What should I do with my deceased grandmother's handbag?
December 25, 2013 10:29 PM   Subscribe

She passed away almost 10 years ago but no one knows about this bag. I don't think she wanted anyone to know. I should have dealt with it when she died but I had forgotten about it. Inside are her IDs, a letter from someone that has been folded and unfolded so many times it's falling apart, and about $470.

I used to live with my grandmother and my aunt and her family. One day I was sitting next to my grandma at the dining table while she was organizing her handbag. When she heard my aunt's footsteps approaching, she shoved the bag to me under the table in somewhat of a panic and whispered "hide it." I obeyed and never thought much about it. Shortly after, they moved out of the country and I moved out on my own, packing her bag with my own belongings. I never got the chance to ask her why she was so secretive about the bag and what she wanted me to do with it. My grandma passed away not too long thereafter and I've moved the bag with me 2 more times. I'm currently packing to move for the 4th time so I want to deal with it once and for all. Thanks in advance for your suggestions.
posted by feastorfamine to Human Relations (15 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Check the lining of the bag for more valuables or letters?

Invest the $470 in a long term savings account?

I don't understand the problem. Your grandmother gave you the bag and she did not want anyone else to know about it or have it. Don't share what she wouldn't want shared.

I think once you confirm the bag isn't holding anymore secrets, you could do a little ritual and dispose of the bag any way you feel is appropriate.
posted by jbenben at 10:48 PM on December 25, 2013 [6 favorites]

If it were me, I would pack the bag and move it again as it is a great reminder of your grandmother. I would take the $470 and spend it on a gift for myself. The letter I would scan it and turn it into a pdf and her IDs I would save to give to my kids one day. If you feel guilty about spending the $470, donate it to a local charity.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:54 PM on December 25, 2013 [10 favorites]

Who is the letter from and what does it say?
posted by LarryC at 11:21 PM on December 25, 2013 [7 favorites]

Yeah, seriously, the letter is probably the key here. Or maybe she didn't want anyone to know she had the money? Or the bag belonged to someone else?
posted by bink at 12:12 AM on December 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

Your grandmother trusted you with the handbag and there was a reason for that trust. She would want you to do whatever you wish with it - it belongs to you now. There should be no second thoughts or guilt or other nonsense associated with it.

I would save the letter and other personal materials - I'd probably just save the handbag as is, but if you could use the money, I'm sure she'd want you to.
posted by aryma at 12:50 AM on December 26, 2013 [6 favorites]

I would get a beautiful box to hold the purse and its contents and keep it forever. This is more than just "stuff," and the reminder of how she trusted you with something of apparently infinite value to her is priceless.

If you haven't needed the money yet, put it in an account with decent interest and forget about it for another ten years. Maybe then you'll have a child, a nephew or a niece and your grandmother's intentions will become apparent.

I'd also Google the crap out of the names in the letter and start a novel, but ymmv.
posted by mibo at 4:16 AM on December 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

This is quite a mystery! I think the answer to your questions hinges on why she didn't want your aunt to know about it and, especially, why she never asked you to return the bag. After all, it had her ID in it, so I can't imagine she forgot about it. But maybe she did.

The money, I think, is likely incidental. But once you can determine, to your satisfaction, why she wanted it kept secret and didn't request its return, you'll probably know what you should do with the money.
posted by DrGail at 6:03 AM on December 26, 2013

Was your grandma in cognitive decline at all when this happened? It's not unusual for elderly folks to become paranoid of their caregivers. She may have feared your aunt seeing the handbag for no particular reason. It could just be her handbag.
posted by telegraph at 6:30 AM on December 26, 2013 [20 favorites]

Ten years ago that was a fair bit of of money for an elderly woman to just have in her bag. Having been the carer for an elderly relo that didn't trust all of her family....I wonder if that was part of it.

I'd keep the handbag, myself. If her will mentioned someone special or a charity...you could give the dosh to them. I'd fudge the part about her wanting it kept it from your aunt. Alternatively.... do something that reminds you of your grandma with it. (High tea, Long Island iced tea, Ice-T??)

If she had even a tiny bit of dementia, it's entirely possible she did indeed forget what happend to it...or who exactly she'd passed it to in her anxiety.
posted by taff at 6:38 AM on December 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

I think the key is probably the letter, as well. You say it's been folded and unfolded so many times it's falling apart. Does it look significant? Is it from a known person or a stranger?
posted by corb at 7:11 AM on December 26, 2013

It's the bag she was hiding, not its contents. Keep your promise to your grandmother - Make sure that aunt never sees the bag.
posted by Kruger5 at 7:14 AM on December 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I agree that the letter is the key. Who was it from? What is it about?
posted by uans at 7:45 AM on December 26, 2013

Here's a story about my great-grandmother:

My great-grandmother has always been a little bit secretive about her handbag. She likes to have it with her at all times, and she's gotten older (and also, tends to get more confused and anxious about things) she is more protective of her handbag. Recently, she told me the story of when she married my great-grandfather, they did it in secret because he was about to be drafted in WWII, and they did not tell their families. She kept her marriage license in her handbag, and would take it with her everywhere because she was worried her mother would snoop through it and find her marriage license--which eventually happened anyway. Her kids tended to nag her about how she always wanted her bag with her, so I can definitely see her doing something like this now that she's in her 90s.

Her IDs are strange, because you said she moved out of the country, so I imagine that she probably had to obtain other copies of them. Although, it's also possible she lost her handbag, and her and your aunt had already gone through the process of replacing everything, and your grandmother didn't want her to know she found the bag!
posted by inertia at 8:24 AM on December 26, 2013

oh, to answer your question, I would spend the money and keep the bag. A handbag is such a personal glimpse of someone's life that I think it's pretty neat that you have your grandmother's bag. I would box it up carefully, after scanning and preserving the letter.
posted by inertia at 8:26 AM on December 26, 2013

She didn't want your aunt to take her money. That's all history now. Donate the money to a charity your grandmother would have liked. Keep the rest or (because apparently you're tired of lugging it around) give it to family who would care about family history.
posted by pracowity at 7:55 PM on December 26, 2013

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