Out of decency, we knew we had to wait until after the wake to descend on the treasure trove of our forefather’s tools.
So we all waited and grew edgier as the three long days before the funeral expired and the evening of the wake was upon us. We arrived early, in somber nervousness and then we waited some more. In a stroke of genius, Aunt Juanita had locked the doors to the basement.
It was around 10 p.m. when she unlocked the basement. I know because I was looking at my watch when I felt my wife’s hand wrap around my wrist.
“You should go over and talk to her.”
Helga’s grip tightened. Although she was seven months pregnant with our second child, she was still very agile. I knew that if I didn’t comply, her next step would be to slam me on the floor and put me in a half-Nelson.
I tightened my necktie and did the right thing … under duress. Now, it would be fair to say that my Aunt Juanita liked to talk … a lot. We sat quietly as she spoke … at length … about everything. In honesty I must admit, tears welled up in my eyes — particularly at the sound of three pickup trucks, a mini-van and (if I’m not mistaken) a forklift pulling down the driveway and into the workshop only to lurch away moments later under a heavy burden.
It wasn’t until around midnight that Juanita had cleansed her system. By then, the rest of my family (the better men) had returned from downstairs. I moved tentatively toward the basement door, only to meet the discouraging glance of my cousin Mike, as he shook his head solemnly.
It was over.
Well, it goes without saying that the ride home with Helga was a long, quiet one. Oh sure, she was right. But we’re talking about a family tradition here. I fumed in silence.
Some 20 minutes later, she finally broke the silence to say, “Juanita said to give these to you.” And with that she shoved a folded grocery bag in my lap.
For a brief moment I felt dirty. This was a clear violation of a long-standing principle. This feeling was short lived and I had recovered completely by the time the paper bag was unfolded.
Two Estwing hammers: a framer and a tack. They had been my own Old Man’s.
I don’t want to go into too much detail here. Suffice it to say that I had to pull off the road and let my wife drive. Some surface rust would later have to be removed from the hammers.
Oh, I know two hammers ain’t much. But, it is something and they are special. Besides, I’m staying in good shape; I’ll have another crack at the big stuff. PW
Walt Akers is eating right and exercising regularly in Seaford, Virginia.