The gift…A short story….

“Pawpaw, I’m sorry you’re sick. Is it the “super-virus”?”  Thad looks at his granddaughter Thelma and shakes his head. “I don’t know, doll. The hospital is too far away for me to get there, I will tough it out here at home.” Thelma dons her mask and enters her grandfather’s room. “You shouldn’t have to tough it out, poppy. These idiot politicians should be fired for holding up the necessary medication, our seniors need to survive.” Thad smiles. “It has been said, you never let a good crisis go to waste. It is the perfect opportunity to hold people hostage until they give in to your demands.”

Angrily, Thelma slams a fist into the wall. “Poppy, that’s murder. They can’t do this too us! We live in a free country.”  Thad’s hands tremble. Reaching out, Thelma puts her gloved hands on his to comfort her grandfather. “Poppy, please don’t leave me.” Thad closes his eyes and Thelma watches his chest rise and fall with each breath. Tearfully, Thelma sits down in a chair and waits for the end. The hum of the ventilator is the only sound coming from the room, until the cordless phone in her lap begins to ring.

“Hello?”

“Ms. Cordell? This is Nurse Mayhew. How’s your grandfather today? Is he speaking?”  Thelma clears her voice and wipes her eyes. “He’s still breathing. We talked for a moment before he closed his eyes.”

“Okay, I will be out in the morning. The hospital is backed up, so we have nowhere to put him. Hopefully, tomorrow will be better.” Thelma finishes the conversation and hangs up. Thad is looking at her from his bed. “Hey, can you put my pillows behind my back, so I can sit upright and talk to you?” Nodding, she props her pawpaw up.

“Was that the nurse?”

“Yes, she is coming in the morning.” Thad nods his head. “Well, I need to say some things to you, Thelma. Don’t interrupt me, just try to understand. I love you very much. When your mom ran off, and your dad abandoned you here with me, I never thought I would be able to care for you the way young ladies need to be taken care of. Somehow, we managed to get through those tough moments together. I’ve never been prouder of anything, the way I’m proud of you.” Thad puts his hand over Thelma’s and looks into her eyes. “I won’t be here in the morning when the nurse comes by. A man knows when he is dying but I’m glad you’re in my corner.  Under my bed is a trunk. The house, vehicles, and land are paid off. It’s all been put in your name. In the trunk is a key. It’s to a safety deposit box at Heartland Federal.”

Rasping breaths fall silent as Thad departs this world for his eternal reward. Thelma buries her face in her hands and cries bitter tears. Struggling to compose herself, she calls 911. The blare of an ambulance siren cuts through the quiet, night air. She watches as her grandfather is put on a bed and rolled to the ambulance; a sheet covers his small frame.

The rest of the night passes slowly. She walks into her grandfather’s room and reaches under the bed. Sliding the trunk out, she twists the knob and the latch loosens. Inside, is a solitary key. At nine A.M. she walks into Heartland Federal. A young woman stands behind the counter and beckons for her to approach. “How can I help you, today?” Thelma clears her throat and pulls out the key. “I’m here to take possession of my grandfather’s safety deposit box.” The teller forces a smile. “Do you have paperwork showing he gave you control of it?” Frustrated, Thelma pats her foot on the ground. “I would tell you to call him, but he died last night. Thanks in large part to the inaction of people like yourself.” The teller shocked by the viciousness of Thelma’s remark, gestures for her to follow. “I’m sorry for your loss, his box is in the vault.”

The teller opens the vault and pulls out the box. Box in hand, they walk to an unoccupied office. “If you need anything, please let one of us know. We will do what we can to make this painless.” Thelma nods and waits for the teller to leave. Inserting the key, Thelma opens the box. Each deed for the house, vehicles and property is stacked on top of each other and secured with a red rubber band. A copy of her grandfather’s updated will rest inside the box. As she starts to open the will, her cellphone rings.

“Ms. Cordell? Hi, my name is Timothy Whaler. I was your grandfather’s attorney. I need you to get here ASAP. Your father has shown up to take possession of the entirety of his estate. I need you here to read the will and make your grandfather’s wishes known.”

“I’m on my way, give me five minutes.” Thelma hangs up and shoves the deeds back into the safety box. On her way out she hands it to the teller. “I’ll be back, I must go take care of something.” Driving hurriedly Thelma rushes to the office. She slams on the brakes of her Honda, in front of the office and jumps out of the car. She runs into the building and her father stands up to greet her. “Hey, darling. Its….” Thelma puts her hand up and shoves past him. “Mr. Whaler, I’m here.” The attorney comes out of his office and prepares to read the will. “This is all rather unorthodox, but it was Thad’s wish for all of his fortune to be given to one person.” Smiling, Thelma’s father edges toward the lawyer.

“Thelma, you are the sole beneficiary of your grandfather’s estate. His net worth of 4 million dollars is yours, this includes all assets pertaining to the estate.” Thelma’s father slams his hands into the wall. “How could he do this to me? I’m his son!” Whaler shrugs. “Thad said Thelma would be there when he died, and she was. Your dad said blood wasn’t nearly as important as loyalty. According to your father, he and Thelma were more than blood, they were family.” Thelma nods and accepts the will. Walking out of the office, Thelma sobs. “I would give it all away, for one more moment with you.”

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