I consider myself a pretty generous guy. I’m happy to pick up a tab at the bar. I enjoy buying friends and family things that they may appreciate. I’m happy to donate to charity. I continue to spoil my children rotten. I’ve been blessed and I don’t mind sharing. I draw the line at giving you the shirt off my back because you don’t want to see a 61-year-old guy with just his pants on under any circumstances. Most importantly, my kids share the same level of generosity that I have. I know I did good a job raising them. However, my parents were the complete polar opposites. Miserly, tightfisted; cheap as the day is long. Those were my parents. Didn’t make them bad people, but penny-pinchers nonetheless. Anyway, where is this leading?
This past weekend I spent a wonderful evening with my favorite cousin and her husband. We are about the same age and grew up in adjacent towns. We were close as kids, grew apart and re-connected. I adore her and her husband. Over dinner we were reminiscing about our Aunt Libby. Aunt Libby was our great aunt from New York. She was friendly, smart, funny, and had a wickedly sharp tongue. In short, my kind of person. My mother adored her. She always spoke about Libby with a certain reverence. In short, she was my mothers’ idol. My cousin was reminiscing about a car she bought from my father, a car salesman, with the money she inherited from, you guessed it, Aunt Libby. WAIT? WHAT? Let me get this straight; you inherited money from Aunt Libby and I didn’t? You bought a car with that money and I didn’t get a dime, from the now, not so admired Aunt Libby. Aunt Libby died childless so the money went to all of her family. After she died, my mother continued to deify Aunt Libby so I’m pretty sure our family received a nice chunk of change from old Aunt Libby. Otherwise it probably would have been, “Don’t ever mention that bitches’ name in my presence ever again.” My mother had a vindictive streak and could really hold a grudge. Thankfully I’m not vindictive, but the grudge part, well, lets talk about that at a later time.
About the time of Libby’s passing, a particular incident sticks out in my mind that, coupled with this new found knowledge of how I got cheated out of my rightful inheritance, now makes perfect sense. I had just bought a six year old, bright orange Plymouth Duster with black interior, straight six-cylinder engine and the best part, as if something could top the extraordinary bright “Hemi-Orange” paint job, a three-speed manual transmission with a floor mounted shifter. AM radio, no air conditioning. It was freakin’ awesome. That car was so bright it could be seen from space. It was a beacon. I was always able to find this car in any parking lot, day, night, fog, sandstorm you name it.
Anyway, I was commiserating to my parents about the fact that it needed new tires. Well, out of the blue, my mother told my father to “Take Barry to the tire store and get him new tires.” I thought for a moment that I had an auditory hallucination or perhaps a mini stroke because that was so unlike her. Not wanting to break the spell I readily agreed. When we got to the tire store, still in shock, I thought, well I’m probably going to have to pick some mismatched tires from the bargain bin, hopefully they are going to be round, or maybe have to buy my father’s favorites; slightly used re-treads. We walk in and he said, “Well, what do you want?” I was looking at these cool raised white letter tires (which were all the rage back in the seventies) and tentatively squeaked out, knowing that it would never fly, hoping against hope, “Those.” Well, much to my astonishment he agreed. I was stunned. I remember thinking, “Who just abducted my parents and replaced them with these two extremely generous people?” And this was before alien abduction was in vogue.
The tires were put on the car and I’m driving home marveling at my good fortune. That car was my pride and joy. I polished it all of the time and kept those raised white letter tires in pristine condition. People were forced to put on sunglasses when looking at the car. I personally think the reason I need glasses today is because of that car’s paint job; it was blinding. But that’s beside the point.
Fast-forward to the revelation about the Aunt Libby inheritance discussion and it suddenly makes perfect sense. My parents didn’t suddenly develop a philanthropic streak. They didn’t just wake up and say “Hey lets treat our wonderful son to some tires so he doesn’t get a blow out, run off the road and end up in a ditch.” Noooo, my parents magnanimously bought me tires with MY FUCKING MONEY! And, not only that, a trip to Italy as well. On. My. Dime. Or I should say my Euro. Or Lira. Or whatever currency they use in Italy. See, I have no clue never having visited there.
So the forty-year old mystery has now been solved. My cousin got a new car, my brother got a crock-pot or something like that, my parents got a trip to Italy and I got new tires. But at least I learned to be generous from two extremely cheap people. And that is something money can’t buy. Even if it’s not your own.