The Vase

Steve’s mother, Ann, had been dead for two weeks.  Those were tough weeks for him as his father had a heart attack two years earlier and passed away.  Steve missed his dad very much.  Now, as an only-child, he was feeling alone.  At nineteen years old he was still a teenager, but, as his mother had told him, he was a mature one.  After his dad died, his mother lived a year in good health, but during the last year she had lived with the pains and worry of cancer.  Steve had been the mainstay of the family home during that time, tending to his mother’s needs in addition to doing all the cooking and home care.

He had been planning to go to university, but had left that idea behind for a while and got a job to help with his own living expenses.  Most of his time, though, was at home looking after his mother as the cancer progressed leaving her unable to cope with the day to day necessities of life.

Now that she was gone he struggled with his new-found emotions.  Had he done the best for her?  Would Dad have been pleased with his behaviour?  Did he tell his mom enough how much he loved her?  His relatives gave him some comfort.  They told him how proud they were of his devotion to keeping his mom comfortable and that he was such good company for her in the final year of her life.

The logistics surrounding the death of the last parent now had to be taken care of.  There was no possible way for Steve to hold on to the family home.  He wasn’t making enough money to pay for the upkeep and taxes.  Besides, he now wanted to attend university and that was going to cost a lot of money.  He had abandoned his plans for university when his mother took ill.  The money from the sale of the house should, he thought, last long enough to see him through to graduation and then through those early years as a graduate when jobs might not be so easy to obtain.  Part of him wanted to keep his family home where he had grown up, but it was clear what he had to do.  Still, once he had made the decision, he would sit in the living room reminiscing about the good family times in the house.

This is the state of affairs he was in when he started to clean out the his family home in preparation for putting it on the market.  He knew the physical task of handling the disposal of furniture and appliances would required a lot of work.  What he didn’t yet know was how difficult it was going to be to deal with the memorabilia and heirlooms in the house that were unique to his family.

Steve’s Aunt May had been a solid support for him during the past year while he had dealt with his mother’s illness.  She was his mother’s younger sister.  She had a different approach to life than his mother.  She was more of a free spirit and had lived an exciting life through her painting artistry.  She was married and her and Steve’s Uncle Bill had been part of Steve’s extended family as long as he could remember.  Steve’s mom had been much more reserved and focussed than Aunt May, but both sisters thought that family was important.

When Steve began the task of sorting out a lifetime of belongings of his mother’s and father’s, he quickly discovered that there were many ornaments, collections, and other oddities that he knew nothing about.  Aunt May offered to help him figure out what was important and what wasn’t.  And so it was that they were in the living room deciding what should go to the thrift store.

Vase

Steve had picked up an old vase that had been sitting on a table in the living room for as long as he could remember.  He was about to place it in the thrift store box when his aunt exclaimed, “No, Stevie.  You can’t give that away.”

The excited tone of her voice took Steve aback—she was normally so calm and deliberate.

“What is it, Aunt May?  I’ve never really thought much of it.  It seems pretty old fashioned to me.”

“Didn’t Ann ever tell you about this vase?”

“No, I don’t think so.  What’s so special about it?”

“This vase meant a great deal to her, Stevie.  I don’t understand why she never told you about it.  Can we take a moment so I can explain?”

“Sure, let’s.”

May took the vase from Steve and pulled up a chair to the dinning room table where he joined her.

“You probably know from all the family photos you’ve seen that your mom was a beautiful young woman.  You know about her years in university as well.  She was so smart.  I could never keep up with her in school.

When she was a bit older than you are now she was very involved with a nice young man, named Dennis Waterford.   They were the same age, had gone to high school together, and had been dating for over a year.

Dennis was good at almost every sport he played, but his real passion was golf and he was one of the top golfers in the city.  He was serious about it and had been considering going to the States where he could learn more about the game and maybe find his way on to the competitive golf circuit.  He and Ann had been talking for several months about getting married and moving to the States together.  Your mom thought that, with her science degree in mathematics, she would have no trouble getting teaching job anywhere.

Then Dennis started to change.

World War 1 had been going on for two years over in Europe.  Some of the men that Dennis knew well had signed up and gone to fight.  He had been at the sendoff party for three good friends and they had been writing back and forth ever since they left.  Then, in a period of three weeks word came that two of them had been killed.  Dennis was first sad then angry at what had happened and within a month of learning that news he decided to sign up and go to war himself.  I guess he was thinking of revenge.  Ann was completely overwhelmed by this change in Dennis.  They talked about their plans for days before he went to the sign up office.  His mind was made up.

They had another three months together while he did his initial training, but the inevitable day of departure finally came.”

May had to stop for a moment as she felt herself becoming choked with sadness, remembering those days long ago.  Her eyes teared up.  She had to clear her throat and wipe off the tears before continuing.

“Are you OK, Aunt May?”

“Yes, just give me a minute.  That was such a bad time for us and talking about it brings back all that sadness.”

She took some time to collect herself and then continued.

“Anyway, back to the story of the vase.

On their last date together, Dennis presented her with this vase as a gift to remember him by.  It had been in his family for a long time, but his mother gave him permission to give it to her.  She liked your mother very much and thought it was a romantic gesture by her son.  He didn’t normally behave that way.

He left the next day and Ann never saw him again.  He was killed in Belgium six months later and is buried over there, somewhere.

Ann was heartbroken.  She didn’t date another man while the war was still being fought in Europe.

In fact, her first date after the war ended was with your dad.  It was like a gift that he appeared on the scene.  She started enjoying life again and moved on from the grieving that she had been caught up in.  They were very good for each other.

After about a year of dating it was clear that your mom and dad were going to be together and they decided to get married.  After their engagement, Ann confided in your father about the vase and the attachment she had to this piece.

Your dad knew Dennis in high school.  He had also fought in the war that Dennis went off to fight, and had lost many of his own friends.  He understood how tough losing someone close could be.  Together they agreed that the vase would stay in the family.

So you see, that is why I think it needs to be kept, Stevie.  Either you keep it or I will, until you get a bit older and understand what it means to hold on to your family history.  Whatever we do, it needs to stay.  Can you understand that?”


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I’ve been working at writing fiction for the last little while and finding it a good challenge.  

This story is complete fiction.  Steve is not me and this situation never happened.

Jack