The Last Gift

May 2nd, 2012

I didn’t know it at the time, but this was going to be the last gift. She was so excited that she would be able to go shopping on her own. Well, not exactly alone. Her aide would be right there with her to guide her and to make sure she wasn’t taken advantage of in her frail state of mind and body. She recalled that it’s been several years – at least 5 – since she’s shopped without the assistance of a family member. This was a very special shopping event because she would purchase Christmas presents for her two grown children. She had a list prepared by both her son and her daughter. She had money to spend. She would make sure to purchase just the right gift.
She wrapped the gifts herself. Her movements were stiff and awkward. She had the wrapping paper, ribbon, and gift bag. She was becoming nervous and agitated as she realized that she couldn’t remember what to do with the wrapping paper and ribbon. She tried to tell herself to calm down, but she couldn’t remember the words. Eventually she remembered the word “stop”. So she stopped everything. She grabbed the now crinkled wrapping paper and stuffed it, along with the tangled ribbon into the gift bag. She then placed the present for her daughter into the bag. A portion of the gift peeped over the edge of the bag. She smiled, quite pleased with herself and her accomplishment.
It’s Christmas morning and she’s still asleep. She tires so easily and she sleeps away her days as each day folds into the next. And the pain… The pain never goes away even though her children and her aides make sure that she never misses a dose of her pain medications. So, she ignores the pain. She’s forgotten so many things these days. She’s lost so many memories. But, the pain remains.
It’s mid-afternoon and she responds to the gentle coaxing from her children to get up so that she can eat. She’s not very hungry these days. She goes through the motions and eats just enough so that her children do not become worried. After eating, with the aid of her walker, she walks slowly and haltingly into the living room and is surprised to see something in the corner of the room. She doesn’t know what it is, but it has lights on it that are blinking. She likes the lights because they can penetrate the ever-present cloud that seems to have attached itself to her eyelids.
Her children are smiling in anticipation. She doesn’t know why. It must have something to do with the blinking lights. They’re handing her a package. She holds it, not sure what to do next. Her son begins to help her to unwrap the package. “Pretty,” she says as she looks at her new pajamas. Other packages reveal slippers, a robe, and other items that she imagines she must need.
She recalls there is something she’s supposed to do, but she can’t remember what it is. She realizes her daughter is speaking to her. “Mom, is this the gift you got for me?” She looks at her daughter and is confused. So much confuses her. She looks at the bag her daughter is holding and it looks vaguely familiar. She can almost remember what it is, but the thought escapes her before she can capture it. Her daughter repeats the question and she nods her head because she supposes that is what is expected.
The bag held a white Teddy Bear. I reached further into the bag looking for something – anything else – that might be in the bag along with the crinkled wrapping paper and tangled ribbon. There was nothing else in the bag. A Teddy Bear?… I’m a grown woman, old enough to be someone’s grandmother, and my mother bought me a white Teddy Bear for my Christmas present! I was disappointed, but I smiled and sincerely thanked my mother for the gift.
I placed the bear back into the gift bag without the crinkled paper and tangled ribbon. Four months later, to the day, Mom passed away. Her journey on this earth had ended. For me, life without my mother had begun. No matter how prepared we think we are, we are never prepared for the inevitable – death. At home, I wandered aimlessly from one room to another turning sharply every time I thought I heard my mother’s voice. I spent time in her room sitting in her chair remembering the good times we shared together and wondering when or if I was destined to begin losing my memories as did my mother.
Eventually I remembered the Teddy Bear. I pulled it out of the gift bag and gently propped it up on the pillows on my bed. I follow this ritual every morning and reverse the ritual every evening. This was my last gift from my mother. It took a while for me to make the connection. It had been years since I had given it a thought. It was tucked away with so many other childhood memories that are pushed aside when we become adults.
When I was a child I had a favorite toy. The toy was a black and white Teddy Bear. When I became a teenager, I began to collect Teddy Bears of different colors and sizes. When I began dating, my dates knew they would be a hit if they were able to win a Teddy Bear for me at the amusement park. At twenty-one, I moved from home and left the Teddy Bears to eventually find homes in the hearts and homes of other children.
My mother, who had forgotten so many things and lost so many memories, remembered something that her daughter had forgotten. Mom was able to reach back into those long-ago years and remember that I love Teddy Bears! This Teddy Bear will continue to be a source of comfort to me for many years. I will always remember the last gift from my mother. If I should fall prey to the dreaded memory snatcher, I have the comfort of knowing that those tender childhood moments will never be totally forgotten.
Written by Lorraine M. Castle
May 2, 2012 4:09am
(Happy Birthday Mom!)