I was sixteen or so when Elaine told me what her dad did.
I’m not sure I really believed her at the time…I mean, whoever heard of a guy going down to the North Saskatchewan River just to hang out and pan for gold? Sure, our summer fair was themed after the gold rush days. So what? No one actually spent his days alone, hunched over a pan, shaking the sediment gently until the heavier metal sunk to the bottom and the lighter sand slipped back into the murky water, did they?
Through the years, Elaine showed me pieces of jewelry that were made from the gold her dad had found. I wondered what kind of man he was. I know I met him when I was younger, but I moved away and most of what I knew about George was through comments from his daughter. Mostly, I knew him as a man who panned for gold.
Last year, Elaine showed me a piece she’d had designed. The gold of course, came from her dad, and it beautifully encases the ashes of her mom. To be honest, I’ve had trouble understanding such jewelry in the past–what I had seen before had never struck me as being, well, tasteful–but this was truly elegant. Between her pendant, and the near matching one her sister Nicole has (and another beautifully designed rosebud that my friend has), I have reconsidered my opinion.
Imagine what an incredible keepsake that necklace is. I’ve thought about it often.
A few months ago, I flew home to celebrate Mom’s 80th birthday. I asked Elaine if I could hold the soiree at her house, and while she agreed, we eventually decided to hold it at Nicole’s. George lives there too, and what a treat to visit with him. He is a sweet man, somewhat shy and soft-spoken. Like his girls, he is personable and friendly, quick to tease, gentle and kind. He visited with my dad, and chatted with my aunt, always careful not to intrude.
Then last month, my husband and I went home again for Dad’s 80th. That same week-end, Nicole hosted another party–this one a barbecue for our friends. Like before, George took time to visit with us. One of my favourite moments of the entire weekend was looking for my husband only to find him and George on the patio laughing heartily with each other. In some ways they are alike–neither likes to be the centre of attention, preferring a quiet corner for a one-on-one visit. They had become friends.
The very best moment, however, was before the crowd arrived.
“Before you sit down, Crystal,” George had said, “I have something for you.”
I went to him. “Yes, sir?”
He stretched out his hand, reached for mine. “I made this for you.”
George gave me the most exquisite necklace, a small crystal heart tied on a perfect length of cord. Inside, the heart is filled with gold he had panned. Those who know me best, know there are few things that touch me more than a just-because gift, and this one is one of the most precious I have ever received.
Elaine and I have been friends since high school, but the friendship has deepened and grown especially in the last fifteen years. We’ve worked harder on it, I think. Nicole, once the tag-along, is now a wise mother of two exceptional young men. My love and respect for them cannot be overstated. We three–Elaine, Nicole and I–are sisters by choice.
And now their dad has given me his heart.
Some days, the world doesn’t get more beautiful than that.