Thirteen years after her death and ten months after my dad's I finally sold my mother's jewelry today. Both of my parents wanted me to have the jewelry. In fact the day after Mom's funeral, Dad trotted it all out, informing me it was mine. He was happy to do it, even smiling. He didn't understand when I said I didn't want it.
He kept pushing and pushing until I yelled at him. "I want my mother not the blasted jewelry!" His face took on the puzzled expression I would see more frequently as he slipped into dementia.
Knowing he'd just lost his wife and would never understand anyway, I gathered up the jewelry and packed it away for my return trip to Texas.
Thus began the saga of my mother's jewelry. He asked if I wanted him to place her large solitaire diamond ring with a local broker to sell and I agreed. After a few months it sold. So I didn't have to see it or think about it. The rest I plunked in a safe deposit box and ignored. Once I went and got out a couple of rings and a diamond bracelet for a role I was playing in a current production. Other than that, I never wore it.
I probably sound like a brat. Maybe I am, but here's the deal...money and the pursuit of it ruined my family. My entire life my parents were all about money. I understand why. They were both children of the depression who grew up in genteel poverty. Both of my grandfathers worked when others didn't. My mother's father worked construction in Miami at a time when the resort was beginning to boom. My father's father worked in law enforcement, so he always had a job. But he had six children to feed. In my mom's family there were three daughters.
Money or lack thereof was a frequent topic of discussion in their respective homes. They came to think with money they would always be safe and free of fear. Of course they were both taught otherwise frequently as adults but clung to their core belief. It was the only refuge they knew.
As a child I recognized the emptiness of pursuing wealth. I never wanted to drive a new Cadillac every year, sparkle with jewels, or wear dead animals on my back. I grew up to be a hippie. People were more important to me and I ended up in social work. My values were opposite of both my parents. I worked for the poor, the neglected, the abused, and the exploited. I went places law enforcement wouldn't go, at times knowing my life was in danger. But I went anyway because those people needed an advocate.
My parents aged and Dad retired, no longer the "big wheel" he once had been, and smarting from it. They were at a loss in retirement. Dad played golf in his expensive country club neighborhood. My mother, always shy, mostly stayed home, seeing few friends, and drinking more until she got so sick she didn't drink at all. She never connected well with people except by being the richest one in the group. Where they lived their last years everyone was on their economic level, some even higher. Her life crumbled around her. She shrank into herself and into a bourbon or vodka bottle, her diamond rings flashing as she lifted the glass to her lips for another drink.
Bedfast for seven months, gradually she put away all her fancy jewelry, wearing only her wedding rings until the day before she died. She asked Dad to put them away finally.
All of Dad's accoutrements of wealth went the same way during the ten years I was his caregiver. One by one everything slipped away. He was no longer able to physically play golf. He finally agreed to sell his beloved Cadillac, couldn't figure out how to change the time on his Rolex and wore his beloved golf clothes which hung on his much smaller frame. The last time he wore them was the last time he went to the hospital. He was wearing them when they wheeled him into the ER. He stayed there over a week and went to hospice care. The rest of his life he wore pajamas.
He was called before the homeowner's association board for the condition of his yard. He shuffled into the meeting in a stained jacket, one of his golf hats and one of his ensembles for the golf course. He was sadly arrogant, a ghost of the man he had been. He laughed at the board with scorn, saying "you don't know who I am. You can't do anything to me." They gave him a deadline to fix the dollar weed problem or face fines. He walked out of there, the shadow of the international vice president he had been, a satisfied smirk on his face. The next day he had forgotten about it, his own perceived victory vanished into what was left of his mind. I arranged for the treatments to the yard and wrote the checks to pay them.
Their house has long since sold to a new family who did extensive renovations. Dad is buried beside Mom at a local cemetery. All the things which were their benchmark for the success of their lives are dispersed.
I sold a few pieces of Mom's jewelry when we had the estate sale. Someone bought them for his wife. They had an important anniversary coming up. The woman who ran the sale said he was thrilled. I'm glad. I hope she enjoys them.
I didn't sell the rest of her jewelry while Dad was alive. I didn't want to hurt him. He'd lost so much already.
Earlier this week, a local jeweler announced they were setting appointments for buying jewelry. So I made one,drove out there this morning and sold everything I brought. They didn't pay much. I didn't expect them to. For all the baubles, rings, bracelets, a diamond heart shaped pendant, and a Baume & Mercier gold and diamond watch, I got ten cents on the dollar. That's okay. I'll use the money I got to pay expenses for Dad's estate, still not settled.
Our family life was what it was. I accepted it and went my own way, knowing I couldn't change anything.
Today I grieved once more for my lost parents.
Freed of the burden of the jewelry, I thought I'd feel better, but I am numb.
It will pass.
Until next time when I promise another movie review, take care...blessed be.