Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Mother's Gift....

It's amazing how social media allows us into the hearts of our friends and family. Sometimes, the posts are happy, sometimes, they allow us to share in heartache and offer bits of love and support.

In the past few weeks, I have been saddened to read posts on facebook from dear friends who have lost or misplaced items of great importance to them; items that hold a significance in their lives as a memory of a loved one that has passed on.

One friend, LisaMarie, had discovered that her pink ribbon breast cancer awareness ring was missing from her finger. She had worn that ring every day in memory of her mother who had fought her own battle with breast cancer, but was taken far too young. LisaMarie's friends all rallied around her to comfort her with (((hugs))) .... OK, that was my post, which was not nearly as clever as those who had suggested that the lost ring was a sign that she should get a pink ribbon tattoo, or the friend who wisely suggested that losing the ring merely signified that LisaMarie wears her mother in her heart and not on her finger.

I am happy to report that LisaMarie's son found the ring in his baseball  bag and called her, offering to wear it for her until he could return it to her later in the day. I know she was simply overcome with relief and gratitude and her heart was somewhat at peace again. I still hope she gets the tattoo, tho.

Today, my friend Samantha, a friend I haven't seen in 30 years, posted that she had lost her necklace at a day spa. Her mother, who had passed away in 2010, had given her that necklace and now it was gone. She has expressed her heartache, and once again, friends from every extension of her life have reached out to console her, offer her a new way of looking at the loss. One of her friends, Craig, suggested, and I quote. "that she accept that there is a reason for the necklace being gone; perhaps an unsuspecting stranger will find it just when they need it and her mother's gift will touch that person. A touch so great and one that a total stranger needs".

Wow.... couldn't we all use friends like this in our lives.

I have been wanting to write about one of my life experiences for a while now, but the timing didn't seem right. My friend's stories and the wisdom of their friends have provided me the inspiration to write today, and to them I send my thanks and blessings.

Several years ago, I had gone back east to visit my mother in Iowa. It was a yearly pilgrimage that I would take with any number of the boys. Sometimes by plane, sometimes by car, and God help me, sometimes by Greyhound bus (I'll never do that again) ...

My mother usually has the knack of picking up something or another to bestow upon me; something she thinks I will enjoy or find some use for.

She knew I enjoyed collecting coffee mugs, so she sent me boxes of random coffee mugs. She had missed the small detail that I enjoyed collecting coffee mugs from locations I had visited ... as a souvenir !!!

 I didn't particularly have an interest in a coffee mug from the local hardware store. Or a mug with a pig snout on it... or the local radio station's call letters ...

But, up in the cabinet those coffee mugs went. And they were used. And the randomness of each mug made me think of her.

On this summer trip, I had noticed a brand new comforter, still in the plastic, zippered bag from the store. She had purchased the comforter on sale at JCPenneys some months earlier and it was just sitting there on a shelf, unopened and unused and apparently forgotten.

I had mentioned the comforter to my mother, letting her know how much I had admired the pattern; that the color scheme would be perfect for my current decor. "That's nice, sweetie, but I don't want to get rid of that yet."

"But it's just sitting there," I reasoned.
"I know," she said, "But I bought that for myself and someday I'll use it."

I had tried every angle I knew to work her for that comforter, but she wasn't budging. So, I let her win that battle and moved on....

I flew home a few weeks later, with one child in tow and leaving another behind to spend the rest of the summer with his grandma and grandpa.

Summers in Iowa can be magical for a child; golden, fresh corn-on-the-cob cookouts, catching fireflies, evening thunderstorms. I was happy that my son, Joshua, would get to have all of those experiences while receiving the undivided attention from his grandparents.  (Yes, Joshua, I know... Grandpa always wanted you to take out the trash and you hated that)

Sadly, his visit was cut short when my Uncle Henry suddenly took ill and passed away. My parents packed up their mini-van and drove the 1700 miles to the West coast to gather with the grieving family.

Now, when I say they packed that mini-van,, I mean they PACKED that mini-van! They had every square inch of that vehicle burgeoning with suitcases, maps, games, wipes, ....

...and a comforter.

My mother, bless her heart, had  brought me the comforter she knew I had wanted so badly. For 1700 miles, she rode with that comforter squished up against her; the plastic bag sticking to her skin and causing her to sweat. That, I realized, was true unselfishness... the lengths she went through to bring me that comforter.

I was so pleased that she had done that for me. Upon returning home, I made that comforter my top priority! I was going to promptly place that beautiful gift on my bed! Smiling, I opened the bag, unfurled and fluffed the contents out across the span of my queen sized bed....

and came up short. No matter which way I turned the comforter, it didn't look right. Despite admiring the pattern a gazillion times, I had failed to notice the size clearly stamped on the side of the bag: FULL

Defeated, I folded up the comforter and shoved it back in the bag. How could I be so stupid as to not notice the size of the damned thing!!?? I shoved the bag up into the highest shelf of my closet, reasoning that, maybe someday, I would use it on a guest bed. I never told my mother that it didn't fit.

Several months later, I was getting the urge to purge. My closets and cupboards were overflowing and it was time for a yard sale. I went through every cabinet, every closet to find items to tag and sell. I threw some coffee mugs in a box, I had too many and had to make some space.

I stared at the comforter, still perched on the shelf where I had placed long ago. It really wasn't serving a purpose. I wasn't going to use it... I needed to let it go. Out it went into the yard sale with the low, low bargain price of $25.00

Throughout the day, people would rifle through my items, some had memories attached to them, some didn't. I felt a tinge of guilt every time someone bought a coffee mug. I don't know why, but I just felt wrong about letting them go. I would rationalize with myself that I just had too many coffee cups.

On more than one occasion, someone would show an interest in the comforter. Every single time, they would attempt to weasel me down on the price... would I take $15.... would I take $10.  Each time I would refuse the lower offer regaling the story of how my mother had brought the blanket 1700 miles... in the heat... and how she'd sweat.... they'd grow weary of my story and put it back on the ground and move on to the next thing they wanted to consider buying.

The more I told the story, the more I realized I probably shouldn't sell the comforter. I was just getting ready to close shop for the day when I had one last car pull up to the curb. A well dressed woman got out and went straight for the comforter. Without even haggling the price, she placed the bag under her arm and extended her hand with the money in it.  As I took that money from her hand, I started to tell her about how my mother had given me that comforter, but I choked. I almost didn't take her money because I was frozen with guilt and remorse.

But my fingers held on to the money and I watched her get in her car and drive away.

After I cleaned up the driveway and had put away everything that didn't sell, I counted the till for the day. I had done pretty good. Not great, but  $43 was pretty good. Selling the comforter had actually made sitting in the driveway all day worthwhile.

Now then, how was I going to treat myself with my hard earned cash? The answer was pretty obvious to me as I looked down at my torn jeans. I had ripped out the thigh of my pants earlier in the day and was in need of a new pair. They were actually the only pair of jeans I had left, so off to the store I went to but me some clothes.

I bought the jeans, a couple of shirts, new underwear, and a pack of socks. That pretty much wiped out my little stash of cash. When I got home, I dropped the bags on the couch and started preparing dinner. I figured I would put the clothes away later.

No, this is not Jim....
That night, after I had fallen asleep, the phone rang. Late night phone calls always fill me with panic because late night phone calls always bring bad news. Jim had answered the phone and I listened intently to every "uh-huh" and "yes, I understand" ... and then, to my heart's dismay, he handed me the phone and said it was my brother. I knew my greatest fear was becoming a reality; the dreaded phone call one gets about an ailing parent.

My mother had suffered a massive aneurysm rupture in her brain. The ambulance had already transported her to two hospitals and she was now at her 3rd, at St. Joseph's Medical Center, the Mayo Clinic teaching hospital in Minnesota. She wasn't expected to live through the night and I needed to come right away.

The next hours were a blur of tears, phone calls, airline flight arrangements, panic,disbelief, confusion, and utter guilt and sorrow for selling that comforter. I kept telling myself that there was a reason why I felt so strongly about keeping that silly thing, and now I knew why. It was like the heavens knew that I was going to need that blanket, they tried to intervene to make me keep it, but I sold it anyways for the power of the almighty dollar! This was what I kept telling myself, beating myself up for being a selfish, careless daughter who sells her mother's gifts to strangers at a yard sale! Shame on me!

My son, Joshua, had heard my crying and woke up and came to me to comfort me. He offered to  help gather items to place in my suitcase. "What can I pack for you, Mom?"

 I was overcome with an understanding so real, so viable I can still feel it today. I had NO pants earlier that day. And, I had wasted the day tending to the yard sale and hadn't washed any clothes.  I used the money from the sale of that comforter to buy clothes! Had I not done so, I wouldn't have had ANYTHING to wear on the flight back to say good-bye to my mother! My flight was scheduled for 6am, long before any stores would have been open. I would have literally been scrambling for something to wear. An added stress that I certainly did not need.

I hugged him and pointed to the shopping bags, they were on the on the couch, unpacked and ready for my trip. Pants, shirts, underwear, socks... all Joshua had to do was throw the bags in a suitcase, grab a few toiletry items and we were off in the night to the airport to catch my early morning flight.

Those clothes served me well for the next seven weeks as I refused to leave my mother's side.  I literally slept, ate, and  lived  in the neurological wing of St. Josephs Medical Center for 49 days as my mother fought for her life. When life or death decisions were to be made, it was me the doctors came to. I never want to experience that again. It is pure hell.

 Three times the doctors told me she wouldn't live through the night. Three times I said goodbye only to have her fight her way back. She has endured countless brain surgeries, months of rehabilitation, has lost her vision and her short term memory, but she pulled through something most would not. She won this battle, but she will not win the war.  I choked back the tears when I had to tell my dad that CT scans revealed that she has another large aneurysm in the center of her brain. It is inoperable. Someday, it too will rupture and there will be nothing that can be done.

My mother today. She will never know what a gift that comforter truly was.

When I returned home from Minnesota, I wanted so desperately to get my mother's comforter back. I wanted to lay with it, to hold it, to have it with me so I could think of her, keep her close. I went so far as to have a local newspaper reporter pen a story about how I had sold it and so desperately wanted it back. But there were no responses from faithful readers. I had to accept the fact that I would never see that comforter again.

Up until this very day, I had been stewing over the loss of that comforter. But once I had read Craig's comment to Samantha, I realized that my mother's gift had not only provided me with the clothing I needed to be with her, but certainly it had brought comfort to a stranger. Maybe joy for a young woman who had never had anything beautiful before, or comfort for a tired, new mother. Perhaps respite to someone suffering from a terminal illness, or, later in it's life, warmth to a homeless man or a rescued animal.

I can now see that a mother's gift goes on to bless others, much like how I hope Samantha's necklace will.

I hope Samantha sees the wisdom in her friend's words. I know I did, and I thank him for the gift he gave to me.... a gift that, I hope, will touch the life of another stranger... and another...and another.

1 comment:

  1. I remember you telling me of this story. I love how you so eloquently wrote of it here on your blog. I hope that you are at peace having passed the comforter to comfort a stranger... Very nice read. Tracy