Yesterday found us at the end of an epic four-year long journey involving bank folks, legal documents, notaries, and a lot of hoop-jumping, and culminating in a pre-dawn two and a half hour drive through snow, slush and gusting winds to keep an appointment with a safety deposit box 120 miles away.
In the end, it was really all about love.
Our epic adventure began four years ago when we were moving my parents up north to be closer to me. As I was packing up their things I came upon a weird-looking key and asked Mom what it was for. She told me that it was a key to their safety deposit box. I remember my eyebrows going up as I realized what I was holding in my hand. Mom and Dad’s wills and power of attorney forms were in that safety deposit box – that box was a big deal. I told Mom that we needed to make sure this key went in a safe place. I asked her where she wanted me to put it. And she told me.
Of course a year later, when I needed to get into the safety deposit box, I could no longer remember where we’d ended up stashing that weird little key. Mom had just passed away and I was now responsible for my 99-year-old father. There were decisions that I was going to need to make for his care and his finances and I needed POA forms to do those things. I needed to get into his safety deposit box to get the POA forms, but to get into his safety deposit box I needed a POA form. You see the dilemma here. It was a classic Catch-22.
I managed to get another power of attorney form signed by Dad and notarized by a local notary and this met our immediate needs. But I realized that at some point I was going to need to get into the safety deposit box to get the original will and I was told by the bank that, because the new POA didn’t specifically list “safety deposit box” on it, I couldn’t use it to get into the box. So I got another POA form – signed, dated, and notarized – but there was something wrong with this one, too.
Eventually, I gave up. I figured when Dad passed on I would worry about it all then. Dad had his 100th birthday. Then his 101st birthday. And then I got a notice from the bank that it was closing and the contents of the safety deposit box would have to be claimed in three months or they would go to the state.
So, once again, I had Dad sign a POA form – specifically listing “safety deposit boxes” – had it notarized by a dear woman who was willing to travel to Dad’s home so I didn’t have to load him into a car, and submitted this new form to the bank. And this time it was approved!
There were still more hoops to jump through, of course – because – you know – banks. Because we no longer had the key to the box, getting into it would be a HUGE deal. I would have to bring two witnesses with me to the bank and schedule a specific time to meet bank officers and a technician so that the box could be drilled and I could (finally!) retrieve the contents.
The safety deposit box was 120 miles away. It was January – snow was forecast. Who in the world could I ask to travel that great distance for me on snowy roads?! The first name came to mind immediately – our old family friend, Rick. He lives near Mount Rainier and would have to travel through snow and over winding roads and then through rush hour Tacoma traffic to get to the bank – but I knew Rick would do this for me and Dad. Just two weeks younger than me, Rick and I have often joked about being “twins.” I consider him a part of our family. I wanted him to be part of this. And – just as I knew he would – Rick, without a moment’s hesitation, quickly agreed.
But we needed another witness. My husband would be driving me down to the bank, but I didn’t trust that he would be allowed to be a witness – and we were traveling too far to make any mistakes with this. So I prayed.
I woke up at two in the morning the day before we were scheduled to have the safety deposit box drilled, and went downstairs to think some more about the problem of another witness. As I opened my thoughts up to the cosmos – opened my thoughts up to the infinite possibilities and provision of Good – two names came to me: Sabra and Dave. To be honest – when I thought of how busy this couple was and how much I would be asking of them – I argued with the voice that had suggested them to me. No. No, I wasn’t going to ask these good people to interrupt their lives, drive hours through snow, wind, and the pre-dawn dark to meet me at the bank. No. Nope. Nosiree, Bud. But their names came to me again: Sabra and Dave. My husband, Scott, and I had known Dave and Sabra for more than thirty years. I’d been witness to the birth of their first child and we shared many special memories of times together. Like Rick, I consider them family. So I finally listened to the voice and sent Sabra an email, explaining the situation, telling her I didn’t really expect they’d be able to do this for me, but that I thought it wouldn’t hurt to ask and yada yada, and went back to bed.
At 8:00 in the morning a confused Scott came up to the bedroom – where I was just waking up – and told me “Dave said they can come tomorrow.” I hadn’t told Scott what I’d been up to during the night – when he’d gone to bed one thing was happening and when he woke up the next morning something else was happening. But, after 35 years of marriage to me, Scott has learned to adjust quickly to changing circumstances. When I explained that I’d emailed our friends in the middle of the night to ask them to join us, Scott immediately accepted the latest development and went back downstairs to finish his breakfast.
I made calls to Dave and Sabra to fine tune the logistic of our enterprise – telling them I actually needed their prayerful support as much as I needed a witness for the bank – and they understood. Just talking to them on the phone was a huge help to me. I shared with them that one of my fears was that my father might die before we could get his will out of the box, and then my power of attorney wouldn’t help me at all in taking care of his affairs for him. Sabra assured me that “Love alone is life” – and I found this thought hugely helpful.
When we left our home for the bank it was snowing. The roads were slick and the falling snow was thick in the headlights. It was going to be a long drive. But I felt strangely buoyed up with peace and joy. I felt enclosed in a happy bubble. Today – after three years of hoop-jumping – I was finally going to get into Mom and Dad’s safety deposit box. It felt like I was going to be getting into a time capsule – a relic from a time when Mom was still walking the planet and Dad was still yodeling in the mountains. I was going to see one of the last things they’d created together and one of the last things of theirs I hadn’t yet seen. I could feel Mom with us, rooting us on. “Love goes before you,” I heard her say, as we drove through the snow.
As we drove south the snow turned to rain. I dozed off for a bit and woke up to find we were almost to the bank! The epic years-long journey was almost over!
Everyone arrived on time and there were hugs all around. It was so good to see my friends again! Sabra and I joked with each other that – although we live about 45 minutes from each other – we had to drive all the way to the Kitsap Peninsula to finally see each other again.
It was a loud, laughing, merry band that entered the bank at precisely 9:00. I’m pretty sure we weren’t exhibiting the proper bank decorum. But the bankers were very patient with us. The bank manager who helped us through this experience was named Scott, like my husband. (In fact, both my husband and the bank chap are actually “R. Scott” – which I thought was a pretty cool coincidence.) Bank Scott pulled up chairs around his desk and walked the witnesses and myself through the forms we had to sign. Once the paperwork was done Husband Scott joined Bank Scott and myself in the vault and watched the bolt man work his magic on Mom and Dad’s safety deposit box. The lock on the box was a little stubborn, but eventually the bolt man was able to crack it open and pull out the box. This was the moment the frustrations and hoop-jumping of the last several years had been leading us to. I felt like I was Indiana Jones about to open some long hidden treasure. I knew there were probably only going to be a will and POA forms in there – but, for me, being able to hold those documents in my hand – being able to connect with my parents again in this way – felt like magic.
I took the box over to a shelf where I could open it and peeked inside. There was the will! At last! And there was Mom’s signature and Dad’s! I found myself tearing up as I saw their handwriting – feeling close to the presence of them. Dad had also stuck a surprise in there for us – some floppy discs of his climbing diaries – including the diaries he kept on the K2 Expedition. It was very cool to find them in there. I hadn’t been expecting that.
Finally holding the original will in my hand, I felt a huge burden lift from me. I had everything I needed, physically, to take care of Dad’s affairs for him now.
Rick left the bank to drive directly to Dad’s home – another couple hours for him – he would have a five-hour drive home after he visited with Dad. And Sabra, Dave, Scott and I went to lunch at the Tides Tavern – one of Mom and Dad’s old haunts. Tim was our waiter. I asked him how long he’d been there and he said eight years. I asked him if he maybe knew my mom and dad – I started to describe them – and I saw the light go on in his eyes, “Your dad is a climber, right?! Yes! I remember them!” I let Tim know that Dad is still alive and 101 now. And I let Tim know that I was glad he remembered my parents – it was important to me that he did.
Sabra, Dave, Scott and I had a wonderful lunch together, celebrating our friendship.
When it was time to leave we all headed for the ferry that would take us from Kingston to Edmonds. We were going to have one final quick ferry ride together before we parted ways. The waves were high and the winds were gusting – at one point the captain came on the intercom to tell anybody with coffee to hold onto his cup – we were in for an unusually bumpy ride. But for Sabra and Dave, Scott and I, the bumps seemed like nothing, really – what were a few bumps on this epic journey?!
As the ferry was docking, Sabra and I hugged and held onto each other in fast friendship – in that tender moment of parting that anyone who has dear friends will understand.
And I realized this was how it was all SUPPOSED to be – the journey begun all those years ago had introduced me to new friends – Laura and Sarah and Scott from the bank; the nice notary ladies from La Conner and Dawn, the notary who’d driven to Dad’s home to help us; and Tim, the waiter at Tides Tavern – and it reconnected us with dear old friends, too – Rick and Sabra and Dave.
In the end, it really was all about love.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell