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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Family story

This (reprised)story is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

When my Uncle Doc got out of medical school and finally had two pennies to rub together, he bought his mother a fancy watch. I believe it was a Patek Philippe. None of us ever saw her wearing or consulting the watch, which really didn't go with Bubbe's style, which was that she didn't have any.

Bubbe was of the old school which believed that when a woman got old she was, for all ornamental purposes, dead. She had long grey hair parted in the middle and pulled into a bun in back. Her closet contained three dresses, one black and two navy blue. One of the navy ones had little flowers on it.

She had a couple of housedresses for daily wear. Housedresses are to dresses as paper plates are to bone china. She owned a cardigan sweater, navy blue. Sturdy shoes with one inch heels that laced up completed the ensemble, along with some industrial strength underwear. Her stockings were made of something called lisle. With this wardrobe, Bubbe was good to go to anything from a bar mitzvah to a coronation.

So anyway, she had this fancy Swiss watch, which no one knew about but Uncle Doc. It was too good to use.

Picture a calendar with pages falling from it, indicating that thirty years have passed. Bubbe dies. My mother, who owned her mother's house, was in no hurry to clean it out, sort everything, etc. So eventually Aunt Rose decided to go over there and see what was what.

At that point, Patek Philippe re-entered our lives. Seems Aunt Rose discovered the watch and gave it to her daughter, Esther. Without even consulting Uncle Doc!

Esther even took the watch back to Pittsburgh, where she was living. And when burglars broke into her house and stole the watch, Esther put in a claim to the insurance company.

Uncle Doc told me this story in a tone of high dudgeon. Apparently he felt a bond to this timepiece which not even death could sever. He considered the watch a permanent loan. You know, like when a rich person gives something to a museum to display but keeps title to it. Apparently he thought the watch should have reverted to him and felt ill used.

When he told me this story, I suggested he should have told Rose, or Esther, that he wanted the watch. He was unwilling to come off his high horse, but started treating Esther with cold formality whenever he ran into her, which was often, since this branch of the family are in each other's pockets and scarcely a day goes by when they are not communicating with each other.

So Esther innocently started to wonder what she had done to make him mad. But she wouldn't ask, and he wouldn't have told her anyway. And so it went, until Alzheimer's took over Uncle Doc's memory and he mercifully forgot all about the watch, along with a lot of other things.


Dick Stanley said...

So, what happened to the watch?

bigwhitehat said...

What a sad story!

When my great grandmother, Mama Babe, passed, the family members who seldom came to see her gathered like vultures. I walked away knowing no matter what they took, I was richer for having spent time with her. They may have their things. They may have my things. But I have something they don't. I am a rich, rich man.

Steve B said...

Great story. Went through kinda the same thing when my wife's grandma died. Most of her stuff nobody wanted, but apparently the few things worth keeping EVERYBODY wanted, and the distribution of said items came close to blows a few times.


miriam sawyer said...

Dick: The watch was stolen from Esther's house.

Dick Stanley said...

Sorry, I missed that detail somehow, focused on the Alzheimer's, probably. Or else the standoff at the end, which I have uncomfortably seen replicated a time or two with my own relations.