We need help

It pains me to write this as it means I haven't been able to keep a promise to myself. That promise being that I would see this matter through to the very end — I would take care of my parents' debt. And for the last almost ten years, I have done that. I have put everything on my life on hold so that my parents, namely my mother Kim, can have a semblance of a good life. I regret to say that I am no longer able to carry this obligation on my shoulders as steadily as I once thought I could.

When customers come into our restaurant the Zum Gasthaus, I — the face of the business for the last decade — am often asked how I am doing. Every time, I shirk the question off because I'd rather not lie to familiar faces or people I've become acquainted with during this time. The truth is, I'm not doing well. Yet I feel ashamed to admit that to anyone, especially as I understand everyone has their own problems and burdens. It is never my intention to make anyone's day worse.

All my life, I have struggled with depression like so many millions of other people do. So long as I am not saddled with an exorbitant amount of external stress, I can handle it and get on with my days. Well, becoming my mother's caregiver and the manager for the family business has — to put it lightly — been a sizable strain on my mental health. With every passing year, this dread inside of me seems to grow.

As many of her patrons know, Kim is a generous, trusting person. These traits have led to her current situation, however. She trusted someone so much they swindled her and left her with the debt. After her stroke nine years ago, Kim's motor functions were greatly affected. Thus leaving her incapable of paying off her debt on her own.

This is where I came in. I was fresh out of college, living in Austin, trying to find a career of my own. I had made a life for myself when I received the call that my mother had had a stroke. I dropped my entire life in Austin to care for her because it felt like the right thing to do. What started off as a few weeks back here turned into months, which eventually became nine years, ten this October. As a result, my mother's debt became mine.

There are days where I don't want to get out of bed. My mother has similar ones, too. We come to a job where we're lucky to make $50 a day. Then there are medical bills — hers and mine — which pile up on top of numerous other bills: business expenses, property taxes, sales tax, insurances, etc. The debt which looms over our heads is a paralyzing one that hinders our ability to breathe and relax. My anxiety feels never-ending, and I put up with a lot of grief in this job that fell into my lap. On top of that, I make no income from it. All the money — even my tips — go to chipping away at that $166,000 (plus interest) debt. Not to mention my siblings have not helped us out at all either.

Through patience and persistence, I have gotten the amount down to $13,000 and some change. While it may seem feasible to get it paid off soon, the state of our business shows that we aren't going to be able to make those premiums each and every month. Not if other unexpected fees continue to pop up.

So this is where I take a chance and ask people — the ones who've come to me and ask if there's anything they can do to help because they love my mother, but I politely decline because I'm proud, much like Kim — to help us. I can't promise the restaurant will stay open for a long time. My mother wants to retire, and she deserves that. I think I deserve a life of my own as well, one where I don't feel defeated each and every day.

I can only hope that reading this has at least given our patrons some insight on us and our situation. We are forever grateful to you.

- Paul


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Paul Thompson 
Lake Jackson, TX
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