My great uncle Herbert was a dentist, and, like many dentists was good with his hands. You may not know this, but there is a significant cult of dentists who take up jewellry making, with varying degrees of success. My mother tells me that a few of the men in Herbert's graduating class made their wives' wedding rings in a grand romantic gesture. More recently I notce Missouri state has set jewellry making as a prerequisite for dentistry, clearly being good with your hands had moved from being a coincidence a requirement.
When Herbert retired he made jewellry for all his female relatives. When it came to my turn I was priveleged to be involved in the design process. He called me in and asked me the kind of thing I would like. Having recently returned from a school exchange, where I had seen, and coveted, some Inca bracelets in a market, I asked him to make me a silver cuff bracelet with of lapis lazuli stone. He hummed and hawwed for some time and then said it would have to be my christmas AND birthday present because it was going to take a lot of silver (I think it was 25 dollars worth in 1981). He kept the making secret and delivered it to me at Christmas, he had dug out one of Aunty Maud's old jewellry boxes with the name of an old time jeweller stamped in the yellow crushed velvet interior. It truly was a thing of beauty.
Some of my aunties had scoffed at Herbert's style, but this was his finest hour. My mother said it was the best thing he ever made. I have kept it and worn it for over 20 years. About 10 years ago Herbert died, and this thing has taken on a precious significance. Herbert was a cultured and wise man, but in many ways he annoyed me. When I got engaged to Simon, who Herbert didn't really know, Herberts one take on the subject was "For goodness sake marry a man that can work, and for god's sake Fiona even his family has disowned him. At the time I couldn't even see a grain of truth in this, I thought he was an interfering old man, but his words have come back to haunt me...
Once when I was about 12 I was I was trying to play A Bach Prelude he insisted on singing Gounod's Ave Maria over the top in a raspy voice. Thus stealing my thunder and distracting me at the same time.
A few months ago I was driving along and this same piece came on the radio. Suddenly I felt not only his memory but his very presence in my life. Tears pricked my eyes, his jewellry, his memory and his wisdom have never left me.