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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Vultures

As Gram started to enter the waning years of her life, she grew concerned about what would happen to all of her things. She had an array of items that had been in the family, some unique, and some normal. They were items that she considered part of her heritage, and she was quite proud of them, and deservedly so. From time to time, I had the pleasure of looking at these items with her when she was in the mood to take them out of the closet and reminisce.

In all of the time that I lived with Gram, I never developed any feeling of ownership for these varied items. However, when I was still a child, I did form an attachment to a pair of humble-looking brown bowls. These were the bowls from which I ate my cereal every morning, and they just had a homey warmth about them. They were fairly simple in their design, and one even had a blotch of darker glaze inside that was probably an error in the crafting process. Naturally the less-perfect, less-pretty bowl was my favorite. I suppose it was just too like me. Not the prettiest of all of the bowls, nor the most colorful. But always there. One day, I impulsively asked Gram if I could have these two bowls forever. She laughed and said that yes, they could be my "forever bowls."

From that day forward, they were called my forever bowls, and I still call them that to this day. Once when I was in my early twenties, a friend and I went on a drive through some of the nearby mountain towns. We stopped at a few antique shops, and I was thrilled to see a cookie jar in the same design and color as my forever bowls. I decided immediately that I had to buy it as a gift for Gram. When I got home with the unexpected treasure, I was crestfallen to discover that Gram already had the exact cookie jar I had just brought home to her. She appreciated the kind gesture and showed me the cookie jar tucked far back in a cupboard. "Don't be upset, honey," she said, "you keep it for yourself. Then you'll have a cookie jar to match your forever bowls." I couldn't argue with that logic. When all the drama occurred at the time of her passing, I made sure that I kept various items that I had given to Gram over the years. And I made sure that I had my cookie jar and the forever bowls, the only thing I ever asked Gram if I could have.




As I said earlier, Gram worried about her things. There was a Centennial Flag with individually-sewn stripes and 38 stars, made after Colorado became a state in 1876. It was falling apart from years of being stored in boxes and on shelves. It was something handed down by her father, along with the gorgeous chiming clock that sat on a high shelf in the kitchen. It had been one of her parents' wedding gifts. There were old photographs and other relics of her family's history. And many sets of dishes and glassware. I would love to have the set of Fiesta Ware that Gram had! It was multicolored and fun, and I loved it. There was furniture and a player piano, and all of Gram's lovely costume jewelry, among other things. 

One day, she and I were talking about all of her stuff and what would happen to it. I told her, in my usual blunt manner, that all I ever wanted was my forever bowls. I knew that I was not considered a family member and therefore not an heir. But the things were not what mattered to me - it was Gram and my relationship with her that were important. She took me completely by surprise on this particular day by asking what I thought she should do with all of her things. I told her that if I had anything to leave behind, I wouldn't want anyone fighting over it after I was dead. I suggested either attaching little labels to items saying who they were meant for, or starting to give them away before she passed. I stopped for a minute and said, "I don't think you'd like to hear what I really think you should do with some of your things, Gram." She pressed me to tell her what was on my mind. I told her that if I had some of the things that she had, the flag being one example, I would give them to a museum. In a museum, they would be preserved and could be enjoyed by many people, instead of silently falling apart as stored treasure. They would live long past her lifetime, and her children's lifetimes, and be treasured by many people. 

I was right when I said that she would not like this advice. She went on a rant for several minutes about my stupidity on the subject. There was no way she would give any of her things to a museum, give them to strangers! It was obvious to her that since I didn't have family heirlooms of my own I was too stupid to know that things should be kept in the family. If people gave everything they had to museums, there would be nothing left for the families! I smiled and said that I had told her she wouldn't want to hear what I had to say. I won't say anything about what happened after Gram's passing, because I do not want to hurt any of the people she left behind.

I did, however, form a very strong opinion about my property and how it should be distributed after my death. Luckily, Trent and I feel the same way about this matter. I don't want any of my family descending like vultures when I die. Before I die, I want to give away a lot of my stuff. Although I have little, I cherish it. I want to be able to give it away to people that I know will appreciate it. Trent and I have already begun doing this over the past few years. I have asked the recipients of my treasures to grant me one simple but beautiful gift. As they pass these items on to their children, I want them to know who they came from, and what kind of person I was. If there is anything left after my passing that it would please them to have, I'd like it to go to my cousins Viki and Tom in Hungary. I love them dearly, and would give them the world if I could.

So there you have it. The wishes of a stubborn, opinionated woman. A woman who doesn't want to be picked over by vultures.