Chapter 40 - It's Over (Epilogue)

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July 1964

"Helen's funeral was the next week," Annie said, her attention focused on the patchwork square she was ironing.

Jess saw her blink hard, and leaned forward to resume sewing, blinking back her own tears.

"Your uncle was–"

Annie lifted her head, seemingly searching for the right words before she looked at Jess. "He was distant, like he wasn't there. I know he was trying to push away the grief while he was in public, but after we came home, he was still acting that way. As soon as we were in the house, he told Billy to go back to New York, he didn't need his help anymore. He was so cold when he said it, I know it hurt your father a great deal. Billy never came back to visit us after that. We never got to see him or your mother again."

"Do you think that's why my dad didn't make arrangements with the lawyers so he wouldn't inherit the trust?" Jess asked.

Annie's sad eyes became softer. "No, pumpkin. Your father would never have done that. There wasn't a vindictive bone in his body."

"I don't understand why he didn't talk to the lawyers and get it fixed," Jess cried. "I remember when I was little, he was happy with his job on Wall Street and he loved living in the city. From what you've said, he never liked working at the mine, even when he was a kid. Why didn't he take care of it like he told Uncle Jonathon he was going to?"

Annie set the iron on its end and brought a stack of ironed quilt squares to the table, sitting across from Jess. "Billy left on the first train the next morning, so he couldn't see the lawyers before then. And when he got home, he probably thought he had time. The inheritance wasn't going to be an issue until something happened to your uncle. He probably thought he'd live longer since he was the youngest."

Jess slumped. "You're probably right," she said, but she couldn't help imagining how different things might have been if he hadn't waited.

"The day after the funeral, your uncle went back to work.  Before he left, he told me to have Helen's belongings out of the house before he came home. I had to get James to help me gather it all – her clothes, photographs, jewelry – everything had to be collected. With the way your uncle was acting, I was afraid of what he'd do if he found I'd missed anything."

"What did you do with all of it?"

"I hid it in the attic. I thought Doug would want some of Helen's things when he was older. But since he's still living here with your uncle, we can't bring them out."

"That's not fair to Doug. He should be able to have his mother's things, like her pictures."

"He knows they're there. He can see them whenever he wants.  He just loves his father too much to hurt him by putting the pictures out."

"Was it the same thing with the cabin? Did Uncle Jonathon forbid anyone to go there?"

"He never talked about the cabin. It was as if it didn't exist anymore, and I knew I should never mention it either. It was just too painful. Anything that reminded him of her her was too painful for him. You see, your uncle never recovered from losing Helen. It broke something inside him."

Jess remembered Annie telling her the same thing over the years, but until this moment, she didn't think she fully understood how much of a change her uncle had gone through. The way Annie had described him as a teenager and young man, he was certainly full of himself and cocky, but he had the capacity to care about others, to feel sympathy for the problems other people faced. That person wasn't anything like the Uncle Jonathon she'd grown up with.

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