The year 2020 has been grief upon grief upon grief, and we’re still experiencing the trickling effect of it. Some have been brought to the surface from working through and deconditioning my childhood to find my path. But most is due to the trauma that my parents’ most recently left behind. To explain, I need to give this post some context, so here we go…
Seven years ago, almost to the day, I had a phone call from my estranged father. The same father kicked me out of the house when I was 22 and left me paying for a new car that I just bought yet couldn’t use. The same person whose mortgage was paid for by me while I was eating instant noodles every night trying to make my monthly rent in a crappy apartment.
He called me, tearing up and said, “I just wanted to say hi, I have no one else as a family. I’ve lost everything and everyone. I wish you well.”
He called me, tearing up and said, “I just wanted to say hi, I have no one else as a family. I’ve lost everything and everyone. I wish you well.” He cried, telling me that he was sorry for pushing me away as my mother had banned anyone from having contact with me, and he had to do what she asked because going against her is be miserable. He successfully tugged at my weary heartstrings and suggested that I could go for a cup of coffee with him if I had time. Although I was very skeptical, Mike convinced me that it might give me closure and try and see if we can make amends. So I went.
It had been almost 11 years since I last spoke to him before that day that I met him in a coffee shop. In between that time, he had multiple affairs and ended up packing his suitcase and leaving my mother and little brother in the middle of the night without saying a word to them. He claims it was because he was so stressed out from living with them, he didn’t know how to deal. From my brother, I would later find out that since he was the main source of income for them, they were left stranded to bear all the burden that he left behind.
During that coffee meeting, I learnt that he was making trips between Vietnam and Canada. He planned to live in Vietnam for most of the year, as it was cheaper but come to Canada in the summer months to escape the scorching weather, gather better living supplies and have his doctor visits. At the time, he was staying at his brother’s tiny dirty, and moldy bachelor apartment, which I was invited to that day to visit and saw that he was given a small den, with no windows, to sleep in. The den was just big enough to fit a twin-size mattress on the floor. There was nothing else in the room except for his carry-on suitcase, a pillow, and a blanket. It felt like a prison.
I came home and shared my coffee experience with Mike, and after days of us feeling sorry and dwelling over it, we felt compelled to assist in some way. We wanted to at least bring back some joy to the old man’s heart for whatever number of years he had left with his grandsons. The virtue of filial piety was powerful for both of us seeing him like that.
However, deep down in my gut, I felt that something was off about this decision. I felt like I was making this decision based on my fantasy of having a fruitful father-daughter relationship rather than basing it on the human in question. I had this weak spot for him or an imaginative connection with him. I would be the person who randomly cries at weddings during the father-daughter dances because I had this deep emotional void to fill.
We decided to let the past be in the past and invited him to come to stay with us anyways, completely ignoring the gut intuition that I had. This was and has been the biggest mistake of my life. I want to reemphasize just if you didn’t understand the magnitude of what I’m trying to express; it was THE BIGGEST MISTAKE OF MY LIFE.
Ignoring my gut has led me into so much grief and frustration, where I felt like my entire life fell apart. This is a saga. But since I’ve given you enough context, let me explain the most recent events from him that have caused me grief:
We helped him rebuild his credit score within the year when he was with us. Taught him about debt management and how to optimize his credit profile. We educated him on real estate investments and even bought him a car to have the freedom to come and go as he pleased.
We gave him a place to stay, provided him with necessities such as clothing, shoes, a phone, and even gave him money – even though he was already receiving the max benefits from the government and his workers’ compensation for a past accident. He was pretty well off for a single guy with no expenditures. We encouraged him to save as much as he could and never asked for anything in return. This went on from 2016 to 2019.
In rebuilding his credit score, we found that he owed hundreds of thousands of dollars to second and third mortgages, credit cards, and lines of credits. Also, in the process, I learnt that they were living in a house practically mortgage-free the entire time, as his work incident had paid for a good portion of his mortgage. He had explained that it was because of my older brother’s lack of business experiences that caused him to go into so much debt, as he had to do what he could to help my brother. In hearing that, my gut feeling that I previously had kicked in again, and I felt something just wasn’t right about what he said.
I later found out that my gut feeling was right. My dad used my brother and took his student loan, leaving him with $40k in debt. The same way he did to me and my loan. [Read here: My dad applied and spent my student loan money, leaving me with $33k in debt.] Again, I ignored my gut feeling as I suppose it’s easier to accept someone when they’re so pitiful.
There is so much more in this saga of my relationship with him, but this should bring you up to speed so that I can explain what has transpired over the last year and a half. The last time he stayed with us was June till September 2019, and he overdid his welcome by staying true to his inconsiderate ways. We found that he was stealing money from us, taking our things that he deems to be ‘rightfully his’ because we are his ‘children. He also hacked our internet network to steal our information and planted a device that would allow him to access Canadian internet service from overseas. In doing that, he gathered Mike’s personal account information and used it to commit identity theft.
He also tried to break into our house again afterwards at 2 am in the middle of the night; I saw him from my window. But luckily for us, I had that same gut feeling again and immediately changed the locks the day he left so that he couldn’t get in that night.
The months after he left, we spent in despair trying to clean up the mess that he had left behind. The PTSD was real. Mike would think that he saw my dad driving down the road and come home telling me that he’s back in town when he wasn’t. We realized how bad it was when we couldn’t even go through with our planned weekend away with our boys in the summer. We did the 3-hour drive out to the destination and checked into our rooms, but we decided to leave in the middle of the night because we were just so scared of leaving our house unattended. We were constantly on the lookout. Sleeping eventually became a luxury.
In December of 2020, a week before Christmas during Covid-19, we had a knock on our door from a repo company ready to tow Mike’s vehicles. We were shocked and confused as to what was happening. Thank goodness that the bailiff was compassionate and gave us time to sort everything out. When we inquired about the issue to BMW and the debt collectors, they had asked us if we knew a person by the name of “C____ Le,” and we did it was him. It turns out my dad had used Mike’s information as a co-signer to a loan and added his BMW cars to put a lien on to secure a loan. A loan that we had no idea of until Christmas Eve and was defaulted on.
Money had been tight for us, especially since it was during the holidays. Mike that year had employment issues and was out of a job for a few months, and the real estate market halted for a bit, all due to Covid. We were struggling financially like everyone else. To be honest, we still are. This news came at the worse time possible. The debt owed to stop the vehicles from being taken away was just over $8000. Money we didn’t have as we had already dipped into our savings.
Before this news, Mike and I were already dealing with other financial surprises that cost us over $40k that summer, as well as the health issue of coping with severe Candida, which lasted almost the entire year and crippled him to bed rest. The Canadida was because we had to clean out the space that my dad stayed in, and he had Candida, and Candida is contagious. Mike has a weak immune system, and his system couldn’t handle it. He was severely ill, the Candida in his system got to a point of hallucination and that took a toll on his mental and physical health.
I was also trying to juggle a rekindled relationship with my estranged narcissist mother, which I had to contact because of these incidents with my father. But that led to more heartache and despair. You can read about that in the links below:
The $40k was taken out from our equity as a means to pay for me to go back to school. This was the plan in February 2020, before the outbreak of covid. It would have slowly covered my tuition as I was hoping to obtain my master’s in sociology with a minor in anthropology. A topic that I feel passionately on, as you can probably guess by now. I couldn’t take out a student loan either because of the large amount that is in remission. I was (still am) disappointed because of this because I was always told what I was to do throughout my life, and life happens with kids and such. I never had a chance to discover what I liked, until recently and not having the means to obtain it was heartbreaking.
With all this going on, our relationship took a hit as well. We were arguing more, communicating less and turning against each other, not because we were blaming one another for the situation that we were in, but because we both were dealing with our pain differently. If it’s one thing that I’ve learnt from trauma, it’s the fact that pain can make people selfish. Because of this, our kids witnessed their parents at the worse possible place. They, too, were traumatized. It was an emotional roller coaster for all of us, so when I say it feels like life was bitch-slapping us and swiftly back-handing us, I really mean it.
It seemed like every time things began to look up for us, or Mike and I would make amends to an argument, something new was tethering on the horizon. There were nights where we couldn’t sleep due to PTSD and stress. We began to brace ourselves during moments of calmness because we just knew it wouldn’t last long. We stayed awake because our minds were racing with what-ifs and whys, which only led to anxiety/panic attacks.
We couldn’t gather enough money during the holidays to clear the debt in time, so we were constantly avoiding anyone that came to the door. It was like being a prisoner of our own home for two weeks straight until we sorted things out with BMW financials.
We also had a tough time confiding in Mike’s parents about this due to how shameful it is. Mike’s parents know that my parents never showed up for my wedding, was never around for the birth of my kids, and they were never a fan of my relationship with Mike, and yet they come in years later when they have nowhere left to go, to leave us with destruction. It’s also worse off that my dad decided to use Mike’s information to commit fraud over mine, although we’re married at the end of the day. It’s the principle that aggravates me.
BMW ended up having insurance build into their financing for these types of issues. In short, their policy to save their assets is to pick up the debt on our behalf to eliminate the court order, and we repay BMW immediately. We eventually made it work as my brother helped pitched in, and I’m forever grateful for that.
In that process, we had to decide on filing a criminal police report against my father. This would most likely cripple him, as his government funding would likely be flagged. He will also be flagged if Canada scans his passport for re-entry. At first, we decided against it. My conscience couldn’t bear the fact of seeing a person at their wits end and knowing that I was the cause of it. At least Mike and I are capable of picking ourselves back up again. We’re still in our prime, and we can work. Him, not so much.
However, in February, Mr. Repo knocked at our door again, telling us that he’s back because the accounts are still not up to date, another $3000 is owed to clear court fees and asset recovery fees. Within the same week, Mike had already seen a massive tank on his credit score, and our bank called us with news saying that because there has been a significant decrease in his credit score, we had to have our mortgage relooked at because our file has been flagged as a risk. On top of that, because we had previously taken out some equity on the house to help us with our $40k loss last year, we owed a more significant fee to the recalculated interest on that loan as well in a total of $6000. Making that month’s total of $9000 on top of the initial $8000.
We made the $3000 payment to keep the vehicles. It just doesn’t seem right to lose two cars valued at $70k due to a small amount. We’re still working on the mortgage part of the issue.
In light of the new news, we had to file a police report now. It was a matter of our survival or my father’s. The police report is the saving grace for the bailiffs, bank reps, and loan officers to empathize with us, which is precisely what we needed.
When we notified everyone with our case number from the police, Mike’s credit file was immediately set on alert should anything suspicious be put through. Within a month, the credit bureau contacted him to let him know that his file was hit 29 times and someone was trying to pull credit on him. They did an internal investigation and whoever was doing this had an IP from overseas. The insanity, right?!
This brings me up to last Wednesday when we had someone come to our house. We thought we’re home free of all these issues, so we happily opened the door. This person was another repo guy looking to tow both vehicles as there is yet another outstanding debt owed, this time in the amount of just under $4000.
He was kind enough to let us have the day to call BMW and figure things out, but that one day has now turned into seven days. We’re back to quietly living in our house as we can’t be sure when he’ll come back. We’ve resorted to leaving empty sealed amazon boxes outside in hopes that he’ll think we’ve gone away for the week.
At this point, we had to let Mike’s parents know as we’re in over our heads. It’s gotten tough, and we needed the support. So, we had that tough conversation with his parents a few days ago, and thank goodness they were welcoming and understanding. However, today Mike’s parents called us and told us that he came knocking at their door looking for Mike. The feeling of embarrassment sunk in today.
BMW is investigating the issue as it does not seem like it’s another lien. They’re unsure what is happening to his file. They’ve also tried sending out a stop order to the collections and bailiff company, but they say the entire process may take 7-10 business days.
The original private loan was for $5000. That $5000 that he took out has realistically cost us $17,000 to date, not yet including what may transpire from the current investigation.
What has this entire year taught me? Resilience and compassion.
For the longest time, I couldn’t even mention his name and cringe (still do) when I call him dad. I no longer refer to him as my dad because I don’t believe he deserves this honor. Children are a blessing; for any parent or guardian to take advantage of their child and use them as objects of opportunity does not deserve the right to bear this title. I say this not out of resentment and anger but because I’m drawing distinct boundaries for myself. I feel bad for him as a human being and constantly hope he turns his life around, but that doesn’t mean that I have to have a bond with this person.
During one of my most painful moments dealing with my heartaches this year, I had realized that God (the Universe, or whomever you wish to think your higher being is) couldn’t want me to lose myself and my family for a person whom I am supposed to call dad. I don’t think God would like to see any of his children suffer for another person, even if that person is my mother or father.
Ultimately, this helped me break the ‘filial piety’ mentality that has been so deeply rooted and conditioned in me. The concept of filial piety no longer holds any power, as I am not in debt to my parents or the society they wish to impress. I don’t exist as an extension of them. I believe in my authentic self, how I was designed and created, the reason why I was put on this earth. They had no choice in choosing me as their child, and I was there to positively impact their lives, as much as they were to impact mine, because I believe that God only gives us what we need in life, and it’s up to us to see it, accept ourselves and each other for it, and grow with it.
I believe in just being a good human. Be a human with appreciation and compassion for others with a good understanding of yourself. This in itself is so much more empowering and liberating. Yet there are times when it’s hard to do just that, let alone a human who also has to carry the weight of filial piety and societies’ expectations.
So, let me be honest here: my house is a financially stressful house with all of this happening. We are stretched to the max, and there are days where the stress and emotions will get the best of us. However, I’m super proud that we, the 4 of us, always come back to each other as a team.
People don’t realize the tremendous amount of strength it takes to pull oneself out of a mentally dark place. Even though it’s a work in progress, I’m proud of all 4 of us.
To quote my previous post, To Love the Unlovable, “There’s a distinct line between accepting someone else’s humanity but knowing that you can’t let their humanity interfere with who you are. Acceptance is the ultimate act of love and kindness but setting up boundaries is necessary for survival. So, I write this with a huge disclaimer that It is much easier to walk away from a relationship filled with anger, hatred, and despair, but it takes tremendous strength to walk away from a toxic relationship with a feeling of understanding and love for the person.”