Claire called to tell me about an event that occurred 40 years ago. She and her brother had fought bitterly over an antique chair that had belonged to their parents.
Her mother predeceased her father by three years and after his death she and Clive, along all with other relatives, had gathered at their parent’s house to distribute all their belongings as per their father’s wishes.
Everything had gone along smoothly. The various nieces and nephews were thrilled to accept whatever little gift or ornament they were given and it wasn’t until it came time to discuss The Chair that everything, their entire relationship, unraveled.
Father in his wisdom had left the world stating that those items specifically not mentioned in his final instructions – those that were distributed to other relatives – were the property of Claire and Clive and his will stated that he trusted they would amicably divide among themselves whatever was left.
There had been no disagreement as they had walked around the house with each other agreeing to take possession of certain objects.
And then it happened. They arrived at The Chair in the living room which had occupied pride of place since their early childhood and both felt it was their birthright.
They argued bitterly over several days and then several weeks until Clive informed her that he was fed up with this bickering and had moved The Chair to his house.
The last words she remembers him saying word “If you want it that badly, sue me.”
In the 40 years since they have not spoken. Claire’s anger knew no bounds and she carried with her this anger and sense of having been robbed for year after year after year.
She did not involve herself in any way with Clive and his family and he had no contact with hers.
Occasionally, through friends and associates she would hear tidbits of information about Clive and his family: his son Brian graduated from college, his daughter Eleanor got married and become a mother, but outside of those infrequent tips she had no knowledge, no interest in anything to do with Clive, after all he had stolen what was rightfully hers.
Claire read my blog last week and she called to tell me that something struck a chord deep within her. She sat in a chair in her living room, looking at the spot where the chair would have occupied were it in her possession and she asked herself a profound question: which would have enriched her life more over the past 40 years: having The Chair in her living room or having her brother in her life?
As she pondered that question, she felt tears of loss running down her cheeks and, for the first time in 40 years, she reached for the phone and called Clive.
The two of them had a tearful reunion over lunch last Friday. They both acknowledged that false pride had kept them from each other over something that was really unimportant and, as Claire learned, no longer even existed as many years ago that precious chair had collapsed into splinters after it was accidentally dropped down a flight of stairs on its way to Clive’s basement.
Lunch lasted more than six hours, after all it does take a while to catch up on 40 years of living.
Claire told me that the habit of making that call was one she really wished she had adopted many, many years ago but she was reassured in knowing that it is now deeply embedded in her. Not only was she excited to enjoy a closeness they had denied each other for so long, but she would also make it a point of staying in touch with many others.
Claire’s story is not unique. Several others called me to share some of the stories and all of us will benefit greatly the moment we understand that life offers no greater treasure than true, unconditional friendship.
The habit of making that call is a terrific way of bringing back and keeping those wonderful relationships in our lives.
Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.
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