The portion gifted to me will be sufficient to pay off the remaining balance for my student loans, which I (amusingly) owe to my parents. This is an incredible gift for me, to be freed from debt, and to have experienced the wonderful benefits of my (expensive!) college education. My brother and sister are way more financially prudent than I have been, and both decided to attend cheap in-state schools that were happy to snatch them up based on their academic aptitude. I cannot un-do the decision to attend a private liberal-arts college all the way across the country, but I frequently reflect on the path it has put me on. I cannot escape the notion of "Academic pedigree."
That University, plus my high school, plus my PhD-granting institution, incessantly send me stuff and try to call me on the phone, asking for more, more, more money.
I didn't expect anything by way of inheritance from Grandpa Weston. He was judiciously generous with his family throughout his lifetime, and I have written him many a thank-you note for the $20 gifted at both Christmas and birthdays, along with stories of my plans for the money, none of which I can remember anymore. Right after his funeral, I received one last round of the previous incarnation of that gift, a small stack of silver dollars (not the real silver ones, slightly after that era). Grandpa Weston grew up during the Depression, part of a large farming family, and the legacy shows. In his later years in the Enumclaw house, he was unhappy about how the sprawling Seattle suburbia was causing his water bills to skyrocket. My Mom recently told a story of how one of his first-final Emergency Room visits caused him to agonize over how high his medical bills were going to be. Thanks to the good health insurance available to retired state employees, however, his out-of-pocket costs wound up being something like $6.
In the time I knew him, Grandpa Weston was happy leading a fairly simple life, dominated by hiking and fishing adventures, plus a few good games of cribbage. One of the last hikes I ever went on with him happened the summer after Zack disappeared, up to a clear mountain lake where we found oodles of pollywogs in an ephemeral pond, and watched salamanders swimming in the crystal-clear water:
We ate wild blue huckleberries, and bright-red salmonberries, while thinking about Zack. You can see Grandpa Weston here with hiking poles:
From this point onward, he experienced continuing declines in mobility until at last he came to rest.
What to make of this family story. Grandpa Weston's lifetime was one of those periods of the "self-made man" ; his family a family of immigrants, come to the US to seek a better fortune than was available in Denmark at the time. He grew up without much, and never quite knew what to do with the excess of things accumulated over the course of his adult lifetime. He became tired of life in his old age, but remained sharp and witty, and liked to tell jokes with a wink. I think he's been amazed by all the different things his grandkids have gone on to do and become, remaining non-judgmental in the face of the many different paths we have followed. I seek to carry that spirit forward.