Do Not Want What I Have Not Got
rolling coins when the phone call came. My ritual is to sit on the
bed and play loud Motown while I separate the cold copper from the
silver. Soon I have before me wealth untold, or at least enough
to buy a pound of salmon or a decent bottle of Prosecco. My mother-in-law,
Mother Drachma, was on the line greeting me in her parchment thin
voice. It had been a decade since she had contact with us. Not for
a birthday, nor a holiday, nor even after 9/11 blew up in our backyard
did she inquire about our wellbeing. I quickly passed the phone
to my husband, Alex, who pantomimed slashing his throat.
minutes later he informed me that Mother D had repented. Her conscience
had gotten the better of her. She was about to return what was rightfully
ours -- Alex's inheritance of almost two million dollars that she
had swindled from his father ten years prior. She requested the
pleasure of our company at the Las Vegas home she had moved to after
her obviously despised husband's death. She said she would sign
the appropriate papers and make everything right. Even for someone
who believes in miracles, as I do, this was really astonishing.
Alex's father, Stavros, died in 1995, nobody declared it a tragedy.
Even professional Greek mourners could not work it up for a guy
whose greatest act of courage had been to put out a cigarette on
the rug of a fancy Manhattan restaurant. When we heard of his passing,
we rushed over to her chateau in Astoria, Queens to comfort Mother
Drachma. Like a ravenous vulture she feasted on the scrambled eggs
that her only child Alex had cooked. While she "grieved"
in her bedroom, Alex sorted through some papers lying casually on
the desk. There he found a copy of his father's Last Will and Testament
recently doctored to leave him nothing. And how did he know it was
altered? Anticipating the worst, Stavros had given Alex a copy of
his authentic will for safekeeping.
shorthand the grim details. We hired a lawyer who assured us that
this was an ironclad case. (Do they all say that?) I should have
gauged his power when I shook his hand. I've felt more passion in
a slab of tilapia. He guaranteed that the opposing attorney who
forged the will would die of shame before being exposed in a court
of law. After an incomprehensible deposition and interminable wait,
our lawyer then insisted that we take an out-of-court settlement.
Our ironclad case had devolved into a lump sum of $16,000.
that it was a challenge to our lifestyle. We only cared about being
artists. Our home was a one-room apartment overlooking the Hudson.
Even in a phone booth-sized kitchen I could create kick-ass meals.
Our dog didn't know she was any different from the billionaire dogs
in Riverside Park. Health insurance came from Alex's part-time job
in a neighborhood bookstore. We had bi-annual shopping sprees at
Old Navy and bought ten-dollar bootleg watches in Chinatown. We
didn't drive, didn't have one of those swell refrigerators with
the ice machine on the door, and we summered on our rooftop deck.
That's why it was especially chilling to learn that Mother Drachma
had disinherited us because we "lived above our means".
it was old age, a bad dream, a bout with her conscience, but something
prompted her to return to the scene of the crime and reconsider
her actions. She had spent ten years estranged from her only child.
Old dogs can learn new tricks. Maybe her accountant had encouraged
her to divest her fortune. It was not for me to determine her motivation,
only to enjoy our rightful bounty.
my new-found status as an heiress, I booked a suite at the Las Vegas
Hilton. The spirit of Paris was guiding me. Then, I did the unthinkable.
I bought a cell phone. An heiress, after all, would need to be in
constant contact with her celebrated colleagues. Now, if someone
wanted to chat while I flew first class to Sydney they would be
able to find me.
by my new-found projected wealth, I decided that I really didn't
have to work my day job as a counselor. Never underestimate the
power of thought. Within hours my phone stopped ringing for bookings.
Now I had even more time to shop for non-essentials like plush towels,
cloth napkins, and my most extravagant purchase, a $10 picnic hamper
for dinners on the roof. I was living large and I loved it.
watched while I burned bright. I stopped at the realtor's office
window to ogle the $6 million brownstones. An heiress would need
a palace worthy of her. I pre-mourned the friends I would leave
behind as I ascended the ladder to prosperity. Yet they would always
have a spot at my 12-seat dining room table. I would even spring
for the $17/lb. shrimp. I envisioned the day that Mother Drachma
would pass on, leaving us her gracious home in Vegas. I would be
the Peggy Guggenheim of my generation. Instead of navigating the
canals of Venice in my private gondola, I'd ride the gondolas at
the Venetian Casino. Finally, my life would have meaning.
the Sunday before our departure I had a bon voyage dinner. Our Inner
Circle of friends was called to our rooftop manor for fried chicken
and potato salad and a case of Perrier Jouet. One friend commented,
"I hate Mother Drachma. She's changing your life, and your
life was perfect." Yes, but it was about to become more perfect,
I assured her. If my modest life was so enjoyable, my new incarnation
would be stupendous. I would become a philanthropist and offer grants
and stipends to artists of all persuasions. I would open my own
publishing house. I would rebuild New Orleans. I'd stop ordering
the cheapest thing on the menu. I would make everything right for
everyone who had ever been wronged. Viva Las Vegas!
Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas
hard to describe how a 4'10" woman weighing 80 pounds can inspire
terror in two adults, especially when she's 92 years old and on
a walker. Mother Drachma arrived to pick us up at our hotel chauffeured
by her brother-in-law, Serge. After the token air-kisses, she began.
"How is your uncle?" she snapped. The uncle she referred
to lived with my mother until his death.
died seven years ago." I thought she might respond with an
empathetic, "Sorry for your loss." Instead she stamped
her cloven hoof and demanded "Who got the house?"
was no house." My mother and her brother had lived together
happily in a small apartment.
had been drawn. Five minutes into this dramatic Mother and Child
Reunion and I was ready to bash my brains out on the Elvis statue
in our lobby.
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