convictions on gas use and the definition of “need,” but my appeal didn’t really go anywhere.
Dad also had a habit of not paying his bills.
One morning, the Highlander wasn’t in the driveway anymore. They had hauled it off in the middle of the night. I can still picture the house illuminated by the tow truck lights. I can hear the heavy engine rattling in the dark air.
That afternoon, Dad had me drive him to the impound lot down south of town. We went in the ‘94 Camry that had so recently become mine. He paid $28,000 cash to get the Highlander back, which to my knowledge was pretty much the extent of the settlement money.
The way that money came and went around Dad was disorienting. Always enough to splurge on something appealing, but never unheard of to come home to find the internet disconnected and him screaming at a bill collector over the phone. The dark financial cloud was part of a bigger volatility that made life feel like it was being lived at the end of a yo-yo string.
I didn’t really see it that way, though. The frayed nerves and and looming crises were just the water I swam in.
These days, I wake up in the morning and tend to my routine: I practice yoga, I meditate, I write. When I’m finished, I do work that is meaningful to me. On the weekends, I sleep in a little and then drink coffee while I catch up on reading. I have a wife and two dogs and a house and a garden that I love very much, and they all love me back.
Life is stable. There is peace in the air.
The repo man is a ghost of the past.
all the the smooth sailing makes me squirm.
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Thanks, as always, for your honest narrative, Jonathan. I can relate to a childhood of financial volatility. My father didn’t believe in paying for utilities and my mom would send us kids out to beg the electrician not to turn off the power. And her shame when the credit card was declined and we had to slink down the escalator leaving our new school clothes behind. But there was always money for meals out, box seats for sporting events and lavish vacations. It's crazy-making for a kid. Congrats on piercing through the fog.
"all the the smooth sailing makes me squirm" -- wow, that's a powerful line. thanks for putting it out there