“Birthday Money”

A sentimental piece which a lot of people think I should continue, but should expect that I won’t get around to it.  But you never know…. 😉

Birthday Money

(by Allison Rose)

“Another check from your grandmother,” Mom says as she brings in the mail from the box.  “I don’t know why she keeps at this.”

She dumps the clumsy stack of envelopes that the postman carelessly jams into our mailbox every day onto the kitchen table.  Miraculously, it doesn’t all get soaked with my orange juice spill.

“Sometimes I wonder if she’s gone batty in her old age.  She never did get over it.”  Mom’s voice cracks for a moment as she says this, but in a split-second, she’s back to her usual calm, composed self.

For as long as I can remember, my grandmother has been sending checks in the mail, addressed to my father, for his birthday.  But he’d never cash them in.  Not ever.  He’s been dead for the last ten years of my life.

And she never sends us — the ones who are still alive — anything.  She hates us, I’m certain of that.  She did not approve that Dad, who’d been halfway through law school, wanted to marry to an artsy person like my mom.  She came to the wedding with great reluctance, but when Dad decided to quit law entirely and become an artist too, she refused to see his face again.

But she still sends him a birthday present of a thousand dollars each year, even after a hit-and-run accident took his life.

Now, she’s seventy-two, and I’m fourteen, and my mom’s trying to sell her paintings on Etsy.  We could have used some help, even though Mom was too proud to ask for it.

‘To be deposited only by Matthew Davison personally,’” Mom reads out in a hoity-toity voice from the front of the check.  She sounds almost exactly like one of those old black-and-white movie actresses.  “Well, it’s just our rotten luck, isn’t it,” she added with a sigh.  “Sometimes, I wish….”  Her voice trails off uncertainly.

That things could have turned out differently, is what she probably what she’s wishing for.

I don’t tell her — she’d probably think I’m meddling in old affairs or dwelling on the past, as she’d say — but I wish it too.

I reach for the envelope the check came in, examining it.  Hands I’d never seen or held had handled the paper.  A mouth whose words I’d never heard had sealed it all shut.

A small slip of paper falls out of the envelope.  “Mom, look!”  I exclaim, picking it up.  “It’s a note from her!”

“That’s strange,” Mom mutters, taking the paper from my hand.

‘Louisa,’” she reads.  “She addressed me by my name!  Would you look at that!”

It has been a very long time, I’m afraid, but it is always better late than never.  We will always have our differences, but I have grown old and life only lasts so long.  I wish to see Matthew’s daughter and see for myself whether or not her parents have raised her effectively.  Write to me — by postal mail, for e-mail is laziness — to confirm your acquiescence, and I will send the child fare for both her flight to my villa in Florida and her return flight to your residence.

  –Victoria Dickson-Davison

“Well, that was sweet,” Mom snapps sarcastically.  “Like I would ever send my little girl to be brainwashed by that old hag, after all she hasn’t done for us!”

“Actually, Mom,” I begin cautiously.

“Wait– What?”

“I’d like to take her up on her offer,” I continue, a sudden burst of confidence hitting me full in the face.  I don’t know why, but the words of that message were beginning to sink in.  Something inside told me my grandmother was trying.  Trying to make an effort to change.  To undo the damage she’d caused herself.

It’s always better late than never, after all.

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