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When Mary started her job, she told us that she wanted to pay us room and board. She set the amount. She also said she would pay us for her transportation to and from work, since it was easier for her and took much less time than taking the bus (an hour each way). The amount was less than the going price of room and board in our area, and the amount she pays for transportation covers the gas and a little toward car maintenance and insurance. We accepted.

A few weeks ago I had lunch out with my mother and my sister-in-law. My sister-in-law asked me how much Mary was paying for rent. I made the mistake of telling them. I also told them a figure that included cash that Mary asked me to get out of the check for her and her part of the cell phone bill.

“Don’t you think Mary’s rent is a bit high?” my brother asked me in an email two days ago. He accused us of taking advantage of her, and suggested what he thought was the correct amount. I spent the better part of two days defending our family’s decisions. When I told him that he was condemning me, he responded that I shouldn’t take it like that, and that I was making more out his words than I should. I call that not taking responsibility for his words. There were a lot of shoulds in his opinion.

Tonight we told her that someone in our family had suggested that she was paying too much for room and board and transportation. We also told her we weren’t going to tell her who it was. We asked her if she thought she should pay less.

“They want me to pay less just because I have a disability,” she said with angry tears. “I want you to accept the amount that I said I will pay you. It is far less than I would pay if I had my own apartment. And I don’t have to go out and buy my own groceries.

“Staying here, I can save money to get my own apartment. If I stay a year or two longer, I might have enough for a condo.”

My brother and sister-in-law feel that they are taking Mary’s side. Defending her. Keeping her best interests at heart. But Mary resents their interference. She feels her dignity is at stake. If other people without a disability can pay their living expenses, she feels that she is just as able as they are. Now that she has a good job. Getting her own place is still in her plan, but while she is getting established in her job, she plans to live with us and take responsibility for her own expenses.