I had two great aunts who we loved and who loved us and showered us with love and affection, cookies and a love of flowers . . . and more. In all our years we only saw them about a dozen times; and yet they were some of the most precious people I knew – especially during my childhood, when I would get to see them for about two days out of the year.
This is what happened after their deaths.
These two old ladies – not so old when we first met them – older each time we went back – lived to the ripe old age of 104 and 98, passing away within weeks of each other.
After they died an envelope came in the mail. It wasn’t your standard envelope – it was one of those huge manila things (which I still have, tucked away in my filing cabinet to remind me). Inside was a letter explaining that this was my inheritance – and tucked deep away inside were about four thousand dollars worth of savings bonds they had bought over the years, putting my name on them and saving them – and then with their passing, passing them along to me. They were far from rich. I can almost picture them doing without a few things to ensure I would get this inheritance, building it up through time, during little Mikie’s days – and it warms my heart to know that even though I spent most of my life over a thousand miles away from them – they were thinking of me. I don’t think I ever saw them more than a dozen or so times in my life. Most of which was when we were a child – delighting in their garden and yard; delighting in them – their wonderful faces (one ‘stern’ but fair; the other a gracious queen). I loved them with all my heart.
I debated for months what to do with this miraculous windfall. I was determined to spend it on something that would last – like my love for them – something no one could ever take, couldn’t lose, and that even if we get divorced, the wife wouldn’t be able to put a finger on.
I won’t say it preyed on my mind, but the question lurked: what to do? What to buy? How could I spend this in such a way that I would have something that would meet my conditions – and always remind me of these two wonderful beings? Not something that would sit gathering dust on xome shelf – not something that would get tucked away into some corner. Not something that would be subject to the fluctuations of the market; nor something which could be taxed or measured. Something like their love – just as durable, and as open to the beauty of the world and the flowers they grew. Something to constantly and forever remind me of them. Something that would be a gift of love.
So I decided.
I’d worn glasses since I was thirteen. Four-thousand dollars was just enough to cover the cost of the surgery. (Insurance wouldn’t cover it, since it is considered a ‘cosmetic expense’.) So – bonds cashed, check in hand – I went down to one of the local (and best) eye centers and had it done.
Now when I open my eyes in the morning and realize I don’t have to reach for my glasses – when I am driving and the road is clear ahead – when I’m outside and it’s raining and I don’t have streaks on my glasses – when I walk from cold to warm the fog doesn’t form – I think of them. When I see my eyes in the mirror – I think of them. It’s something I can never lose; it’s something I’ll carry with me all my life – and it’s always there to remind me of their charitable hearts and minds, and the wonderful love that they always gave me.
And to me, this thing I bought – it wasn’t a selfish thing. It’s an honor to me that they loved me – I hope that in some way I honored them by spending it this way. I think it’s something they would have wanted me to have. Something special like that – something to remind me of them. Perhaps when I’m dead I’ll be able to share the memories of all I’ve seen with those lovely ancient souls. Then they will see more clearly – how much I loved them for what they did and I did – all of it, from early childhood and beyond.
It was (and is) a way of them showing their love for me – and my love for them.