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The Phone Call …

The time is 9:12 AM on September 1, 2015 and my cell phone is ringing. The caller’s number is familiar to me although a call from my cousin Donald is not a frequent occasion.  Life many times gets in our way and our communication has been somewhat infrequent over the years. When I receive his calls I value the time we can enjoy each other’s company and am thankful we can still touch base periodically. We have much family history between us; we are both firstborn children of first cousins Lola and Marion. Our lives together remain a wondrous history of comedy, family fun times together, childhood hijinks, accomplishments and sadness as well. It’s funny how life brings such vivid memories and sentiment of days gone by even when we become old…

The circumstances of his call are very dear to my heart and warn of an impending fact of life which will surely impact all of us at one time or another. The purpose of his call will soon become clear but first I must set the stage and the scene of a time and a place gone by…many, many years ago.

My Grandmother, Lois Annie was twice widowed in her lifetime, each instance with young children to carry on her legacy. In 1945 she was once again widowed when my step grandfather was lost in France to World War II and she began anew to rebuild a shattered existence. She worked for a lumber company in those early years and the loss required her to recognize she would yet again become the sole provider for her two children Marion and Clarence Jr. It was during that tenure with the lumber company that she forged a life-long friendship with the men who worked alongside her. She was the only female employee of the company and as such was the bookkeeper, correspondent, materials clerk, inventory manager, sales clerk and any other such positions in which she could serve. She was an extremely intelligent woman and the men of the company all took great pains to assure she received as much help as possible. She was truly blessed that these men and their wives took such wonderful care to support her during her time of extreme need.

Before her husband had unfortunately been lost to war in 1945 they had purchased a plot of land in their hometown and upon his return vowed to build their own home. No more renting or sharecropping for this young family…or so they thought.

When the news came that Clarence Sr. would never return, she set about to make that dream of a home a reality. With the help of her coworkers and friends, she built a lovely little home on Hillsboro Street, a modest two bedroom, one bath home all her own. Because of her knowledge in the lumber business and her determination to make a safe harbor for her children, she researched all the latest building supplies and built an extremely sturdy bungalow. After completion of the home she began her quest to complete the interior furnishings as well. She found a used refrigerator, stove and a couch from one of the homes in their hometown, cleaned them to her pristine standards and was very proud to own something of her very own.  That the items were ‘used’ was of no consequence; she was proud nonetheless.  When it came time to search for a dining table for her small family, nothing seemed to fit the tiny nook and her limited budget affected no new purchase, especially one ‘custom built.’  She would save her hard-earned money and find just the right set at the proper time.  She was thankful and blessed however when one of her friends from work hand-built a lovely little table and four chairs set to exactly fit the very small breakfast room in the tiny bungalow. She treasured the workmanship, the generosity from her friend and the kindness it represented and it remained in her home in the original place for over fifty years.  I sat in those chairs and shared meals my entire life when I was honored to spend ‘sleep overs’ with her or just to visit in my later years…

When the time came near the end of her life that it became necessary for her to move in with my mother and father, her sister Edna purchased the house on Hillsboro and vowed to keep it “in the family.”  Lois Annie was very pleased and blessed it would continue serving her loved ones.  Edna set about making her new home all her own but found a different use for the layout of the home, thus eliminating the need for the simple but lovingly treasured little table and chairs. When the time came for the move and repurpose of the tiny dining set, Edna’s daughter Lola wanted to assure the table stayed within the family so used it in her own home for the next succession of years. My mother Marion felt blessed her cousin Lola felt so strongly that the set should stay in the family.  It meant something to her…memories…many, many memories.  My Grandmother was greatly loved by more than just her children and grandchildren.

I share this bit of history to show that a treasure–a simple inanimate object from a loving, kind and generous heart to someone regardless of how long ago that gift was given to explain just why the phone call this morning from my cousin Donald affected me so deeply and so strongly. Our mothers are now both in their mid-eighties; each with their own set of health issues and maladies but clearly connected, albeit not as often as they would like.  My memories of Lola and her family are extremely strong and loving and I do have to say I loved all those visits in their home over the years.

Donald’s news is that it is necessary for Lola to live in assisted living and her home is to be sold. I took the news with much regret and sadness although knowing that her health has been in decline. There comes a time when we have to see to the necessary arrangements to help our parents in their later years and it is sad but a very important and necessary part of life.

As he began to explain the second reason for his call today, he began by relating just how this treasured little table and chairs came to be in his own mother’s residence for so long. I knew the story and listened intently to what he was building up to.

He continued by saying “Mama’s home is going to be sold and I was trying to figure out what to do with the table and chairs. I know what it meant to your Grandmother and to Mama…then I KNEW I HAD IT! It HAS to go to Dell Anne…IF she wants it.” While he relayed his reason for the call, my heart absolutely filled with emotion, both with the pain and fear of the possibility of losing a beloved member of my family circle but also with the knowledge that this family in their time of difficult family decisions would acknowledge and remember MY history of the sentimental value attached to one small and simple item.

OF COURSE, I want it and would be honored to have it returned to my family!

My tears fell like rain, I choked up and could only squeak out a weak and un-memorable thank you but when we quickly ended our telephone conversation, I placed my head on my desk and wept a lifetime of tears, for those years gone by, all the loved ones we have lost and for the loving thoughtfulness of my cousin Donald. He kept me in his heart by offering to return something from my beautiful little Grandmother—a little piece of my history.

My thanks to Donald for returning this treasure and I hope this thank you will prove my affection for him and know the dining set will be loved and appreciated. This simple little hand-made beauty represents so much in my Grandmother’s life and makes me happy—my cup runneth over…truly!

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