Three months later, Alice and Jacob were married. Papa and Grace stood beside them as they spoke their vows and Papa beamed with pride.
Alice and Grace became as close as sisters, and when Jacob was out of town supervising a new building he designed, they would meet for hot chocolate and a Bonbon at Tierney’s. There they would chat about life and love, and occasionally indulge in improper gossip, surrounding the local men who allegedly frequented a house of ill repute.
Grace was as full of life as Alice. Although not brave enough to defy tradition the way Alice did, she was certainly one of a kind and was what you might call, “a quiet, unobtrusive rebel.”
Alice loved to hear the childhood stories Grace told about Jacob. She was such a delightful, detail oriented story-teller, and ofttimes told them with a mischievous look in her eyes. Alice listened with focused intensity and relished every word, every nuance and every particular.
Trying to control her laughter, one day Grace told Alice the tale of the tree-house. “Jacob cut down trees and scavenged wood from anywhere he could find it,” she said. “He worked day and night, and mind you, he was only nine years old. He was determined to have the biggest and best tree-house ever.” She giggled as she said, “he said, ‘people from all over will come to see what I built!’.”
“He used our Papa’s ladder to climb up this huge oak tree that had divided itself into two separate trees, creating what Jacob thought would be the perfect place for his house. He lugged all those pieces of wood up that tree, and tied them together with weeds because he didn’t have any nails nor did he even have a hammer.”
“He carved his name into one of the pieces of wood and tied it to the base of that big tree. Finally the day came when it was finished and Jacob was beside himself. He came inside and asked me to come look at it. Just as I got outside, he stepped into the tree-house and down it came. I was trying hard not to laugh, but you should have seen his little face.”
“He was hanging onto a limb, looking at what was now just a pile of wood. I remember how sad he looked, much like you would expect someone to look after their dreams had been dashed.”
“But,” she said. “Jacob was never one to surrender, and after having his first effort at building something fall down, he wanted to know why it fell down. That’s why he became a structural engineer. He wanted to understand weight distribution and what made some things last merely a few years or in his case, a few minutes, while others lasted a lifetime.”
Alice smiled and said, “yes. He has a sense of leaving a part of himself behind, I think. Something that is beautiful and lasting. Something that will be appreciated long after he’s gone. He’s such a wonderful man.” Grace smiled and said, “yes he is, and he’s a wonderful brother.”
Just six months after Alice and Jacob were married, Grace became gravely ill. The doctors were baffled as to the cause of her ailment and their treatment ranged from warm cinnamon milk to behind closed doors blood-letting, an almost abandoned and frowned upon practice, but desperation sometimes calls for unconventional methods.
Grace was languishing in a semi-conscious state. Alice and Jacob were at her side, hoping she could hear them tell her that it was okay for her to leave. “Go be with God,” Jacob whispered. After five days, Grace finally succumbed.
She was gone and they grieved, but she was no longer suffering and they were grateful. Her charming way of speaking and her captivating stories of days gone by were forever silenced, but she would not be forgotten. Alice and Jacob would always remember their darling Grace.
In lieu of a funeral, Alice and Jacob decided to have a memorial service for Grace. They would not mourn for her. They would celebrate her life with song and dance and yes, stories of their own.
Two weeks after Grace died, Alice went to see her Papa. She found him sitting in his chair, holding a picture of her mother.
To be continued___________