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Friday, 25 November 2011

Now You Tell Me!

By Nancy Leitz

It all started with a telephone call to my real estate office in spring 1985. I had been recommended by a former client to this new person who was calling me now to discuss selling her home. We made an appointment for the next day for me to come look at her property and suggest a listing price.

As I drove into her driveway the next afternoon, I was pleased to see a nice little cottage in good condition with a lovely, well maintained garden. The "lady of the house," as they were called in those days, greeted me with a smile and we were off to a very good start.

Her name was Mary G. and as we strolled through the house she pointed out to me all of the improvements her husband, Ben, had made over the 40 years they had lived there. I waited for her to tell me where Ben was and in a few minutes she did.

Poor Ben had died just four months before and now Mary thought it was wise for her to move to an assisted living facility because she had no children or relatives nearby to help her in case of illness or accident.

Tears sprang to my eyes as she told me of having lost her husband of 45 years and of having no relatives or children. Of course, I am someone who chokes up at supermarket openings and card tricks so naturally I was very affected by Mary's sad tale.

She told me that Ben had built the cottage in the woods as a summer retreat and they enjoyed living there so much they decided to sell their home in the city and move to the cottage permanently. Ben installed a heating system and insulated the walls and they were all set for year around living.

It was still in good shape so we settled on an asking price and Mary signed an exclusive listing agreement with me. I felt sorry for her as she signed her home away and I waited until I was in my car to brush the tears from my eyes. "Poor Mary,” I thought. "She has lost her life's companion and now she has to sell the last thing they had together." How sad.

As luck would have it, two days later a young man strolled into our office and asked for me. He told me that he worked with a fellow who had bought his home through me and that fellow had sent him in to see me today.

He was a bachelor and wanted a "very private" home, he told me. What could be more perfect for him than Mary and Ben's house? He was a veteran with very little down payment so I assured him that we could secure a VA loan for him.

I took him to see Mary's house and it was just what he was looking for. Herb thought the price was right and so did the appraiser for the VA so we had a mutual agreement and Herb and Mary, who by now were great friends, were happy to sign a contract for the sale of the house.

About a week later, Mary called and asked if I could drive her to the new assisted living place to make her final arrangements for moving in with them. I was surprised when she told me it was 40 miles away in Holland, Pennsylvania, but I said I would take her because I felt so sorry about her situation.

That afternoon we drove to Holland and I waited while she signed papers, etc. and then we drove the 40 miles back home. I didn't mind, but about a week later Mary called again and said that they had an opening immediately and she was moving in to Holland much earlier than planned and could I take her and her dog over there to move in the next Tuesday?

What could I do? Every time I thought about Mary and Ben and the tragedy of his death, my heart took a tumble and I would do anything I could to ease her sorrow.

So, away we went on Tuesday. Me, Mary and Bongo the German Shepherd that had not had a bath in months were all packed in my car for the 40 mile drive. Bongo hadn't been in a car for awhile so he felt it necessary to bark at every car we passed and RUN from window to window over the back seat.

Finally, we arrived at Restful Manor (made up name) and Mary and Bongo waved goodbye as I drove off. It was a little inconvenient, I thought, but poor Mary had had such a terrible blow with losing Ben and all, the 80 mile ride was the least I could do for her.

A month later, the title company decided on a settlement date for the sale of Mary's house to Herb and we all received notice of the time and date. I called Mary to alert her to the arrangements and of course, she asked what time I would be there to pick her up for the closing. Well, okay, I thought. It's the last time and Mary will be sad and all, so I won't make a fuss over having to go get her.

I drove over to Restful Manor (40 miles) and picked Mary up and drove her to Norristown (42 miles) to the title company for closing. Everything went very smoothly. Herb was happy with the pre-settlement inspection and his VA papers came through in record time so he was in a great mood to greet Mary and me as we came in to the office.

All papers were signed (when Mary signed I felt a pang of sadness in memory of her long, wonderful years in that home with Ben), then the money was exchanged and Mary got a nice big check and we were finished.

I took Mary out for a nice lunch and then we drove back to the Restful Manor (40 miles). When we got there, Bongo was happy to see us and I settled Mary in and gave her a hug goodbye and wished her all the luck in the world.

As I turned to leave Mary said, "Nancy, I want to tell you something. I've noticed that every time Ben's name is mentioned, you choke up and get misty eyed. I just want to let you know that I was married to that son of a bitch for 45 years and I didn't have one happy day with him."


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Unbelievable! It would only happen to YOU. I guessed there would be a surprise ending. LOL

What a funny punchline! I knew there would be one, but didn't anticipate that one. Great story, and so well-written.

You really crack me up, Nancy. All the time I was reading it I thought, this isn't funny and Nancy always gives me a laugh. Well, you didn't disappoint. Very clever.

Bongo barking and running back and forth over your back car seat made me laugh out loud...and the ending...what a surprise!

Thanks for another great story, Nancy.

Nancy, I didn't see that coming. Happy endings don't seem to be the norm. I am sorry to say I've seen a lot of acrimonious endings. As we age we physically change and body parts hurt. Patience and accumulated love must sometimes be spent so we don't end up the same way.

Great story: shades of O. Henry!

Nancy, now it is my turn to say O.Henry. That ending was not what I was expecting!

Neat story!

I am certain it would have made absolutely no difference if she'd told you at the beginning. If she had, you would still have driven all over Pennsylvania for and with her, with the same tears in your eyes, feeling sorry for poor Mary, who had had such a miserable marriage! - Sandy

I surely didn't see that one coming either. I was hoping Herb was a son given up for adoption a long time ago, but the time line didn't work. Great story.

That was a great story. The ending was perfect. I laughed out loud.
Michigan Grandma

I was sure you were going to learn that Ben was buried somewhere on the property. (Perhaps I've been reading too many mysteries?)

I was expecting you to tell us she had been married and had 6 kids who ignored her or something of the sort; not the funny ending you told us. Great story telling.

I just returned home from a very happy Thanksgiving in Chicago with daughter,Carol, and her family.

Thank you all for your wonderful comments. I will try to answer you individually later today.

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving.

Catching up also - what a great story..I too thought maybe the buyer would turn out to be a child from her past..loved the dog scene, had two that spent miles and miles running back & forth..but that ending, socko..I actually was wowed..you could be writing radio mysteries of old or soaps of today..loved whole thing..write more...

Here I am again:

Hello Annie,

Oh, I'm sure you had things like this happen to you,too. You always seem to have a good tale to tell.


I'm glad you enjoyed that punch line,BUT, when it was originally said to me, it felt like a real punch.


Thanks, Darlene for reading the story to the end and getting to Mary's confession. Wasn't she a character?

Claire Jean,

Oh,yes, Bongo running around the back seat of my brand new car was a real treat. I didn't tell you but he licked all the windows,too.

He also did not like trailer trucks and barked furiously at each and every one of the hundreds we passed on the turnpike.It was a fun ride.

Hi Jim,

I didn't see it coming either,Jim. What a surprise when she told me she had never been happy. She should have met Herb when she was younger. She loved him.


Thanks for the O.Henry reference.I love stories with surprise endings; even my own..

Hi GM,

Well, to tell you the truth,it was not what I expected,either. Mary never told me until the very end how unhappy she had been.


You know, I think you are quite right. Because I knew Mary had no family or friends I very likely would have taken her wherever she wanted to go whether she was happy or not. I suppose it made me happy to help her.

Hi Jeanne,

Wouldn't that have been the greatest story in the World?
As all sat at the Settlement table,when Herb hands over his check, the Title clerk looks at it and discloses that Herb is Mary's long lost child. What a story!

Hello MG,

It's nice having you in our Circle of Friends as Mary Follett calls us. Thank you for your comment and I'm happy you had a good laugh.

Well, Carol, I think the only one that could have been buried on that property was old Ben. And, if he was as bad as Mary said, he's lucky he lasted as long as he did.

No, Johna, Mary did not have 6 kids. If she did have any kids I would have suggested that one of them drive Bongo all over Pennsylvania.

Hi Mary,

Thanks for always having such a nice comment to make.I think you would have loved Bongo. Happy that you were surprised at the ending.

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