(Trigger warning: mention of suicide).
It was my job to divide up his possessions. I made boxes of his favorite things for his friends and family, saved a few things for myself, and liquidated the rest. My brother and my first husband weren’t particularly close, but they got along well enough. I gave my brother my first husband’s Rolex. I loved that Rolex and I wanted it to go to someone special, but it felt too painful to keep it for myself. When my first husband was alive, I often wanted to borrow it, but it would have needed links taken out to do so, so I never could.
Over the years, as my trauma has healed and I’ve moved on with my life, I’ve started slowly wearing jewelry from my late first husband again. It no longer feels too painful; now it feels really nice actually. I’m happily remarried, but a death is not the same as a breakup and I feel I can love and honor both parties; I don’t need to choose loyalty, and my current husband agrees.
Recently, the Rolex came to mind. The problem is, I regret giving it away and I’d like it back. I asked my brother and he said he keeps it in a safe deposit box, wearing it 1-2 times per year. I asked if he would give it back, and he didn’t outright refuse but he did push back. In fact, he offered to pay me the value of the Rolex (about 5k). It’s not about the money; I want that watch back for sentimental reasons.
On the one hand, I fully understand that I gave it to him and he’s entitled to keep it. I won’t force the issue if it sparks an argument or causes a rift. But I’d like your opinion on if I’m wrong to ask for it back, given that I wasn’t in my right mind when I gave it away and I had to make a lot of snap decisions in that fragile state.
Relevant info: We are both lucky enough to be able to afford a Rolex if we wanted to go buy one. Also, I paid off about 60k in my brother’s student loans from life insurance money, so I have been generous with him on the whole. Mostly, I’m surprised by his reaction given the sentimental value on my end, and I’d love an outside perspective. — Rollin without a Rolex
No, of course you aren’t wrong to ask for your late husband’s Rolex back. This isn’t like a traditional gift you’d give someone with forethought and out of generosity; you were grieving, traumatized, and, as you said, understandably not in your right frame of mind. And your explanation for your now wanting the Rolex back makes perfect sense, and it makes sense that you’d be confused and even hurt by your brother’s reaction to your request that he return it to you. However, nothing else you’ve said indicates that your brother is typically uncaring or that your relationship is strained; giving him the benefit of the doubt, isn’t it possible that he was simply caught off guard by your request, that he wasn’t expecting it, and that his response came from a place of surprise and therefore without what would hopefully be more consideration and empathy for you?
I wonder: If you posed your request again – this time explaining to him as well as you do here in your letter the sentimentality of the Rolex and the healing that’s taken place to allow you to appreciate the physical mementos of your late husband, would your brother have a different response? I would hope he would. But I would also hope that if for some reason he continues to push back and if this is indeed atypical of his behavior and not reflective of your relationship as a whole, you would be generous again and accept this as a small character flaw, understanding that even the best of us are flawed in ways that sometimes perplex or hurt even our closest loved ones, and not let this cause a rift between you.
A Rolex, even one loved by your late husband, is just an object. It doesn’t hold the love you have for your departed spouse, the intimacy you shared, or the memories you made, and it doesn’t tell the story of your healing through the years since losing him. All of those things reside in you, easily retrievable whenever you need them. Even if a piece of jewelry he owned helps you access memories of him or makes him feel close, it’s not as if the Rolex is the only object that’s available (or, I guess, unavailable) to you. That’s not to say I don’t understand its meaning and the sentimentality it carries for you – only that the weight of its meaning probably pales in comparison to the meaning that your relationship with your brother holds, and it wouldn’t be worth damaging the latter to have more access to the former.
Talk to your brother. Tell him what you told us. Don’t mention the 60k debt you paid off or the ability your brother has to buy another Rolex. This isn’t about the money or the material worth of the watch. Stick to sentiments and feelings, including how special your brother is to you—-so special that he was the one who, in your most traumatic days and when you couldn’t think clearly about very much, you entrusted with safekeeping an important memento that holds sentimental significance to you. I hope he can understand and appreciate that and will return the watch to you, but if he doesn’t, I hope you’re able to forgive this flaw and love him anyway.