I stood on the balcony of my apartment leaned over the thin iron railing and watched the rain drops as the cascaded downward pelting street several stories below. The vehicles below continued their long slow journey towards home after their occupants had spent several long hours at work
I took another sip of my coffee as I waited patiently for my cell phone to ring. I sighed as I considered all that had happened and how to process it all.
It seemed like only yesterday, I was talking with my mother while she was still alive and still able to live at her home ( but only just) We had just finished a makeshift meal in the evening when she told me "you're going to get all of this" as she hobbled over to the crockpot, waving her left arm towards the kitchen.
I looked around at the kitchen. The fridge was an off white color that was built around 1980 that still worked although it had some stains on the front that had been accumulating for some time. Behind me was a china press that was filled with various items from the past such as a plate depicting a busy London street from around the 1900s, a few stuffed animals my grandparents had collected, a doll that my mother had made in elementary school, and old calendars from many years long since gone.
I also considered the dingy yellow wall of the kitchen which was also adorned with my grandfather's paintings. There were at least 5 to 10 of them in the kitchen with more of them in the other parts of the small, 2 bedroom unit. Just about every inch of wall space was covered with a painting, an etching or sketch. Who knows how many of his other works were left in a storage building somewhere, unseen by anyone's eyes save that of myself and my mother.
It didn't help my mood any that the first memory of the artist himself was a conversation he had with me in which he basically said that all of humanity was just a trash heap and only two people in the world gave him any hope. Neither of those two were me.
Underneath her bed, there was a large, aluminum case that had just about every letter and reminiscence that my grandfather had written. A lot of them were wistful tales of childhood innocence that he often lamented he would never get back.
I tried to picture myself in a house that was filled with these items. I could almost feel a cold chain being wrapped about my chest as if these items had a life of their own but were actively seeking to take mine.
I had looked at her and shook my head, not even daring to say anything at all. I knew that the dementia was taking hold of her and she was no longer capable of considering what I was supposed to do with all of this when I was of meager means myself. I didn't have a way to make this into an art museum or antique store. Still she looked at me as if to say,. "it's your legacy! It's our family's legacy! If it's all gone, it'll be your fault!"
She couldn't say any of this with her mouth but her eyes were shouting it and her face was like that of the tragedy mask. I had found it easy to interpret her expressions. I did my best to remain neutral and passive, making sure not to provoker her. I had learned how to keep quiet when needed as a young child. She had taught me this lesson all those years ago. “Keep your mouth shut” she had said. “If you say anything at all, the people that you are talking to could use your own words against you. I’ve seen it happen too many times in my family, so learn not to give them anything to work with.”
My chest and stomach churned for those few moments like a volcano slowly waking up, threatening to come bursting through my throat and consuming everything that I was. I wanted to protest about having this unwanted responsibility thrust upon me, knowing full well that she would not understand it even when she was well.
Instead, I continued to eat the meal in silence as she continued to stare at me with those pleading eyes. After I had taken the last bit of the soup, I took it to the sink and rinsed it out thoroughly. Then I took her empty bowl and washed that as well and placed both of them on the empty drying rack along with the two spoons we had used. I turned to her that night and said, _" thank you for dinner, Mom. I'll see you next week." and left the house. She passed on a week later.
A single tear rolled down my right cheek as I took another sip of my dark brew. " Legacy,. Yeah, right. "
I went inside my apartment and stared at the blank white walls and the square table in the center of the room, a glass sculpture of a dancing figurine on top. I stared at the figurine and admired it's lines and contours. I closed my eyes and I could see the figurine in my mind's eye, as a dancer taking flight on a lighted stage as the audience gasped in awe at the spectacle.
I opened my eyes as the phone call I was waiting for finally came.
"Hello , this is Kelly from Chatham Realty calling about your mother's property."
I sighed. It was time.
"Yes," I replied
" The buyer is ready to sign the deal but he did ask about the contents of house. He wanted to know if you wanted to come and pick up anything."
I smiled as another tear left my right eye as I shook my head even though the realtor on the line would not have been able to see it.
" Tell the seller that I have all that I need."
If there is to be a legacy, let it be my own.