Boris - I Will Never Forget Him
The morning held a briskness in the air. I could sense that something special was going to happen that day. You know, one of those indescribable feelings that can come over you at a moments notice. As I turned the key to enter my building, a smile crossed my lips, I knew it was one of those days. Having been in the estate sale and auction business for a number of years I recognized this as one of those times and was anxious to see how this day played out.
I was in my warehouse, 22,000sf of showroom, auction room, receiving room, offices and kitchen complete with loading docks, drive up ramp and rail siding. I was proud of this location “smack dab” in the mid, north central part of California's San Joaquin Valley ( over 2/3rd of the nation's fruit & produce are grown here ) and butted right against Freeway 99 a main artery for North/South traffic. The location was ideal for my business. The selling of estates, imported containers of antiques, and much more! This was proving to be a normal busy month, with 14 sales scheduled for the month and it was the beginning of the 2nd week of sales.
It was quite by providence, or at least I chose to look at it this way, that I was at the warehouse that Monday morning. I had just opened the door and gone behind the welcoming counter when the phone began to ring. Being the 1st one in that morning, I picked up the phone and I knew almost immediately that this was the beginning of a very special day!
“Good Morning, Larry Parker Auctions & Estate Sales, this is Larry Parker may I help you?”, I asked. “Good Morning”, replied the heavily accented voice on the other end of the line. ( at this point imagine an older gentleman with a heavily accented Russian voice on the other end of the line. I will attempt to write as he would have talked. Names, etc. will be changed but not the true story. ).
“This is 'a' Boris. I under 'a' stand you buy 'a' estates and I gotta one I want to sell.” “Well,” I replied, “ I prefer to sell your estate for you because you will make more money.” “No, No,” he replied, “don't want you to sell 'a' my estate, want you to 'a' buy it.”
After a bit of conversation about the advantages of allowing me to sell his estate rather than buy, I became convinced that he only wanted someone to buy it and remove it as soon as possible. If I didn't want it, he said he would call someone else. At that I made an appointment for the following morning to see his estate.
A quiet, tree-lined street with well kept very nice older homes welcomed me as I drove up to his house. His lawns, concrete drive and walkways were well manicured with spring time flowers of bright colors bordering the outer walls and gateway leading to his front door.
As always as I stood at the front door about to meet a person I'd never met before, look inside his life, and determine how I could best serve him with all the dignity, dedication and diligence I could give.
I said a prayer to this end and then rang the bell waiting with some degree of excitement to meet Boris. ( you see I had already fallen in love with his accent )
When the door opened, I was not disappointed, before me stood a man in his mid-80's looking every bit like Ernest Borgnine looked when he aged.
His thinning gray/white hair, heavy set body, dark rimmed glasses, big smile with spacing between his two front teeth, suspender-ed dark dress pants with high button shoes, and white shirt with French cuffs gave him every bit the Norman Rockwellian look of a man who had worked hard all his life yet carried himself with the grace befitting a man who deserved respect and honor.
“Come in”, he said, “you must be 'a' mister 'a' Parker.
After greetings and introductions, and as we were standing in the entry way of his home, I noticed a large room to the left of me. I found myself staring at a very large gorgeous Steinway Grand piano that I could tell was somewhere in price north of $50,000 in value.
Boris caught me looking at the Steinway and said, “ Oh Mister 'a' Parker I see you looking at the 'a' Stein'a'way. You are 'a' to late I 'a' sold that yesterday after I 'a'call'a' you. “Do you mind if I ask how much you sold it for?”, I asked. “Oh No!”, Boris replied. “I gotta $50.00 for it and they gonna pick up tomorrow for free! I don't have to take it in!”, he said. At that, I pulled my notebook from my briefcase and asked Boris if he would mind telling me who purchased it from him He readily told me and I was surprised to find that it was a reputable music company near by. I wrote the name in my notebook. ( At this time I recognized a commonality between Boris and so many older people I have met in this business I will explain later. )
As I entered the “piano room” I noticed a built in shelving unit on one wall that had 4 sets of glass shelves. The shelves were quite long and dusty. What attracted my attention were all of the places that weren't dusty. You know, where something sets, dust forms around but not underneath the piece.
Boris saw me looking at this and said, “ Oh Mister 'a' Parker, that's the only other thing I sold. My wife, she collected 'a' what do you call 'a' Hummel's. The shelves were 'a' full. I call this 'a' an'a'tique lady who owns a store. She buy 'a' them all from me.”
“Boris, do you mind me asking what she paid for them?” I asked. “ Oh,No,” Boris replied, “she paid 'a' 25cents a piece for them and 'a' take 'a' them all.” “Do you mind if I ask you who purchased them?” Boris told me and I immediately entered the name in my notebook.”
“But that's all I 'a' sold,” Boris said, “ everything else is 'a' for you!”
We proceeded to look at all the personal property in his house, the garage, ( including his car as he wanted to sell that too ), and the yard. As we looked we talked. I found he was a self made man coming here from Russia as a child working his way up to owning a very successful business in town. He did, all this, he stated, with no “helping hands, no hand outs, nothing but what I will term sheer grit and determination to succeed.
As we talked I learned he had two children, both very successful, a son and a daughter. They both lived in Southern California and had thriving successful practices.
Looking at everything in Boris's estate took quite a while, as I wanted to gather as much information about him as possible. His personal property included, among many other things: Persian rugs, Sterling Silver, Coins collections of gold and silver, a Stamp Collection, Steuben Glass, Cut Glass, Crystal, Bronzes, beautiful antique furniture and much, much more! I am sure you get the picture; the estate was fabulous to say the least.
“All right Boris”, I said, “ I will give you $5,000. for all your personal property both inside and outside the house including the car!” “You give 'a' me that much!” Boris said, “It's 'a' yours. “Good,” I said, “now I am going to fill out a contract for you and I to sign today and I will bring you a cashiers check for your estate tomorrow! ( Don't get excited, I had no intention of fulfilling the contract. I just wanted to tie up his estate so no one else could take advantage of him. ) Boris promised me no one else could buy anything and that he would not call anyone else.
As soon as I got back to the office, I handed my secretary my notes and ask her to find the numbers for his son and daughter. When she located them I proceeded to call the daughter. I was told that she was with a patient at the moment. I told her receptionist that unless the patient she was with was having a life or death emergency that I needed to speak with her immediately about an emergency situation with her father. When the daughter got on the phone I communicated my experiences with her father that day and gave her the names and numbers of the Piano Company and the Antique Dealer. I let her know that I was intending to call them and let them know that if the piano was picked up or the Hummel's w not returned that I would personally spread the news about what they had done.
I then asked the daughter how long it had been since she or her brother had seen their father. She stated that it been over 2 ½ years. I let her know my feelings about that and my experiences with aged people who felt alone.
You may be reading this and fit right into the same category as this son and daughter. You see when parents get older and their mate dies and their children move away, it can be so easy for their children to wrap themselves in busy lives where time seems to pass so quickly. Many times we can fail to realize that perhaps 2 or 3 or even more years have gone by with little or no contact with our parent/s. At this point, when older people feel neglected and lonely they reach out for attention. One way of doing this that is extremely common is to start giving things away just as Boris was doing.
I wanted to tell this story first. It is so important to recognize the people we love most and give them the attention they need.
A few months later, I received the kindest letter from the children. Boris now lived with or near them and they had recovered the Hummel's and the Steinway was still in the family.