Everything I Thought When My Father-In-Law Moved In

Photo credit: Mark Bonica, CC BY 2.0.

Initial reactions:

  • How nice to see him! Look how cute he looks with his first grandbaby.
  • You kicked the wake-and-bake pot habit in honor of baby? Awesome!
  • I’m still on painkillers from birthing the baby last week. I’m not dinner captain today.

Husband receives a rare phone call from his cousin. He tells me privately that Dad was kicked out of his living situation prior to his visit.

  • Why didn’t he tell us?
  • What’s he going to do?
  • He hasn’t had a job in a more than a decade. He’s 63, poor, not in great health, no education, and now homeless.
  • What are we going to do? After five years of waiting, we just had a baby. Baby is our priority.
  • Yeah, we are starting to finally get ahead but that was going to go to our retirement and baby.
  • But we love him.
  • But what does that mean our responsibilities are?
  • Sure we have a guest room. We set it up for all the baby visitors.
  • We don’t want him to live with us. He might not leave. It took Grandma 15 years to get him out of her house.
  • I’m glad my husband and I are on the same page.
  • What are we going to do?

Husband talks to Dad about getting kicked out. Dad didn’t want to tell us and ruin the visit. He’s thinking of moving locally and getting a job to supplement his Social Security check.

  • I guess he can stay here for a couple weeks. We do have that guest room.
  • Six weeks tops. Any longer is too long.  Just enough time for him to build a nest egg from a couple Social Security checks, sell his stuff, and find a part-time job and an apartment.
  • Can he find a part-time job? It’s been over a decade since he was last employed.  
  • This sucks.
  • Should we get him to sign a lease so he can’t potentially claim squatters’ rights?
  • He wouldn’t do that, would he?
  • Which is worse, deeply offending Dad by the connotations of asking him to sign a lease or going through the process of evicting him?
  • I guess we will risk it. No lease.
  • Maybe we can help him find a reduced income apartment.
  • Whoa, that was the most depressing four hours I’ve spent on the phone. Reduced rent is still around $800. Also there are zero units available. Also the waitlist is two years long. Also, what the hell, we live in a supposedly affordable city. Even mortgages can be way cheaper than that.
  • Shit.
  • This is eating up a lot of the day.

Dad goes back to his hometown to sell his stuff, pack his belongings, and return.

  • Welcome back, Dad, here’s your key.
  • Gulp.
  • Why yes dad, the baby was crying a lot last night. You are a keen observer.
  • Sure, we can help with your online applications.
  • Let me see your resume.
  • Let me help you build a resume.
  • You got an interview at Amazon? Fantastic!
  • Aren’t Amazon warehouses labor-intensive? And stressful?
  • Worried.
  • Will he pass the drug test? Quick Google search. Yeah, probably.
  • Holy cow, there are a lot of classes and worksheets he needs to complete on a computer before he can get this job.

Several weeks go by. Dad gets the job. He wears a button-down shirt to the interview and was overdressed. Turnover is high with lots of opportunities to pick up extra shifts. The job pays $10.50 an hour and he is scheduled for three five-hour shifts a week. The job brings his monthly income up to a bit under $2,000.

He’s pleased. Also, the drug test only tested for drugs that were used in the previous 72 hours.

  • Great. He’s happy. We’re happy. Out of the workforce for over ten years and he finds a job in three weeks. Cool.

The job starts and he likes it. He says he moves non-stop and the time flies by. He likes his coworkers, says they are really friendly. Our dog has started barking every time he walks in. The commotion wakes the baby.

  • Hey how’s the apartment search going?
  • Cool, he checked out a couple places. He just didn’t like them.

Several weeks go by.

  • Hey how’s the apartment search going?
  • He found a place he liked. Applied. Didn’t get it.
  • The dog keeps barking at him and waking the baby. It’s awful.

Husband tells me privately that he’s applied for grad school.

  • Flabbergasted. Why? Why now? How?

Husband says work will pay for most of it and he wants to stay competitive and make more money. He says he doesn’t want our baby to end up in our situation someday.

  • That’s sort of sweet.
  • Where is he going to find the time?
  • Oh right, me. I’m going to have to help shoulder other responsibilities while he does grad school.
  • This wasn’t how I imagined baby’s first year.
  • This is going to be a lot of work.

Several weeks go by.

  • Hey Dad, how’s the apartment search going?
  • Nobody is calling him back. Nothing is available. He’s been focusing on work.
  • We call several complexes near work in his price range and get a couple leads.
  • Dad comes back from work. Dog barks and wakes the baby. He’s excited about the leads.

Several weeks go by.

  • Good news! Dad found an apartment he likes in a 55-and-up senior living community.
  • Thank goodness. Lock it down.

He goes and flirts with the office manager while filling out a (paper) application. He’s accepted. He moves out of the guest room. Baby starts sleeping much better. We all do.

  • Thank goodness.
  • Nine weeks to get on your feet after over a decade of not working. Pretty amazing, Dad. 

Several weeks go by. Dad loves his apartment and loves living alone. Rent is $800. Lots of turnover in the community means lots of garage sales. Dad’s outfitting the place quickly. He traded in his truck for a more reliable car and registered with the local Veterans Affairs hospital. He’s already seen his new doctor three times. Two weeks ago Dad was promoted at work and overall the extra activity from work has really improved his arthritis, weight, and health.

  • Things are going pretty well right now. Hopefully it lasts.
  • Worried.

Anonymous lives in an affordable city with her family and dogs. In her free time she gardens and tries mastering Szechuan recipes. She still worries.

This story is part of The Billfold’s Parents Month series.

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