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An Open Letter
No, YOU Take the Chagall

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By mlk58
October 23, 2009

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To my father-in-law, who passed away last week just short of his 95th birthday:

You lived a long and wonderful life, even though it was full of economic ups and downs. You'd been very rich and very poor, and at your passing you were more toward the "poor" side of the ledger. But one of your real joys was collecting art and you'd managed to hold on to some nice pieces.

In the letter you left us kids, you said the services were all arranged and paid for, you wanted everything split down the middle between your son and daughter, you didn't want them to fight about anything, and then, almost as an afterthought, you added "I want M to have the Chagall."

Everybody else was out of town when the letter was read, so I looked around your house, and lo and behold, there in the hallway was an original Marc Chagall oil painting!! Obviously it was the most valuable item you owned. And M, once your high-school sweetheart, has been your beloved lady friend and companion ever since the two of you re-connected ten years ago. So we all agreed that if you wanted the Chagall to go to M, to M it would go. Everybody was going to be in town by Tuesday, and M was going to come to the house on Thursday to pick up some things she'd left there, so we decided to give it to her then.

On Wednesday night your son and I were at your house with his sister and her husband, and the talk turned to the painting. Hubby and Sis and and Sis's husband all allowed as how they thought it was pretty ugly, even though they knew it was quite valuable. I said I actually really liked it regardless of the value, but it didn't matter because it was going home with M.

At some point Sis's husband suggested "let's look on the Internet to see how much the Chagall is worth." I said, "No way. If we find out how much it's worth, it'll make it harder to give it up, and Dad was very clear that he wants M to have it. So no INTERNET research." We bantered back and forth about it all evening as we tidied up the house, and decided that INTERNET research was probably a very bad idea. We talked about how M was probably going to be reluctant to take the painting, and how we were going to insist, and how if she absolutely positively insisted, we would permit her to leave it to your kids when she passed away, but only if it was her idea, and only if she absolutely insisted, and none of us was going to breathe a word of any such suggestion unless she absolutely insisted, and so on and so forth into the night.

Well, as you know I'm incurably curious, so on Thursday at work I googled around and found out that a Chagall oil, the same size as ours, but not as elaborate, had sold fairly recently for FOUR HUNDRED FORTY-FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS! I kind of gulped, but decided that this was going to be my little secret and I wasn't going to breathe a word of it to your son or your daughter or anybody in the whole wide world. It was a secret that was going with me to my grave. Because you wanted M to have the Chagall.

Thursday I wasn't able to be at the house when M came over. I was sitting outside the dentist's office waiting for my appointment when your son called and said, "Dear, M is here and she says she wants you to have the Chagall. In fact, she's insisting."

I was quite taken aback and said "Sweetheart, we talked about this. The Chagall is going home with M."

Hubby said, "No, she's insisting it go to you."

I'm all, "ME? What the heck? Did you explain that Dad wants her to have it?"

Hubby said, "Yes, we explained and she's still insisting!"

I said, "But we TALKED about this! Dad wants her to have it, and it's going home with her! Period!"

Your son replied, "We told her all that. But she absolutely refuses to take it. She says she really really wants it to go to you."

I said, "This is just ridiculous. Did she say why she wants me to have it?"

Hubby said, "Yes. She says she wants you to have it for two reasons. First, because you like it. And second, because SHE PAINTED IT!"

After I recovered from my shock, Hubby put M on the phone and she explained how you really liked this one particular Chagall, and because M is a talented painter, you'd asked her to copy it for you a couple of years ago. Which she did, using a grid technique and painstakingly copying every last brush stroke. She said she didn't like the picture, the process of painting it was tedious and difficult, she'd only done it to please you, and if she never saw the dash-gum picture again, it would be too soon. And since I really liked it, she wanted me to have it.

But I guess you figured those details were far less entertaining than leaving us a letter saying "I want M to have the Chagall."

I hope you had a good laugh at our expense, wherever you are. I'm gonna miss the heck out of you, you sly devil.

Love,

Your Daughter-in-Law

P.S. The "Chagall" looks great in our dining room!