Vultures are scavengers, feeding mostly on the carcasses of the dead.
(adapted from Wikipedia)
As the fighting ensued, so did the claimstaking. Under the guise of “help,” my grandmother and aunt Elayne came to visit shortly after the funeral. We were all still in shock over my mother’s death.
Philip withdrew into himself. My father drowned himself in work and I was trying to keep it together for everyone. At 13, I had become the “little adult,” taking over as mistress of the home, confidant, and social chair.
During their visit, my grandmother and aunt decided to go through my mother’s things and help themselves to everything that they wanted. Her beautiful wardrobe, fur coat, diamond jewelry and gold watch, all “gone for safe keeping.”
I was furious. Safe keeping from who, I asked? Once dead, it seemed like my father was no longer entitled to anything. The “things” were taken and the fights over where we would live continued. Miriam wanted us. My grandmother wanted us. And, no one asked what my father wanted or what we wanted. Since I was the only child at home, it was really me that they were discussing and I was quick to point out that my mother had died but my father was still alive. I wanted to live with him and keep things as they were before.
I stayed. But the goods were gone. Clothes and jewelry, somewhere for safe keeping. I fought long and hard for its return. I made my dad, (a normally very quiet, passive, soul), confront the vultures and insist that the belongings be returned.
Some of it was. They returned the diamonds and my father put them in his safe deposit box for me. It wasn’t until my grandmother passed away, that I retrieved the clothes and fur coat which I found in her closet when packing her stuff. The gold watch was still missing.
For no less than 35 years, the first question I asked my aunt Elayne every time I saw her was “where is my gold watch that you stole.” I wasn’t going to let it go. And, every time she answered the same, “I didn’t steal the watch; I don’t have it.”
Then one day, about 10 years ago, the plain brown box arrived. No letter. Just a simple box and in it, the gold watch.
I’ve heard horror stories from friends about their own experiences. Sibling fights. Estranged families. All over wanting ownership of things. I don’t know why my relatives wanted my mother’s possessions. I’ll never understand why they didn’t think that my father was capable of taking care of me. And, I certainly don’t understand why they thought that they deserved to have her jewelry. It hardly matters now.
My mother always said that “when I die, you can have my jewelry.” Now, I know that she didn’t expect it to happen so early, but I do believe that I was meant to have it. I wear her engagement ring and wedding band every day. The center stone is hers. The two side stones are my husband’s grandmother Libby’s. They are a part of me, with or without the ring, but it’s comforting to have something of theirs always near.
Tell me your story. I’m sure you have one!