Jacob cut ties with his parents after they fought over his future. Years later, he heard they died in a car accident. When he went to visit their abandoned home, he noticed it was suspiciously clean, and there were recently washed dishes in the sink, so he stayed back to catch whoever was sneaking into the house.
As Jacob stood outside his childhood home, he couldn’t help but feel a deep sense of regret. Maybe his relationship with his parents could’ve been fixed at some point. It was too late now, though.
A month ago, one of his co-workers at the Hartford Police Department got word of a severe car accident with two casualties. His friend heard the victims’ last name, Williams, and knew immediately that they were his parents.
The news was a big shock to the 23-year-old. He had not spoken to his parents in five years when he left their house abruptly, leaving only a note to say goodbye. The only material possession he took was the clothes on his back and the necklace his mother gave him years ago.
Jacob’s parents belonged to the Hartford, Connecticut high society. His father, Peter, was a prominent hedge fund founder, and his mother, Juliette, was the chair of several charities and one of the most admired women in the area. Naturally, they wanted Jacob to follow his father’s footsteps into the financial world.
But their son had different dreams. Jacob wanted to become a policeman. He wanted to be a regular person and escape from the obligations and the pressure his parents placed on him. When they heard of his plans, they were incensed, mainly because he had been accepted into Yale University, his father’s alma mater.
They fought for many days until Jacob decided to leave. While he was never ready to cut ties with them, they stopped calling him and didn’t reach out. He sent them an invitation to his police academy graduation a year ago, but they never received it. That was how he learned that Peter and Juliette were no longer living at his childhood home. They had spent a year abroad and had only been back a few days when they got into that accident.
They were gone, and as Jacob stood at their house, he sighed deeply at the overgrown garden and the boarded-up windows. He had not been able to visit right after the funeral. It took a few weeks before he mustered the courage to come.
He was surprised to see its current condition and the sign on the door that read: Do Not Enter. But he still had his old key, and he was going to check if they ever changed the locks.
Luckily, the front door opened easily, but Jacob was surprised to see the relatively clean interior. If this house had been abandoned for over a year, why wasn’t there more dust?
He walked around the foyer, contemplating everything he had left behind. He went through the living room, and it all looked exactly the same as the day he left. The kitchen was just as immaculate as it had always been. He remembered eating pancakes that their maid, Dora, made him almost every day.
But as Jacob passed the table, using one hand to touch the table and a chair, he focused on the sink. There was a plate and a drinking glass on the drying rack. The fresh scent of dish soap wafted from that area.
“How is this possible?” he wondered quietly. “Is someone living here? But why is the garden such a disaster?”
Suddenly, the sound of a car on the driveway alerted him that someone was coming. He decided to hide in the downstairs guest bathroom and catch whoever was squatting in his childhood home. He only left the bathroom door opened an inch to see better, and surprisingly, a woman walked in using a key. She threw her purse on a chair, and Jacob lost sight of her as she went into the kitchen.
He heard the sound of water from the sink’s faucet running and then it stopped. Then one of the kitchen chairs creaked on the floor, and he supposed she sat down. It was enough for him. He was going to determine why this lady was in his parents’ house.
“What are you doing here?” he thundered, spooking the poor woman.
“AH!” she shrieked, turning in the chair to see him standing there. “You’re Jacob! Jesus! You scared me!”
“Yes, I’m Jacob. What are you doing in my parents’ house?”
“Oh, I’m Sarah. Your parents hired me around three years ago to be their housekeeper,” she answered, still breathing deeply after Jacob’s scare.
“I was told they were not living here for a while,” Jacob stated, knitting his eyebrows.
“Yes, Mr. and Mrs. Williams decided to travel through Europe for a whole year. They only paid me to come once a week and clean the interior. But I think they eventually let Ramon go. I would’ve done something about their front yard, but I don’t know how to handle any of the tools.”
Jacob nodded. Ramon had been their gardener for a long time. “Ok. Whatever. But what are you doing here now?”
“I don’t know, really. I still come here once a week and clean. But I don’t know if I could live here full-time,” Sarah replied, looking around the massive space with a sad expression.
“Live here full-time?”
“I went to see your father at the hospital, and he told me that they placed this house in my name when they left for Europe. The Williams treated me like family. My mother died when I was little, and I didn’t have anyone else to rely on. Your parents were very kind,” Sarah said as her eyes started to glisten.
“Oh, well. You should take it. I don’t want it. You could sell it and not work for the rest of your life,” Jacob suggested with a shrug of his shoulders.
He meant those words. He didn’t feel that much of a connection to the house. It only symbolized how his relationship with his parents broke down and would never be repaired.
“I hoped to meet and talk to you at the funeral, but you weren’t there,” Sarah added suddenly.
“Yeah, I went after everyone else had left. I don’t like those things. Mourning is something private,” Jacob revealed, crossing his arms.
“I understand. But I have to tell you something. Before Mr. Williams passed, he told me they also had something for you. He said it was in your room. I don’t know where, though. I’ve cleaned and never saw anything new there,” Sarah explained, pointing at the general direction of his room upstairs.
“Thank you. I’ll see what it is. Listen. I can help you sell this house if you want. A lot of people in the area will want it,” Jacob offered kindly. Sarah nodded and showed him a small smile. Then he took a deep breath and went upstairs to check out his room.
It was the same as he left it. It was clean, but entering was like going back in time. He sat down on his old desk, where he wrote the goodbye note that would become the last communication he ever had with his parents. He opened his desk drawer offhandedly, expecting to find his old school papers inside.
But right at the top was a letter with a big bold “Jacob” scribbled in the middle. He took it out and noticed several thick envelopes inside that definitely weren’t there five years ago. He decided to open the letter first.
It’s been almost four years since you left, and I finally understand why you did it. This life… is difficult. I thought I was doing right all this time, trying to set you up for the future. But now I understand that money is not an essential part of life. I haven’t enjoyed any of the money I earned, so I’m taking your mother on a trip to Europe. When I come back, I hope to see you again.
You’re about to graduate from the police academy, and I hope you do well. I’ll put in a good word for you with the chief if you want. I’m making a huge change in my life, Jacob. You’ll see soon! Anyway, your mother and I would love to reconnect when we return. Let’s start over, son. I’m very proud of you!
Jacob’s eyes watered as he finished reading the letter. His father must have forgotten to send it before he left for Europe. There were some mailing stamps in the drawer too. The older man wanted to make up with him. But they went on their trip and returned only to be involved in a tragic accident.
A tear ran down his cheek, and regret sat heavy in his heart. He used one hand to wipe his tear away and continue rifling through his drawers. After opening one of the thick envelopes, he saw a stack of documents, indicating that his parents’ entire estate belonged to him.
Did he do this before they left? Jacob wondered in shock. That must be the huge change he talked about in his letter. He gave him everything. His hedge fund company, most of his properties, which included a house in the Hamptons, an apartment in New York, and a vacation home in Italy. But this house did, in fact, belong to Sarah, whose last name was Mitchell.
After that realization, Jacob rushed out of his room, said goodbye to Sarah, promising to talk to her soon, and drove away. He spoke with their lawyers, arranging several things relating to the Williams hedge fund. He didn’t want to sell his father’s life work, but he was not equipped to manage it. Luckily, his dad’s partner rose to the occasion and became CEO. Jacob would just be a silent owner.
Jacob spoke to Sarah often after that, asking her about their parents wanting t
o know how they spent their lives after he left. He helped her sell his childhood home in the end, and Sarah encouraged him to take most of the money, but he insisted it belonged to her.
He also sold some of his properties, except the one in Lake Como, Italy. That one was too beautiful to give away.
A few years later, he and Sarah decided to honeymoon there after they got married. He lived with regret every day, but making his new wife happy soothed some of his guilt.
What can we learn from this story?
Make up with your loved ones before it’s too late. It’s better to swallow your pride, forgive, and forget than to live in regret.
Most parents want the best for you, even if they don’t know how to express it.
Jacob’s parents wanted him to be successful, as that’s all they knew. And in the end, they understood why he chose a different path and were proud of him.