Inez was less than two hours away from completing her last shift at Longmont United Hospital. She'd never pictured herself leaving Colorado but here she was about to move south. She did not even know she had an Aunt Polly down South. But she'd been notified that Polliana Smith from Oklahoma had left her estate to Inez. A generous 25-acre property complete with an adorable log cabin. The property was nestled in the southeast corner of Love County perpendicular to the Fallen Lakes Casino. The only signs of life in that part of Oklahoma.
Initially, Inez did not know what to do. She'd been in Colorado for as long as she could remember. The mountains were in her soul. Leaving them seemed like a painful and bad idea. Most of all she was afraid, afraid of the unknown. Several weeks of indecision and a relentless nagging to decide, she knew she had to make a choice. She knew she'd already made her choice. She put in her notice at work.
Her Aunt Polly was her mother's sister. Inez had only been on the earth for two years when her mother and father passed away in a car accident. Inez ended up with her paternal grandmother, which is how she'd landed in Colorado. She had always been curious about her roots. She knew she'd been born in Texas; her birth certificate said so. Her grandmother verified but never wanted to talk about her parents. It was just too painful.
When she received the letter her Aunt Polly had prepared for her; it sealed the deal. She was going to Oklahoma. Her decision was final. There was no turning back. She'd always be able to visit Colorado. She needed to go see where she came from. Love County was just over the border from Gainesville, Texas, 30 miles North of where Inez was born. Denton is where she was born. She'd be a little less than an hour from Denton now. She'd be able to finally see her parents' graves in person.
I first want you to know that I'm sorry. I'm sorry you did not know me before now. Truth be told, I was afraid. I was afraid I would not be able to look at you without crying. I was afraid that knowing your pain up close would be the end of me. Your mother was my sister. But she wasn't just my sister. She was my world and my safety and my only confidant. We had a hard life; we experienced things that no human being should ever experience. I also wanted to protect you. I didn't want you to be in a situation where you would have been hurt like we were. How could I be in contact with you and hide that from the monsters in our family? I'm sorry that I have to say that, but it's the truth. Don't worry; you will be safe. Anyone who would have hurt you is long gone by now. When your mom died I lost the only person who truly knew me. She gave me the strength to not give up on life on an almost daily basis. You don't survive what we did and ever truly heal. She got it way worse than I did, yet she was the one to be strong for the both of us.
I've struggled with the guilt of not knowing you- for being a coward, but it's too late now. Just please accept what I've left you as a neverending token of love from me and your mom. Did you know you were her whole world? She used to call you her angel baby, and you really were. I remember when she found out she was pregnant. She'd already learned that you were a girl. She named you Inez after a great aunt of ours who was never able to have children. Your mother always felt great sadness for her.
You would have been one of thirteen children had your mom gotten her way. But Grace, she could have done it, and she would have done it with dignity and grace; she was an amazing mom. She loved you more than anything on earth. She used to tell you that you were THE best, and you would tell her that she was your best friend. I'm going to go be with your best friend- and mine now, and I want you to know that we will always be with you. Loving and protecting you from the other side.
There are many more letters for you at the cabin. Your mothers' journals are also there. Ted and Beverly Credence live a few miles down the road, and they will let you in when you arrive and help you get situated. They have been my neighbors and friends for over thirty years, so I trust them. I hope you accept my apology and accept what I have left for you. I've followed you for years on social media, and I couldn't be more proud of the human being that you turned out to be.
With All My Love,
Her shift finally ended; Inez ran smack dab in the middle of her own surprise farewell party when she entered the break room. The nurses and doctors in the ICU had been her family for over a decade. Dealing with the critical and heartbreaking medical situations they handled on a daily basis had bonded them beyond mere colleagues. There was something powerful about this team. Inez planned to return at some point as a traveling nurse. For now, though, she'd be in Love County Oklahoma.
Something about the name alone was symbolically poetic to her heart. Her grandmother had tried but Inez just did not get the love that she needed. She now was going to a place that was gifted to her out of pure love. If this wasn't fate or meant to be and all that good jazz then Inez didn't know what would be. She courageously spent the last hours enjoying her party and the company of the people she loved the most.
The next morning Inez set out for the 14-hour drive. She packed trail mix, vegetable slices, fruit, boiled eggs, and lots of CORE water. She was determined to drive straight through so she'd need to eat and drink to keep her energy up. The scenery along the way, particularly in Colorado was bittersweet. She alternated between her favorite music and her favorite podcasts along the way. Her favorite pastime was Forensic Genealogy and she'd found a great new podcast featuring real stories.
A dozen or so podcasts later and there she was. The front of the property was stunning. There was a black picket fence lined with honeysuckle as far as the eye could see. About fifty feet behind the fence there were what seemed like endless trees. She saw a pear tree, a pecan tree and she was pretty sure she'd seen a peach tree too. Inez was excited, she wasn't expecting to have ready-made produce on the property. She'd dabbled with growing her own vegetables in Colorado but was definitely lacking in the green thumb department.
She continued up the drive and asked Siri to call Mr. Credence. She let him know that she'd arrived. He let her know that he and his wife would be down soon. The cabin was small but absolutely adorable. It even had the stereotypical wooden rocking chair on the porch. It didn't take long to really appreciate her aunt's style and she could tell some of that style had been passed down to her.
She walked around to the back of the cabin. She was pleasantly surprised to find a built-in pool with a hot tub. Far in the distance to the left was a huge building. It was too big to be a barn and there weren't any signs of animal life that Inez had seen so far. She could see what looked like the tail-end of a school bus sticking out from the back of that building. To the right, there was a pond with chairs and a firepit just to the right of it. Aunt Polly must have had a million great times right here, Inez thought.
Inez returned to the front of the house when she heard two car doors closing. She was warmly greeted by Mr. and Mrs. Credence. They were an elderly couple. Beverly was clearly a hippie if Inez had to assign a label to her. She had striking blue eyes and her long sparkling silver hair was worn in a braid to the side. Long colorful strands of fabric flowed beautifully all over her bohemian style dress. She was even wearing Birkenstocks.
Mr. Credence on the other hand was clearly all farmer. They exchanged handshakes and pleasantries then Inez was handed the keys to her new home. She unlocked the door and the three walked into the cabin. Her emotions threatened to take over but Inez was determined to keep it together, at least as long as she had company.
The house was unbelievably clean and cozy. It looked as if her Aunt Polly had just gone out to the store and would be back at any moment. Inez could feel the emptiness in the cabin though and she knew she was gone. She could tell her aunt was a woman of purpose and passion. Everything in her home expressed that. She really didn't know anything about her Aunt Polly.
She spent the next several hours listening to story after story from the Credence couple about her Aunt Polly. She learned about her battle with breast cancer and her involvement in raising awareness before she passed. Inez also learned that her Aunt Polly was an artist of all sorts. The huge building in the back was actually a huge garage for old school buses that her aunt had been converting into tiny homes. She'd never married or had children due to what she and Inez's mother had gone through as children.
She started to feel a sense of belonging, a sense of knowing that she'd never before experienced. She could see how the death of her mother had devastated her Aunt Polly. She could have listened to hours of more stories but she knew she'd have journals and letters to read and the Credences really needed to get going. Not long after Ted and Beverly left, Inez retrieved her luggage from the car and took it into the living room.
As she stood up from placing her bag on the floor she was overcome with shock and she audibly gasped. Her hands automatically covered her mouth as her eyes popped open in disbelief. It's like she was looking in the mirror. There she was in front of her. Her mother. A picture of her mother. They could have been twins. Her hand moved to her heart as tears uncontrollably fell. She had full understanding, forgiveness, and gratefulness for her Aunt Polly at that moment. She knew she was home. She grabbed the picture of her mother and hugged it to her heart. Inez smiled through her tears and yelled "Love County, Mom, Aunt Polly- I'm home"!
There's always more to the story...