My mother came from an upper middle-class family in the province, but married poor. She finished college in Manila, and shortly after graduation, she met my father on the boat on her way home.
My father was a working student who didn’t finish college. They fell in love during the two days they were together. A few months after coming home, she and my father eloped. This made the family of my mother very angry. It took them a long time to accept my parents, and only after I was born so I could be blessed by my grandparents.
Since our family lived from hand to mouth, it was decided that being the eldest, I should study in Manila and support my two younger siblings after I graduated. I stayed with my mother’s sister, who supposedly married a rich guy. I had to pay for my board and lodging in my aunt’s house.
I cleaned their toilets, did their laundry and ran errands for everyone. For four years, I lived like a maid and was never treated like a blood relative. My cousins were all spoiled, and I had to pick up their mess.
When I graduated and passed the CPA exams, I got lucky. I was able to get a very good job and soon married the first and only boyfriend I had, who was a classmate in college.
He also came from a province in the south. He and his siblings were so low-key, so humble, that I never had inkling what their family was. He never talked about his parents, and only said they were very strict and religious. I just knew he loved me very much.
He succeeded in hiding from me how financially comfortable they were! My parents and his got along fine because they accepted how poor we were, and my parents never got awed by their wealth.
It was then that my mother’s relatives started to fawn on us, especially this aunt who treated me like a maid. Her fortunes slid when her husband left her for a younger woman. Nobody among her children prospered. They all lived in the same old house, even when her three children already had families of their own.
My problem started when one of the condos my husband and I invested in for rental to expats was suddenly vacated. My aunt got a whiff of it, and immediately asked me if she could “rent” it for a “few” months, or until we got a new tenant. She said she needed a place “to rest.”
When we agreed, she only offered to pay for the monthly building dues. That was four years ago. Sadly, we ended up paying for her electricity and water bills, as well.
Every time someone would show interest in renting it, she’d become livid and start telling anybody who’d listen that it would be ungrateful of me to throw her out. It’s not the money issue that is infuriating us, but her attitude.
My question is, when can I ever pay back this supposed debt I owe her? Is there no statute of limitations for gratitude?
Very interesting indeed. This is a problem that is not only family-wide, but friends-wide, as well. If only gratitude could be quantified and finished off with a notarized certification of full payment!
You aunt’s audacity stems from her belief that the best defense is offense for her purpose. Were she to sound submissive and humble, she would probably be afraid you would throw her out and force her to live with her own stress-ridden family. Knowing what a softie you are, who has been conditioned to fear her, she’s showing you that you have no power over her, and has turned into a certified creep!
But she should know when enough is enough. There is no other way to deal with her than to make her face reality.
You and your husband may be wealthy on your own, but she has no right to ride on it, considering how shabby she treated you once upon a time. But that is not the point. She has been given enough time to have her “breather,” which you have patiently allowed her to have. She has a house of her own, for goodness’ sake!
She lived off your property to make herself comfortable, when there wasn’t even a semblance of a dire need. You bought this place as an investment for your family, not for relatives to take advantage of.
She’s been inconsiderate enough these past four years, to your profound disadvantage! If she has any intelligence or sensitivity left, she’d move out of her own volition.
No, I don’t believe there is a statute of limitations for gratitude. Selective limitation, probably. For some, they’d do good and forget it. For many, it is a never ending mantra of “you owe me, you owe me.” A bottomless payback pit, in kind and in cash.
To quote Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, “A person can almost be defined by his or her attitude toward gratitude.”