The senior Oliver’s fought back. He was their friend not an enemy and he’d held the farm together for them during the war doing his part to support the war effort on behalf of Australia which he now claimed as his country. The brothers were appalled, and they were beside themselves with anger when their sister unexpectedly supported her parents in the fight over this man. Armando understood their anger and one morning tied his few things into a sheet and approached the home to say goodbye to his benefactors the senior Oliver’s and express thanks for their support at a most difficult time for him.
The Oliver’s realized that on their passing their grown children would inherit the property and Armando would not survive their anger. So, the old man took him for a walk on the farm and indicated all the improvements he’d made for them in those past war years. He held him like a son and thanked him. They were there for an hour while Grandpa drew from Armando his hopes for a future life in Australia. Then they returned to the house where Grandma had prepared a large selection of the produce of the farm and some of her best cooking for him to take with him.
Grandpa Oliver and Armando got into the truck and headed for town where Grandpa scouted out a shop on the main street that had been abandoned and investigated who held title deeds. Surprisingly, the widow Jones was anxious to get rid of that asset for needed cash and Grandpa headed for the bank and then a lawyer’s office to see title was placed in Armando’s name. He’d have to make do for living space in the back of the shop for the time being until he could establish himself. Armando protested at each stage of the transactions in embarrassment, but the old man hushed him and told him this was his accumulated wages from years of work without pay. Armando cried at this unexpected kindness.
Two years later Armando had by his hard work paid off the small loan guaranteed by the Oliver’s taken out to establish stock for sale. Every penny was carefully accounted for and reinvested and for the first time in his life Armando could see the possibility of a future.
During those two years several events had bought him sadness. First Grandpa Oliver had passed away frustrated by the bickering among his children and now too old to manage the farm as a stabilizing influence. Two weeks after that his wife passed on out of grief for her lost partner in life and worry over her children’s bickering. Armando attended the funeral services and wept over the loss of his benefactors.
Word spread that the younger Oliver boy had mysteriously disappeared, and it was only years later word filtered through he’d joined one of the friends he’d served with in the army far to the north where they managed sugarcane plantations. He’d left without a word after his parent’s funerals. That left the eldest son and his sister Mabel, but they were unable to work together or handle the huge property and finally agreed to sell sub-dividing it into several substantial farm segments to maximize their wealth, dividing proceeds and departing. The son took his wealth to Sydney looking for investment opportunities there and the fellowship of returned soldiers to give him emotional support. Mabel bought a house in town and went into business as a seamstress.
When Armando heard she’d relocated to town he made sure he supplied her with vegetables and fruit each week as a mark of appreciation for what the Oliver’s had done for him and refused to take payment. At first, she refused but realizing this was being done as an act of gratitude to the Oliver’s she relented and her attitude toward him softened. The children were delighted to be reconnected with their childhood friend and would hang about the shop helping him after school. Armando taught them the rudiments of trading and marketing at a practical level. He slowly delegated responsible tasks to them like buying produce and banking to hone their skills. The children blossomed under this guiding hand and Mabel watched it all with appreciation.
Mabel reached the age where health problems often begin to reveal themselves and found herself under regular doctor’s care. Then one day the doctor asked if she’d taken the trouble to get her will in order as a prudent act to ensure the children’s future care in the event something happened and they without a living father and this alarmed her.
Why had he raised that question.? So far there’d been nothing in her medical tests to show cause for alarm. Perhaps that was a prudent advice he gave to any of his patients with a similar situation to hers? There was nothing to justify the doctor’s suggestion medically, but the doctor had a hunch and thought it better for her to be prepared for any event that might unfold. Mable followed his advice and sought the counsel of one of the town lawyers who prepared documents in favour of her children as beneficiaries in the event of her death. Mable sent word through her children requesting Armando pay her a visit sometime when the children were not there as she had something to request of him.
So, Armando wondering what this could mean requested the children after school soon after to manage the shop for him as he had other business to attend to. He’d done this before when he had business to attend to and had absolute trust in these children and knew they’d never cheat him. He headed for Mable Henderson’s home and knocked on the door and was invited in. Armando was surprised at how significant space had been devoted to her home business and knew she’d been prosperous in her chosen occupation. She’d invested the farm sale money wisely and was well off.
Mabel got down to business quickly. She apologized for the anger she’d had toward him on the farm years ago now and appreciated what he was doing as a father figure for her children. She’d made her will out and arranged in it for her lawyer to settle things passing on her wealth to the children in the event of her death. Armando nodded approvingly and wished he had a family to pass his accumulating wealth to after his departure. Then she surprised him with a request. Should that happen, would he take the responsibility of guiding them in their decisions as they headed for adulthood?
Tears came to his eyes as he remembered how angry she’d been at him on the Oliver’s farm and how she was now apologizing to him. From a hated alien enemy, she’d chosen him as a confidant and friend now. He whispered his acceptance and she responded with a smile thanking him for accepting both her apology and the responsibility as a guide for her children. He wept in happiness as he departed the home.
A year later the doctor’s suspicions proved to be fact and Mabel suffered through cruel months of cancer before finally succumbing. The children now in their late teens stood wooden by Armando’s side as Mabel’s body was laid to rest. They couldn’t believe their mother was no more and clung to this man as a stabilizing element in their lives. Their uncles had abandoned them, and they wanted nothing to do with them in return. While the oldest lad was in his late teens, he felt the need of a protector specially with a sister to care for now and both children begged him to move to their home as a protector. After considerable hesitation he agreed to their request. Someday they’d be mature enough to fend for themselves but for now he’d be their substitute uncle. He encouraged them to apply themselves to further education and assisted the lawyer entrusted with the duty of supervising their financial needs until the young people turned twenty-one and were granted responsibility for managing their inheritance.
James Charles Henderson sat in the lawyer’s office reviewing materials supplied him. A large sum of money remained from his mother’s estate share of Oliver properties sold long ago and she’d managed the money prudently during her lifetime. In another two years his sister June would get the remaining share when she reached age twenty-one. Both children had been dating for some time under the anxious watch of Armando who now felt responsible for their welfare. The children now adults had a great love for this adopted uncle and June made a suggestion to her elder brother. They’d eventually marry and have their own families and who would there be for their uncle to pour his love out on then? So, on the next vacation from school, they approached Armando and handed him an envelope.
It was customary for them to exchange gifts on special occasions like Christmas and birthday’s but why were the children giving him a gift now. He opened the envelope in their presence in curiosity. It was a return ticket to Sydney and confirmed bookings at a hotel there for two weeks. Armando looked up in surprise and confusion. How could he take a vacation from his shop? He’d never had a vacation as the business was his life and could not be shut down. What about his customers? The children saw his alarm and laughed.
“Uncle Armando we are on vacation and will run your shop for you. We will follow everything you’ve taught us over the years, and you have nothing to fear because we will care for your customers just like you do. It will all be functioning and here for you when you return. Over the years you’ve told us about the Italian community in Sydney and we want you to renew your contacts with that community and enjoy their company for these two-weeks’ vacation. After two days you must use these tickets and your hotel has been paid for on arrival. Please accept this gift from the both of us as a gift of love for all you’ve done for us over the years.”
To be continued.
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