Every couple has a tradition. That tradition might be a weekly “date” while others might watch Predator on Valentine’s Day. Hubby and I have the best tradition. Once a year he flies interstate for a week for work, and pretty much every time he does, something falls over at the house or in our lives, and I have to deal with it all.
It started thirteen years ago, when I hadn’t quite received my permanent residency, so I couldn’t work or drive in the country. The house we were renting had a major electrical issue – the whole system went down due to overload. After electricians came to the house to check it out, they announced it was unsafe to live there until they upgraded the whole system. I stayed with a friend for two nights until they sorted it out and learned how unreliable public transport was at the time.
Since then, I’ve had to deal with leaking hot water heaters, sewage blockages, contracting Ross River Virus (a mosquito-borne virus that causes fatigue and poly-arthritis), dealing with severely cut paws of a puppy, and the list goes on.
This year has been no different. In fact, this year has been the worst one yet. It started with my car not starting, continued with my dog somehow getting into the fully-fenced spa. I fixed it so he couldn’t again (I thought) and worked from home a day to make sure he didn’t try it again. Took the car to the mechanic. The battery was dying and needed replacing which also needed to be ordered, so I was given a loan car for the day. Only thing was that very same day, the dogs escaped the backyard and were found some 7km away (first time that’s ever happened). Luckily, my stepson was able to pick them up and bring them home. When I finally did get home with the loan car, I discovered that one of the two dogs had blistered and fully ripped off her paw pads. I couldn’t take her to the vet in the loan car but she was in agony. So I had to organize a vet to do a home visit, which cost an extra $150 on top of anesthesia and surgery. By the time hubby flew home, though, all these things were fixed. My dog was healing, the car was driving fine, and the other dog hadn’t jumped on the spa again. The only thing was the bank account was $1500 lighter, and he came home to a wife with a few more gray hairs and chaos in her eyes.
Ten years ago, we could only afford one pet, a cat. Money was tight then, and anything extra on the normal cost of living was uncomfortable.
Fifteen years ago, before I moved to Australia and felt this level of financial freedom, the lesser of all these things – the car battery – would have wrecked me. My options would have been to leave the car until I could save the money to replace the battery or pawn something moderately valuable for that $300 price tag.
18 years ago, when the car was the only home my family really had, a dead battery would have been catastrophic. Likely the car would have been impounded, because $300 was more than we could make in a week and the city wouldn’t let a car sit on the side of the road permanently. Friends of friends were willing to let us stay with them as long as we could drive there, but without a car, that would have been impossible. We could barely afford the car and the gas it cost to keep it running as it was, but without the car and friends of friends letting us stay with them, we’d have never survived the few months we were effectively homeless.
It’s hard to believe that so much can change in such a short period of time. But those moments eighteen years ago, when we were one catastrophe away from living on the streets were some of the worst of my life, but it also taught me a valuable lesson: Money matters, no matter how much you wish it didn’t, but treating people with kindness costs nothing.
That’s why, to this day, I make excuses for bad behavior, foul tempers, or forgetfulness, because you just never know if the person you’re talking to/about is one step away from ruin.