The will said “share and share alike.”
“Does that include The Diamond Ring?” my parents, aunts and uncles asked.
“What diamond ring?” my sister and I asked.
My dad settled in to tell the story, “There was this gypsy ..”
“It was a French man!” my mother interrupted.
My dad looked at her. “There was this gypsy …”
“He was a French man!”
“There was this French gypsy who came to America with diamonds hidden in his boot’s heels.”
Andre settled in New York. Aunt Millie, a country girl, went to the big city to work. The two met. Andre gave Millie The Diamond Ring. They married. “Then the French Gypsy disappeared and was never heard from again,” my dad concluded.
My aunt’s began the story differently, “Aunt Millie had three diamonds. Two in earrings and The Ring. Aunt Millie were not married very long when we children were told she was coming home to ‘help Aunt Belle with her three children.’ Belle’s husband, a railroad worker, had fallen off the caboose and died. There had been so many railroad worker accidents back then that we had an Engineer’s Room for the injured when I worked at the hospital.”
No one said divorce. Millie moved in with Aunt Belle, sold magazines and they lived together until Aunt Belle died. Neither remarried. “When we went to Hornell to visit the aunts, there were no men there.” my aunt recalled.
“After Aunt Belle’s death, mother looked at Aunt Millie and said, ‘You can come live with us.’”
So she did and stayed even when dementia took over her mind. Family history includes the day she accompanied a young adult to town wearing three dresses. Left in the car alone for a few minutes, Milllie slipped out of the car and began pulling off her top dress to the amazement of nearby folks.
Belle’s daughter Gladys asked to buy the diamond earrings with regular payments. When the payments stopped. Millie said, “Write to Gladys and tell her I’m not dead yet.” Payments resumed, according to my aunt.
Before her death, Millie gave The Diamond Ring to my grandmother who cared for her. Grandma went about her life as a farmer’s wife. Grandpa retired. The ring sparkled on Grandma’s hand as she knitted and sewed. Grandpa’s health failed. When he passed no one asked about the ring. Grandma gave the ring to her daughter, my aunt.. Grandma asked to have it back and later handed it back to my aunt. When Grandma died, my aunt had The Ring. That’s when her brothers began asking, who owned the ring? Their sister or the estate?
As executor for the estate my uncle insisted my aunt give him the ring. The next day my father teased his brother into letting him hold the ring then he refused to return it. The Diamond Ring became a bone of contention, the focus of the family’s pain from their loss of Grandma. It took months before they agreed that my father inherited The Ring and the other two inherited other unique items.
My mother put it away. When Mom died, Dad offered the ring to my sister. She took it. Dad asked for it back. He gave it to her again and took it back again.
The next time my sister had the ring she gave it to my brother. He put the ring in a safe deposit box. Many years later the ring went on another finger as an engagement ring. The fiancee never heard about the French gypsy who brought the diamond to America. And that’s the way we will leave it.