Almost there… by Sam

Today, I received our CitiCard statement. If we continue with the scheduled payments (which are deducted automatically from our account) we will be paid in full by November. November. Of this year. This will be an occasion for much celebration, the close of a very difficult chapter in our lives. In 2007, while we were vacationing in Amsterdam, a client of Shane’s defaulted on an almost $30,000 contract. We were devastated. Stranded in a foreign city, and the payment that was to be automatically deposited to our account just never came through. To add insult to injury, we had discovered, upon arriving, that our hotel had been demolished. The travel agency through which we booked found us a hotel right in the center of town, and we were checked in just in time to walk down the street for a wonderful Italian dinner. It was our best vacation ever, at the worst time ever in our lives.

Then, when we expected the payment to hit the bank, we started making daily trips to Dam Square, where we could access the internet and check our account. The money never came. Ever. We used credit cards, knowing that it would be fine, because the payment would come through, and we would pay them off.

It was a hard time for our family. There were a number of deaths in the family, which hit us all hard emotionally, and resulted in unscheduled flights to funerals. If you can’t find a cheap cross-country flight at the last minute, and you absolutely have to be there, anyway, you just do it. You use the credit card…and you know it will be okay, because, at the end of the month, that big contract will pay off, and it will all be all right.

Unless it doesn’t.

It didn’t.

Months went by. No payment ever came through. Years have since gone by. There have been a couple of quite minimal payments, but it was really a drop in the bucket. Carrying debt for years can result in great (as in “large,” not “wonderful”) amounts of interest on that debt. I remember, at a New Year’s Party, toasting to the end of the worst year ever, “…and don’t let the screen door hit ya in the ass on the way out! Or do. I really don’t care.” We had gone into a great deal of debt, lost a number of people we loved… In truth, 2007 was our Tale of Two Cities ~ “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” It was emotionally exhausting, and, frankly, I was glad to see it go.

Several years ago, I called our debtors, and requested to close those accounts and set up a payment plan, with as low an interest rate as possible. Bank of America (which we have since paid off) agreed to about 3%, which I thought was pretty great. CitiBank did them one better, agreeing to a payoff amount of about $16,000 at 0% interest, as long as we set up automatic payments, so we would never miss a single one. I jumped at the opportunity. The payment is $213/month, and I have had to budget carefully at times to make sure I had the money in the bank for them. Missing a payment would have meant a change of terms, and that would have meant interest charges, and a lot more time required to pay a lot more debt.

It hasn’t been easy, but we have done it. In November, when I get the alert that the final payment has gone through, I will celebrate. We will have $213/month more to work with. That will make such a difference. I think, in the beginning, I will probably just sock it away in savings. What I know for sure is that, when we make that last payment, around the 10th of November, I will light a candle and let it go. I have held a lot of anger in my heart for that person who defaulted on that contract, and that is not good for a person’s peace of mind. It’s hard. I am a very trusting, forgiving person, but the loss of that money, at that time, was extremely difficult for us.

Over the years, I have worked hard on letting go and moving on. I have tried to focus on the good times I remember with those we lost, and the great fun we had with all our travels that year. Our Amsterdam trip was probably the best thing that ever happened to our family. We learned that we can handle absolutely anything, together. We learned to roll with the punches and make the best of a difficult situation, and we learned what is most important in life. We learned to love and laugh and make wonderful memories together, no matter what is going on, because life is precious and unpredictable, and you just don’t get do-overs.

Still, at the end of the day, paying off the last of that debt will mean something. It is a milestone for us as a family. We did it. We faced tremendous adversity, and we came out on top. Together, happy, in love with life, successful in all the ways that count. Hooray for us. Forever and ever.

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