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Everything had become white noise to me. The people walking by just seemed like fish swimming aimlessly in a tank. Some of them I didn't even recognize. Did these people really know my husband? Or were they just here. I don't think anyone knew my husband as well as I did. He was an honest genuine man, hardworking and brave. I would have done anything to save him.
"Hannah" I looked up to see my little sister Elizabeth tapping on my shoulder, "Hannah, everyone is concerned, I think it would be very nice of you to say a few words about Jonas."
"Sure." I said, I had no energy to think, no energy to talk. It was like someone drained all the color out of my world and all I could see was black and white.
I stood up on the podium and tapped into the microphone to get everyone's attention. My youngest daughter, Linda was only twelve years young; she only had twelve years to get to know her father; which was why I was the most terrified for her. My second child Arnold looked up at me, his tie uneven and too small for him, I was worried about him too, could I teach him everything a young boy needed to know without the help of Jonas? My eldest child Lauren smiled, and put her hand on Linda's shoulder. I was so fortunate to have Lauren.
I cleared my throat, "Thank you all very much for coming." I said. I saw countless sympathetic faces, people said they were sorry, but they didn't know what it was like to lose a husband, to lose a best friend, for your children to lose their father. They really didn't know. "Thank you for coming," I repeated, "All of you knew my husband, I hope" there was a low sound of laughter, "Some knew him as a brother, some knew him as a father, a mailman, a community leader, but no matter what we knew him as, we all knew him as a friend." I looked down and a tear drop fell from my eyes, I couldn't bare to look up and see the expression on my children's faces. "Jonas was a good man, he never stole from anyone, never lied, and he loved his family with all her heart. I know for a fact that he would have died for anyone of us; and it breaks my heart to know that he has." I had to stop and turn around for a second, I couldn't stifle my sobs, the cold wet tears were running down my face and into my hands; I heard the piercing noise of the microphone shrieking. My sister Elizabeth ran up the two stairs gave me a hug and handed me a tissue. No one spoke.
"Well," I said clearing my tears with my tissue, "All of my husband's life he struggled, growing up in a poor family he had always wanting more for his kids, he had wanted them to attend a prestigious private school, and live in a nice big house where money was never an issue. Unfortunately, money was our biggest issue. When Jonas and I got married, it was during the depression, work was scarce so Jonas applied for a job putting up telephone poles; one afternoon he came home limping, so we went to the doctor and his leg was shattered, broken in twelve places. Jonas was out of work for two years. Then when all the healthy men went off to war, Jonas worked as a mailman hoping that one day he would be able to get a better job. Sadly, Jonas stayed a mailman and every single day of his life, he was disappointed. Years went by, and we had three wonderful children, bills started to pour in, money was tight; but Jonas persevered, he was up all night trying to figure out how to make things work. Things never worked for us though, Jonas soon became depressed. He always appeared exhausted, he came home from work late, and sat in his favorite chair; one morning he never woke up. Doctors diagnosed Jonas with having a heart attack, but I know that he really died from a broken heart." My voice was starting to crack, and my eyes were becoming watery and warm. I felt emptiness inside of me, and I am scared that it will never be filled again. "Jonas had wanted to give his family more; he had no idea what he had already given us. I'll miss him with all my heart and I hope he is in a better place now."
I picked up a picture of Jonas and me from our wedding day; when we were in a state of bliss. I kissed it, walked over the casket and left the room.
Sitting outside on a bench, watching the October orange and yellow leaves whisk by, I felt a warm gentle touch on my shoulder; looking up, to the warm blue eyes of Jonas's best friend Lionel. Lionel was a good man, a smart man; he practiced medicine in a quaint office a few miles from my house. I couldn't help feel anger towards Lionel, he was a doctor he could have helped Jonas. In more than one sense, he could have given him some advice on how to redeem his health, and more importantly, he could have given us some money.
"I should have seen it coming." Lionel admitted softly, he had known felt my hostility towards him when I demanded him to stay away from my children. Feeling sad, I patted Lionel's hand,
"You tried your best." I said.
"Listen, I know you broke off any communication that I have with your kids, and I can understand that. I wouldn't want them to have a new father figure; and I'm sure Jonas would agree, but I will be more than happy to help you out financially. And it could be under the table no one would have to know. I promise."
I took a short breath, and with all the courage within me as apprehensive about the future as I was I had to remember Jonas for the one thing I will never forget: his intuitive pride.
"No, thank you." I replied, "We'll have to make it work on our own." As Jonas walked away towards the serene scene of yellow and orange leaves scattered around the ground, I could see my sister Elizabeth approaching me; Elizabeth had looked like the rest of my three sisters, blonde shoulder length hair, bright green eyes that you could see from miles away, and a small perky nose. But there was one distinguishable thing about Liz that none of my sister's had, and that was that indescribable glow, the kind that was so mesmerizing, and that separated the average people from the models, and the actresses. Although, Liz was not an actress she could have been, even though she lacked any kind of theatrical skill, and was sadly dumb as a rock.
Liz sat down next to me on the hard bench, she crossed her arms and let out a sympathetic sigh.
"I heard the whole thing," She said "I thought it was very generous of him to have offer, but.."
"He wouldn't have done it." Elizabeth and I both knew very well that there were never no strings attached with this man, when he wanted something there was always something behind it; and I had none what that one thing had been. Elizabeth.
"Do you find it odd, that he is a forty five year old man who was never married"
"Of course not, Elizabeth. But I do find it quite disturbing that he's been chasing after you." We both laughed. No matter how upset I was, no matter how sad Elizabeth had always made me laugh. Always.
As the laughter died down, Liz looked at me like she has never looked at me before. Seriously.
"But seriously, Hannah how are you going to get through this?"
"I have a plan." I responded.
"Don't you always." Liz looked at me and winked, we both laughed.
"Well, my plan is to look through Jonas's things, his books, his clothes, his unsmoked cigars, and maybe we'll make some money out of that. All we have to do is clean out his closet and part of the attic." Looking over at Elizabeth, she seemed cynical about the whole idea, although she was also in shock when it came to Jonas's death.
"Hannah, Jonas had very few things to his name, you might be able to make thirty dollars maximum, which is not enough to live off of. Sure it will get you through the first couple of months, but after that.."
"AND THAT IS ALL WE NEED TO GET ON OUR FEET!" I snapped at her angrily, for some reason I had a hard time letting out my emotions, and that instant my little sister who had never done anything but help me got the grunt of it.
I looked at her eyes, which were in complete and utter bewilderment, "Well," she explained, "I didn't mean to offend you, but if that's the way you feel then I'll be more than happy to help you clean out his closet."
I tear drop ran down my face, "Thank you so much Liz, I appreciate this so much." I hugged my sister w, "Would you mind going to my house around three? I just need a little time alone with Jonas's grave. Do you think you can take my kids back too?"
Without hesitation Liz said, "Surely. See you at three." As Liz walked away, I started to walk over the tombstone; I could only stare at the letters going across, "Jonas Meyers - a father, a brother, a husband, a friend R.I.P." It hadn't dawned on me, until that day how many friends Jonas truly had, a man with a heart that large it was inevitable for him not to be friends with everyone.
"Jonas, I am so sorry. I miss you so much." My whispered had transformed into deep uncontrollable sobs that left an aching feeling in my stomach. "I don't care what you thought; you were a great husband, and an amazing father." I kissed my two fingers, touched the grave and walked away.
I arrived home to see my sister drinking coffee at my kitchen table with a man that I did not recognize. He was wearing a black suit, and there was some kind of identification card on his right side pocket, his eyes were big and ocean blue and they did not match his matte black hair at all. Knowing Elizabeth, one of Jonas's friends had introduced himself to her, she found him attractive and took him home like a child in grammar school would take home a lost puppy.
I gave the man a please-explain-why-you-are-in-my-house look. He stood up and put out his hand, "Please, excuse my manors ma'am," he said whipping coffee from his face. "My name is Walter George, I am an appraiser for a downtown thrift store, I was also friends of your husband. I couldn't help but overhear when you were talking to your sister, that you had wanted to have items appraised."
At that moment, I could have kicked him out of my house. I could have. But I didn't.
I gave him the okay smile, "Please follow me this way." Walking up the stair case to our room Mr. George examined our home, and Elizabeth had examined him examining it as well.
"This was our room." I opened the door, and signaled to two to come in. "Now we didn't have that much, but what we did have was good. You hear me-I don't want any..."
"These are magnificent." Walter interrupted "Absolutely breathtaking." Walter had walked to the back of the closet, past the two pairs of scoffed shoes, four shirts, and two pairs of pants, straight to a sheet that looked like it was covering a large box. Inside the large box, were about thirty paintings that I had never seen before.
"Look at how small the strokes are, and how the colors blend together so evenly, these flowers are absolutely symmetrical, and the vase looks like real glass. Mrs. Meyers, this painting would be worth about four hundred dollars, minimum."
"Fa-fa-fa-FOUR HUNDRED DOLLARS?" Both my mouth, and Elizabeth's mouth, had dropped. "FOUR HUNDRED DOLLARS? But I don't even know who these paintings belong to, I've never seen them before."
Walter took out the next one, which was a woman who looked a lot like me holding pearls, it was the best portrait I had ever seen. "Who did this?" I whispered my finger stroking the painting, "I wouldn't touch that if I were you ma'am, that has to be worth about a thousand dollars."
"ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS?" Elizabeth looked like she was about to cry, jumping up and down.
"God had answered my prayers." She screamed dancing around the room. I was so anxious to see what the rest of them were worth. Walter picked one up and it was a painting of a family on Christmas, each one helping each other to decorate the tree. The colors were warm, and just by looking at it I could hear all of us singing, I could feel the blaze from the fire in the fire place, and I could hear Linda giggling, "Daddy, pick me up." She would always say.
"Why yes, that's the name of the painting, "Daddy pick me up." How did you know, did you buy these long ago, and forget that you had them, well might I tell you that was quite a smart purchase."
"I didn't buy them," I corrected him "I think my husband painting them." I walked over to the paint chest, took out a small painting turned it over, and saw the initials J.Meyers on the back in Jonas's exact handwriting. I put my hand over my mouth and started to cry.
"Why don't we go downstairs, and let Walter finish appraising the pictures." Liz put her hand on my shoulder.
Downstairs we could hear Walter, just a mere child, meddling through our most prized items, even if I didn't know we had them. Walter had came downstairs thirty minutes later looking excited.
"Mrs. Meyers. I have come bearing good new. The good news is you have thirty paintings, with twenty nine of them you can make up to 100 thousand dollars." In 1945 I only knew three people who had that amount of money, the president, Babe Ruth, and the creator of the electric oven. "Then," Walter explained, "I found one painting that was different from the rest; it is absolutely amazing, I am willing to give you a hundred thousand dollars for this painting alone."
He took out the painting, it was a portrait of Jonas, but it wasn't any type of portrait. It was Jonas trying to hold up the world on his shoulders, his face looked strained and exhausted, and the world was coming down on him hard. There are only dark colors used in this painting, except for the colors in Jonas's face, which even had a dark after shadow. It was amazing, the most breathtaking painting that I had ever laid eyes on.
"But the bad news is," I said aloud "I don't know if I want to sell it."
"What?" Liz got up from her said "Hannah I won't let you keep those paintings." She said impulsively, "YOU NEED THAT MONEY!"
"But it is my husband, my choice, and my money!" I yelled back.
"What about your kids Hannah?" Liz gestured to the staircase where I could see three sets of eyes looking out around the corner, "What about them?"
Walter was in the middle of all this, "I'll show myself out," he said "give my a call later, will ya." He handed both me and my sister a business card with his name and number on it.
"I don't want to sell the paintings Liz; they're the last thing I have to remember, Jonas."
"I understand that, Hannah, but you need the money." Liz left to go comfort the children and I sat at the dining room table trying to think of every possible way, not to sell those paintings. "We don't even need two hundred thousand dollars; we can make it on four hundred dollars." I mumbled to myself. "We don't need to be rich we just need to make it through."
Dinner was silent that night. No one was hungry, including Arnold who was usually a tank around dinner time.
I couldn’t bare to see my family, this broken. I knew that if Jonas was here, he would lighten the mood, even if he wasn’t well himself he would say something.
“Excuse me” I said, “I am going to see if the bank is still open.”
“Why, Mommy?” Linda asked, “Why would you want to go to the bank?” I didn’t know if my idea would work, I didn’t want to tell anyone, I wouldn’t want to disappoint them.
“Liz” I said, “Do you mind following me outside for a minute?” Liz left the table, patting
Linda on the head on her way out. We shut the door behind us, and started to whisper.
“I have an idea, Liz and I’m not sure if it’s going to work. It is an extremely optimistic idea, and I could have been absolutely insane for even thinking it, but I knew that if Jonas was here, he would have encouraged me to take the chance.
“I have to go, Liz. Wish me luck.” I ran four blocks all the way down to city bank, to see Margie Anderson, an old friend of mine about to lock the door.
“Margie please!” I said huffing and puffing, “Please I just need five minutes!”
“I’m afraid we’re closed, Hannah, come back seven AM tomorrow.” Margie answered in her nasally voice.
“Please, Margie it really can’t wait.” Margie shot my a sympathetic look, out of her thick pink and rhinestone glasses,
“Okay, fine. But just for five minutes!” Margie started to turn the lock the other way, and let me in. I ran straight upstairs to Donald Barrymore’s office. Barrymore was the head banker in Littlewood, he has never been married, never had a family, and was notorious for being quite a hostile man.
“Mr. Barrymore!” I banged on the door, “Mr. Barrymore! Please answer, it’s Hannah, Hannah Meyers.”
Barrymore, the old crooked man opened the door, gesturing me to come in. Which had been shocking to me considering he had never been kind to me, he wasn’t known for being a warm and gentle man. He grabbed his pocket watch from the chain and examined the time.
“Seven o’clock.” He said firmly.
“Are you aware, Mrs. Meyers that this bank closes at six thirty, every single day. And that you showing up at this hour is a very large imposition.” Mr. Barrymore was a traditional man. He believed in organization and structure, he needed to come out of the eighteen hundreds.
“Yes, but Mr.-“
“However,” He interrupted, “Even I can make an exception, once in a while.”
“Thank you Mr. Barrymore,” I pleaded. “I was wondering if I can take out a loan for two
hundred and fifty dollars..”
“You, know.” He interrupted again with his old quaking voice, “Two hundred and fifty dollars is a great deal of money.”
“Yes I am aware of this Mr. Barrymore, but I have good reasoning and I will be sure to pay it back, whether my idea works or not.”
Barrymore pondered, and looked at my dubiously, he took his one eyeglass out of his eye, and put it in his pocket. He rubbed his hands together, and looked up and me. He left the table and walked into a small room. I could feel my pulse increasing by the second. My heart was pounding and my palms were sweaty.
Mr. Barrymore re-entered the room with a small envelope.
“Don’t tell anyone.” He said, “I wouldn’t want word to get out that I actually do have a heart.” Mr. Barrymore smiled, amiably and wished me luck.
I ran all the way home to find Liz sitting on the couch, reading the children a story. Linda was half asleep and Lauren was teaching Arnold how to tie his tie.
“Lauren, would you mind carrying Linda to her room?” Lauren picked her up and I kissed all of my children good night. Before I had told Linda the news, I made sure, they were upstairs.
“Liz” I said, “I have an idea.”
“I am aware of that, now I would like to know what it is!”
“Before I tell you, there is one more thing I need to do.” I ran upstairs to my room
and I could hear Liz yelling,
“Hannah don’t do this to me! You’re going to have to tell me eventually!” She bellowed from the couch.
I went straight to my room, and lay on the bed grabbing the phone. I grabbed Walter’s business card out of my pocket
“Hello Mr. George,” I said cheerfully, “Thank you for the offer, but I am afraid I am not going to take you up on it.”
Walter insisted, “Thank you” I said, “But no thank you.”
I heard Liz come up the stairs, and I pretended to fall asleep on my bed, because I did not feel like explaining my plan to her. I was not up for any pessimism, and I especially did not want to hear it from my practical little sister, Liz.
Next morning I woke up with the sun. It was only five o’clock and I was hoping I could make it to the lumber store without anyone noticing I was gone.
“Ten sheets of lumber, please.” I slapped the order down on the counter right in front of Tommy Barker, who I had known since I was a child.
“Ten sheets? What could you possibly be doing with ten sheets?” Tommy joked, “Ah, I’m just kidding, how are you doing Hannah?”
“I am well, Tommy, thank you.” I responded, “Do you think you could delivery the lumber to my yard around seven thirty.”
Tommy didn’t asked questions, “Sure” he responded.
When I arrived home everyone had been sleeping. I waited patiently for the lumber to come. Time stood still. It was seven twenty nine for about an hour, until finally I heard the knocking on the door.”
Running to the door, I handed the three men my blue prints of the small house that I wanted to build, “No windows. One door. I am making a museum in my back yard, and I don’t want anything going missing.” I had said.
Three Hours later Linda, Lauren, Arnold, and Liz came pouring downstairs. I had my cu
of coffee in my hand, and I was looking out the window.
“Mommy, what are they building?” Linda asked. All four of them had no idea what was going on, I almost felt guilty for not asking them for their consent. After all, I had to act fast and in this state of tragedy I had only wanted the best for my children.
“They’re building a museum, that we will hang all of Daddy’s paintings in, and charge people to come see. That way we can see the paintings any time we want, and we can still make enough money to get by.” I had even astonished myself, so I was not surprised when my three kids and little sister were mesmerized with my brilliance.
“Wow.” Liz had said, “I’m almost jealous that I didn’t think of that.” I laughed.
“There is one thing you guys can do for me” I said aloud, “You can make signs saying that the art exhibit will be open tomorrow from eleven until five and the admission ticket will be eight dollars per person.”
I had made a vouch to myself that I would go see him every single night, but tonight was different from all other nights, I had seen signs for the Museum blanketed everywhere, on trees, cars, peoples houses. I had wondered what people were saying about my experiment. After all, it couldn’t hurt.
The gate was already open, and I had walked straight to where Jonas’s tombstone is.
“Jonas.” I said, “We miss you so much. I didn’t think I would be able to live without you. And I was right. I can’t live without you, and that’s why I will see you everyday, and you will always be with me. The paintings surround our home, and they are a part of you that I could not give away. I am terrified of the thought of not being able to see you or touch you. And unfortunately, it won’t be the same, it will be difficult. I’ll never go a day without thinking about you. Never.”
A wiped the tissue from my face and sat next to the tombstone, just staring. I had completely lost track of time. When I arrived home it was already midnight and everyone was asleep.
Next morning I had woke up to Linda, “Look out the window, Mom.”
I looked out the window, and I saw about a mile back, a line of people standing by the
Museum waiting to see these exquisite paintings.
“I miss Daddy, Mommy.” Linda said.
“He’s still here.” I whispered.
Hackettstown, New Jersey
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