If you’ve ever walked past the cozy little blue house on York Street on a hot, sleepy afternoon, you’ve probably noticed me.
You may have even seen my picture, crumpled but flattering, in the local paper. I’m that 100-year-old woman you’ve heard about — no one in this neighborhood has lived to my age.
As if that would make me younger! No, I’m still standing on my feet and living a normal life. I’m the kind of woman who plays Christmas carols even in the middle of summer, just because it makes me feel good.
It’s always Christmas at home… Except this month. All I wanted was for the earth to open up and fall into the abyss. There is no greater pain than losing your child.
Susie was 73 years old when she died. But to me she was still the sweetest little girl.
She had a son, a daughter-in-law and Charlie, her grandson. She loved that boy madly, and the feeling was mutual. He denied it, but he loved Susie far more than he loved me.
I didn’t realize the true warmth of Charlie’s heart until after my daughter died. I felt like he felt responsible for me because he helped me around the house, held my hand whenever he felt sadness in my voice, and spent hours beside me. Sometimes we spent time talking to each other.
It’s a good thing I moved closer to them. I see my great-grandson, and he looks so much like his mother…
«Are you going to miss her on your birthday next week, Grandma?» — he asked me the day before my birthday.
«Of course, dear. I’ll feel sorry for her. But I will mourn her … not with tears, but with happiness and memories of the good times I had with her.
I wanted to break down and cry, but I couldn’t do it in front of Charlie.
And, of course, the whole family will be there to celebrate.»
I stayed up that night because I thought about the fact that the next day, before sunrise, my family would be together again and the tension would ease. At least I thought so.
On that famous day, after hours of waiting, the first person to come to my house was Charlie. I made a hundred calls to at least ten of my children and grandchildren, and no one answered. The only response I received was a text message from my oldest daughter, Sandra, which read:
«I’m sorry, I can’t come. Something’s happened. Happy birthday, Mom.»
What was I thinking? Why did I think that members of my family who hadn’t bothered to write or call me to see if I was alive would suddenly care about my birthday and celebrate it with me? I felt so foolish to think they would come.
I thought so deeply that I forgot about the affectionate little man who came to greet me. He was wearing new clothes and a bow tie. His smile told me he had a surprise for me.
«Close your eyes, Meemaw!»
«What’s this? Oh you made a greeting card. Look at that cute bunny you made — is that supposed to be me?»
Charlie chuckled and nodded as he handed me my second gift. It was a bouquet of my favorite flowers: hyacinths, roses and tulips. Charlie had picked them from his garden and tied them as neatly as he could.
«Wait, this isn’t over. Here, happy birthday, granny!»
In the bubble wrap was a pretty white coffee mug with the words engraved: I love you.
The purity of a child’s heart can cause unexpected changes.
«That’s great! Charles H. Geller, where did you get the money to give me this gift?» I had to know.
«It’s nothing. I had saved all the money you and Grandma had given me for so many years. It took me just a little bit, only 18 dollars. And it says ‘I love you’, and this way you will remember that I love you even when I am not here.
This child is amazing. He is so caring! I wish everyone else in my family was here right now, so I could show them what a loving relationship looks like.
As I was releasing Charlie from a long, tight hug, I had an idea. That beautiful $18 mug was the cause of the most scandalous day in my family’s history.
My plan worked with just one magic word. When I said it, every family member who hadn’t come to my birthday party rushed to see me the next day. That magic word was » inheritance.»
I saw all my children and grandchildren gathered in my lawyer’s office, jostling for a seat or standing room in that small space.
Earlier, I had heard my daughter Sandra whisper to the others, saying:
«Look, after years of making us wait, she’s finally ready to hand over the estate. Behave yourselves, I don’t want anyone to mess it up!»
They were all eager, but they had no idea of my ingenious plan.
Hello, I am Mrs. Patricia’s attorney, and on her instructions, I am here to deliver your share of her former estate.»
«But first, I need to be sure. Would you be so kind as to count how many of you are here today?»
They complied and answered:
«Perfect, just as you predicted, Mrs. Patricia.»
I nodded and watched the excitement and greed on my family members’ faces as they each received an envelope.
It was time for me to speak up.
«My dear children, I am sorry that I have not given you what you deserve until now. But today, through this money, I want you to know exactly how precious you are to me. Even if the amount exceeds your expectations, I want you to keep it. For my sake!»
I knew that everyone in the room was only half listening to me. They finally tore open their respective envelopes to see how much they had received.
They mutually looked at the contents of their respective envelopes, to make sure no one had won more.
«Exactly. A dollar. That’s your legacy, and it’s far more than the love and respect you’ve given me all these years — zero!»
«I have 18 of my children and grandchildren ahead of me. And yet, I have never felt loved by anyone other than my dear Susie and this little one. There are 18 of you, and yet my great-grandson is the only one who visited me on my birthday.»
«Is this a joke?» Said Sandra being furious. And the fact that Charlie was standing next to her, unable to refrain from laughing, only increased her anger.
«What do you think you’re doing here? Get out!» shouted Sandra, pointing her finger at the door.
She really shouldn’t have done that.
«That’s enough! You have no right to talk to him like that. This is the sole heir to my property you’re talking to. Minus the eighteen dollars I spent on you all, of course!»
I thought I would feel guilty after seeing the shame and disappointment in their eyes. Instead, I found that I really didn’t care. The only face I wanted to look at was Charlie’s face as he made his way through the crowd to hug me.