The first house I bought was in the country and owned by a 90 year old woman. She was a classy lady who had lived in that house and the one previous to it all of her life. Never married, she lived there with her mother and brother until they both preceded her in death and the neighbors that had been her brother and sister-in-law had sold their house and moved. It became too much for her to handle and she moved into town and lived in a one bedroom apartment.
I visited her in her apartment, filled with all of the memories of her past. Trinkets and baubles, photos and books, porcelain statues, all with interesting stories behind them filled shelves and tables. There was the porcelain bird that her brother had sent back from over seas, there had been 2 but only one survived the trip. She showed me a pair of photos of herself in front of a car. It was her car given to her by her philandering wealthy grandfather; she wasn’t allowed to keep it. In the pair of photos she was dressed 2 different ways. Giggling, with a twinkle in her clear blue eyes she pointed at one then the other and said, “I have the boy I was with that days pants on in this photo.” I know I stopped breathing and looked at her in shock. After dropping that little time bomb she kept moving on with her story and never explained.
They eventually had to move her into a nursing home. It is a wonder how cold heart your very own relation can be. Her niece, who was married to a second cousin of mine, and her family had an apartment sale and sold off her treasured possessions, even her bible. When I found out what was happening a neighbor let me back into her apartment and I picked up a few things that I knew she would want. It seems her friends knew her better than her family, not only did she get back what I had saved for her; she got her bible back too. One of the neighbors that lived near the apartment purchased her bible and returned it to her. A smile lit her gentle face when she saw what I had returned to her that day, she thanked me profusely. When I confronted her niece about what they had done, her cold comment to me was that they were just “things.” They hadn’t even shown her the respect of asking what things she would like to have with her. I hope they are enjoying the inheritance she left them.
I have a lot of “things” in my life that at first glance wouldn’t mean a thing to anyone else but me. The stool that belonged to my next door neighbor growing up sits holding the picnic basket that belonged to my grandmother, dragged along on family outings and now filled with photos and memorabilia. The crystal bowl wrapped and sent from Florida by a great aunt still living at 103, the dining room china sent from Korea to my grandmother by my father. Granted no one can care about the treasures that you own like you do, but it would be nice to know that there is a stool or bowl owned by someone who treasures the memory of me. I am like my 90 year old friend, without children to inherit my memories I can only hope that when I am packed away in a nursing home that sensitivity is a strong suit of my care givers.