What’s the story about Thursday night?
Last Thursday night I called the credit card company to have Peter’s name removed from the account. It was a difficult call. One of the first of many calls to have our joint accounts become singular. I have repeated his story so many times for family, friends, insurance companies, his work benefits companies, co-workers and fill-in-the-blank, it’s almost like I’m saying the Pledge of Allegiance when I repeat it. This time, however, it cut a bit deeper since it was the first time I “removed” him from my life, so to speak.
After I told the kind customer service person my request, she replied with a very matter-of-fact, “this is Peter’s account; not a joint one”. Apparently, I was a carrier on the account. I was NOT a co-owner of the account which stunned me. I had no idea. None. I was transferred to another department where I could open up a similar account. Fine, I thought, I’ll pick myself up from the ground of shock and dust my disbelief off and move ahead.
Through a series of events, namely the other kind customer service person looking up my history and me looking online for my credit score, it appears I don’t have one…a credit score. No, no. It’s possible. I’m proof. Not only did the joint credit card I thought I held not exist, but all of my utilities were in Peter’s name. Sure, the mortgage and the bank accounts were in both of our names, but apparently, nothing else. The excellent credit I thought that was ours, was just Peter’s. Score: Eight hundred something for Peter, 0 for me.
What does this mean?
It means, at 57 years old, I am starting all over again to build up my credit. Yup. From scratch. Oh, I know it’s going to be okay. My brilliant accountant friend, the bestie who talked me down when I exploded on the phone with her right after it happened, told me so. As did my financial advisor. Still, at my age, building up credit is so harsh, so stupid, so avoidable.
How did it happen?
This is a great question. Let me stress. This is not a Peter fault or a my fault situation. It’s not an either/or mistake. It was an us mistake. I didn’t pay attention to anything financial and it bit me in my widowed ass. Peter, probably thinking he did the bills anyway, just took care of it, like he took care of everything thing in our lives. He took care of me, fully and completely and lovingly, BUT, his generosity is yet another bite mark on my widowed ass. And I know, Peter didn’t have a cruel intention bone in his body to think, ‘oh, let me screw with Betsy’. That wasn’t him at all. In fact, that is the Anti-Peter. And, Peter couldn’t have known he was going to die. Still, it was a mistake, pure and simple, made by both of us, two imperfect people. Still, I was angry at him and at me on Thursday night. Today? Well, today, I have a few thoughts.
What are those thoughts?
First, I hope my tale serves as an example for people in a marriage or partnership not to assume all your financials are in order. Don’t rely so heavily on the partner who handles finances because one day, he/she will die. No one lives forever. Most partners don’t die together – something I always wanted, but you know, just doesn’t happen often. So get to know your finances and understand them and their consequences. Educate yourself and if you don’t understand, learn. No matter how boring you find it, learn. You can yawn later. Ask questions. Get answers. And for your sake, make certain you have your own credit card. If you think you’re good with a joint one, like me, make sure it’s actually a joint. Make certain you are not just a carrier on it, like me. As a matter of fact, get your name on most of your joint assets like cars and utilities. Have some of them in your own name. Share the wealth. Share the assets. Share the responsibility.
Second, as flippant as this sound, it is what it is. I can stay angry at Peter, or at me, or I can forgive us both and move on. I have always had a hard time hanging onto anger. It never seemed to serve a purpose. The way I have always looked at it is this way. I can get angry. I need to get angry. But then I need to confront, talk it over. And, finally, I need to move on. This has always served my conscious well. So, I can get angry at myself, talk it over with myself and then forgive myself because I need to move on. Beating myself up over this will only knock me down further, and I don’t know how low I can go. And holding anger toward Peter is just stupid. He can’t defend himself. Although I would like to know what he was thinking. He was such a smart man. But I can’t, and like I said, it was a mistake that I had an equal part in creating.
Third, starting from scratch with credit is humiliating, yet it’s a bit metaphoric don’t you think? It’s reflective of my life right now. I am starting over…in so many ways. I am building a new me I don’t understand yet, and my association with Peter has been redefined. I am not his wife. I am his widow. I am not his cohort. I am my own. I am not this dependent woman on her husband anymore. I am trying to find my own independence. Maybe the shedding Peter from my identity and working on finding the comfort in my own skin means the shedding a lot from my life, including credit. Maybe this was a tap from Universe, or even Peter, to find my own way, my own definition. It hurts like hell, but I think that’s why they call it grief. Why they call it growing pains.
I suppose from all of this I hope I have taught someone something. I hope through my actions or lack thereof, someone, somewhere will have been educated on what not to do. I know I have learned so much. I’ve learned more about me, my capabilities, my rebounding techniques, and my own self-reliance. I have learned more about finances and credit – both which had me nodding off before, and maybe still, but are necessary in the grown-up world I didn’t want to face before.
I’m slowly, very slowly, learning that I’m doing the best I know how, mistakes and all, present and past. And yeah, okay, I’m a little proud of me.