The telephone rang last Sunday and it was my cousin calling. He asked if I was going to be home later that afternoon. I said sure, c’mon over…always got time to visit with family. He went on, however, to explain why this was no ordinary visit…indeed, this time his visit was prompted by something he was required by law to do. As the administrator for his brother’s estate…today his visit was also in the official capacity of transferring some property that found my name next to it in the deceased’s will.
Hmmm…that was sort of a surprise. Now I know my deceased cousin was fairly well-to-do and had lots of personal property, but I never expected that he would remember me in his will. In fact, he comes from a fairly large family so I fully expected that his entire estate would be split among brothers, sisters, nephews and nieces…not some cousin who is actual a first cousin once removed (gosh I hate that genealogy stuff).
Anyhow, I must admit the suspense of waiting to see what I was getting certainly kept me intrigued. Part of me really didn’t want to accept anything, yet I struggled with the thought that receiving something from an estate is really a gift to the living and it would be downright rude not to accept it.
Okay, I have to admit…I did have a hunch the item I’d be receiving would be either a gun or some other item outdoors-related. My cousin was big into collecting guns and cherished them like few other people I have ever known. As it turned out, I wasn’t disappointed…when my cousin arrived he handed me a small suitcase and stated that his brother wanted me to have this.
As I reached for the suitcase I had to fight back the tears. Hey, I’ll be the first to admit…even though his death occurred over 18 months ago his memory is still quite vivid and he continues to live on in my heart. I knew that whatever would be in that suitcase would only be a small piece of tangible property, but it would further embody his soul and be a constant reminder for me not to forget the man he once was.
Immediately upon opening the case I knew what it was. I had inherited a matching pair of Colt New Frontier .22LR revolvers. Now mind you…these were not just any pistols. Nope, my cousin was fanatical about plinking and these two pistols were his favorites for that particular activity. So much so that he even had a custom made holster set made for the guns with .22 shell loops and all the fancy leather detailing. I inherited the whole works…wow! I truly was excited.
After my cousin completed his legal obligation of transferring property and departed my house I held the guns and couldn’t help but feel weird about the entire experience. Truth is, I have never inherited property before…except, I suppose, you could say I did when my dad died. But somehow this was much different. When you inherit something from within your own immediate family you already feel as though you own it by the way you use it. Yet, in this case getting the guns was much different. Oh sure, I had shot them before on the range with my now deceased cousin…but never did I feel as though they were mine. And now, of course, they were mine to have and to hold much like he once did.
I couldn’t help but wonder about the thought process that must go into distributing one’s own property. Oddly enough, my wife and I are currently engaged in the process of updating our will…so receiving estate property along with making decisions on who should get your own property at the time of your death makes one feel quite mortal, I must say. Nobody likes to think about dying…yet we all know that throughout the history of civilization nobody has ever cheated death forever. Eventually it catches up to all of us.
To me receiving a gift of the two pistols was certainly much more than distributing property from a person who no longer is living. In fact, I could tell that my cousin put lots of thought into who should receive those pistols. Seemingly nothing he ever did in his life was poorly planned out, and I truly believe that to be the case with who got what particular property in his will, too. I didn’t just inherit two nicely collectible pieces of American firearms history…there was also an unspoken and unwritten message attached to those guns that said I should take them and be sure to use them often. I know my cousin…he would consider it almost sinful to let the guns rot away inside some gun safe never to see the light of day. That’s not how he operated, nor would it be the expectation he would have of their new owner.
I suspect that each and every time I bring these guns out to the range to do some plinking I will think fond thoughts of their previous owner. After all, isn’t that the ideal goal for anyone who bestows property on another individual through inheritance? Being remembered.
Yet, I feel the pressure…the pressure to perform, that is. I’ve seen how these guns are capable of shooting in the hands of someone who once cared deeply about his entire firearms collection. It’s sort of a lofty expectation for me to live up to that same level of expertise and proficiency these guns are accustomed to experiencing by their previous owner.
Even so…these guns have a new owner now…someone who will long cherish not only the two guns I received, but also the person who thought enough of me to entrust them in my life-long care. Tonight I placed them both inside my gun safe next to the ol’ Winchester shotgun that was once my dad’s only gun. Suddenly I now have three guns occupying space in that storage container each in their own way exuding character way beyond their tangible being. The other guns I own, that I purchased, won’t achieve that level of respect and appreciation until someday when I pass them on to some other lucky person or persons…then they, too, will hopefully begin to take on a character of their own with a new owner.
© 2006 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.