She wasn’t petite and poised. She wasn’t polished and politically correct. Her hair wasn’t dyed and perfectly coiffed. Her teeth were not her own and her facial hair spoke volumes in regards to her age.
My heart broke when she died. It was a Sunday morning and we were getting ready for church when I got the phone call. I clutched my stomach, bent forward and wailed. It wasn’t fair. I needed her. My daughter needed her. She was too young to die. But she died anyway.
Heart failure. She had been to the doctor but she wasn’t worthy of fixing. She was on a very limited income with less than a hundred dollars in the bank. She didn’t own anything. She lived in an income based senior living center and either she walked wherever she went or we picked her up and took her. The medical powers that be decided operating on her wasn’t worth their time. What did she have to offer? Nothing.
Of course, I begged to differ. But, my pleading did absolutely nothing to change the plan. Nor did my begging give her the desire to keep on living. She was tired. She had had a hard life, a life that zapped her of her energy. Married once with eight children would have been enough to tire anyone. Add an alcoholic and abusive husband to the equation and one has to wonder how she made it as long as she did.
Her whole life was spent in abject poverty. We spent time at food pantries and goodwill. She never knew the “good” life, at least according to the world’s standard. Her meals were simple; cornbread and beans, fried potatoes and fried bologna. She had a tin of bacon grease that sat on the stovetop. Everything tasted like bacon at her house. No wonder I love bacon so much.
She had made me executor of her estate. None of her children knew. Shortly before her death she came to me and told me she was changing her will because “they” would skin me alive. You see, the apples fell far from the tree. Even though she had nothing, let the fighting begin. I kept my distance. One child took the rings off her dead body and the meat out of her freezer. The meat came from the food pantry. Hope they enjoyed it. The bad apples decided I was not to be allowed in her apartment after she died. I wasn’t concerned; I knew they would be calling.
You see, I wasn’t worried about it because she knew what would happen. So, before she died she gave me certain items that meant something to her. Things like her silver plated table service and her lion footed round table. Again, worthless in the eyes of the world, but to me they are priceless. One of my cousins spoke up and insisted that I be allowed in my grandmother’s dwelling place. You see, I was the one who picked her up for church, bought her groceries, took her out to eat and visited her several times a week. I was the one who made sure she had what she needed and made sure she was comfortable.
It wasn’t long before the phone calls began. The most important missing item was an Autoharp. She had given it to me because she felt I was the only one who would truly appreciate it. The pure sugar dripping from the phone line was deplorable. Not twelve hours earlier they were insisting I had no part in anything to do with the funeral. Some serious back tracking was happening.
I listened to their pleas. The Autoharp was a gift from my uncle. He was killed in a tragic accident my senior year. My aunt appealed to my emotional side and petitioned on behalf of her’s and my deceased uncle’s son, the one to whom she wished to give the Autoharp. I’m sure threats were uttered under heated breath in the event I would not come to my senses and acknowledge the proper owner of the Autoharp.
After being reassured that said cousin would indeed treasure the instrument and learn to play it, I caved. I knew she’d understand. She was never a material person. What mattered most was the time we spent together while she was alive. No one could take that away from me.