My Uncle Jack was my hero. He was the youngest and only son of the Wilson clan, my mother’s family. When I was baptized Uncle Jack and Aunt Mary (mom's sister) became my godparents. In the Catholic tradition, especially back in the 1950’s this was a sacred and solemn responsibility and on some level they both always seemed to be “there” for me at various crossroads in my life.
Jack married a wonderful woman I adore, Teresa. Together, from my young eyes, they lived the glamorous life, which included frequent travels internationally.
After one particular trip to Greece, Jack brought each of the nieces and nephews a gift of “worry beads.” Now, being Catholic we were all familiar with rosary beads, but worry beads? He sang and danced like Zorba as he taught us to use them, flipping them back and forth in his hand. I was dazzled and kept those beads for many years until the leather cord disintegrated and the beads lost. But I remember that when he gave them to us, he pronounced a blessing, a commission, “Someday, when you grow up I want you to travel.”
In 1999 I was able to go to Greece. But the entire trip I felt as if I was looking for “something” but what, since I had never been there before. How could I "find" what I didn't know I was looking for?
The last day in Athens was a free day; time to shop and wander, a time for souvenirs. There they hung in a small little store in the city center. Blue beads on a leather cord. I couldn’t get inside fast enough, I walked out into the sunshine with a feeling of found, a connection restored, for Jack had passed in 1996. He was as present and real to me as the day he handed me my first set of worry beads. I felt him smile, he had done his job, I too was a world traveler.
Today those beads hang on the upper shelf of my desk. They remind me of memories of people and time gone by. Priceless gems, among my souvenirs.