They were tucked behind a little notepad, in the tiny envelope they were handed to me in by the attorney handling my grandma's estate. Nearly exactly four years after her death, I finally got around to handing them over to whoever had taken over her apartment.
I hadn't been by there in all this time. I realized that in four years, some habits have faded and I had to actually think for a moment where my most effective route was. I was fine until I caught sight of her balcony - the only one in her building that was glassed in. A familiar tightness arrived in my chest.
I couldn't remember if her downstairs call button was the second one up from the bottom. I couldn't remember which mailbox was hers, though I suspected it was the third from the left, but the names on the mailboxes did not help.
I went up the one flight of stairs, so familiar and yet oddly unfamiliar, to the door that had not changed. But it had no name, so there was no help there. I decided to ring the bell. I could hear children inside. A tall blonde woman of about 30, with a bit of a gap between her front teeth, answered the door. Without preamble (but typically me), I asked if she had changed the locks since she'd moved in. She hadn't. I handed her the little envelope and explained that they were an extra set of keys. The place had belonged to my grandparents, I said. Here are the extra keys. She seemed happy to get them.
I was happy to finally get them delivered, and left the building feeling light-hearted. I thought Grandma would be pleased to know a family had taken over the old place; she loved children. And then the old feeling of irrevocable loss came back, the grief swelled again, and I hardly noticed where I was walking. I wished I hadn't felt that all over again.
Losing a loved one leaves a wound with a scab that can be picked off years later, repeatedly. It is what it is. I know I'm not the only who can feel such hurt years later. Still, I'm glad the keys are now where they belong.