My sister-in-law has a challenging life, and it’s not completely her fault. Yes, there have been some poor choices, but who has not made mistakes? She is limited in the types of work she can do and makes very little money as a cashier at Walmart. Still, M is rightfully quite proud of her efforts. For the most part she is financially self-sufficient. If she did not provide financial assistance to her grown son and his family she would be so much better off. But that’s another story for another day.
We help her in a focused, limited way. Last year we purchased my son’s former car for her, a nice little older civic that was in terrific shape and well maintained. It was the nicest car she has ever own and far more reliable than the POS she has been driving and pouring money into to keep road worthy. Her cell phone is also on our family plan, which is the problem du jour.
The phone is several years old and does need to be replaced, and honestly, I am fine with paying the $40 activation fee. However, M and I have had a long discussion tonight about the smart versus dumb phones. M would love for his sister to have more access to the internet and has been trying to figure out a way to give her one of our former laptops for her use. My resistance to this idea has been based on wifi availability, in that there is no public wifi within her apartment complex and we (read: me) would have to maintain the anti-virus and the software, or we would have to pay for a technician to do the work. A refurbished smart phone seems like an excellent compromise to introducing her to the joys of the internet and finding/using free wifi. Again, we have a shared data plan for the two of us and my son, who is still on our plan and pays a modest fee to maintain the status quo. M and I have decided to help her acquire an iPhone on our plan, but we will turn off the data to it.
Our concern is not my sister-in-law, but that her son has no problem taking advantage of or exploiting any situation, assistance, or small pleasure his mother may have. Before we gave her the car we impressed upon that her son was never to drive it. After several drunk driving accidents, convictions, and losing his drivers license, our concern has exceptionally good basis. In the past 5 years SIL has ceased her periodic poverty pleas, because M refuses to give her cash after finding that 40% of the money we gave her went for beer and snacks for her grown son instead. Now, if she calls us about a past due bill or needing health assistance, we tell her we will write a check directly to the vendor or go with her to the drugstore to charge her medications. If she has no food we will go to the grocery store and buy food for her to prepare. If she needs gas we will meet her at the gas station and throw $20 into the tank. It is sad that we feel we cannot trust her to take care of herself, but the situation is what it is and we done what we can to directly help her when needed.
So now I will wait for M to talk to his sister about an iPhone 5c and the cost of a refurbished model. Hopefully she will be happy with that choice and will enjoy using it.