A Real Gift

Card Deck 114

Maybe many of you struggle like I do when it comes around to finding a good gift for your mother on her birthday.  Maybe you feel that phantom umbilical cord twist into knots in your belly as the date gets nearer.  Finding a good gift for a woman who has historically said she needs nothing has always been a challenge, but now that she is turning 88 years old and living in a nursing home, it’s even harder to find a gift that could bring some happiness. Because she is nearly totally paralyzed, whole categories of gift ideas just won’t work in her situation, and there just aren’t many exciting products on the market for severely handicapped people.  She, like many other elders, is holed up in her room, often left alone for hours, and without her own ability to manipulate anything besides her TV remote, phone and call button.

As her birthday was rounding the bend, with just six days from the due date, I decided on sending her (via Amazon) the first four seasons of the TV series, Curb Your Enthusiasm.  I remembered sitting besides her watching these early episodes as she nearly choked from laughing so hard at David Larry’s mishagas so I thought she might enjoy re-watching this TV show.  The one thing my mom can do without any help is laugh.

On the same day I ordered her gift from Amazon, I spoke with my mother by phone.  In the last month or so, she has been largely confined to her bed and reflecting on old friends whom she hasn’t been in touch with for decades.  A week ago, I goggled one of those friends who actually lived nearby in Florida only to find out she had died recently.  When I relayed the news to my mother, she said, “Too late.”

On this day, she mentioned Phyllis; a friend from high school who she thought lived in Connecticut.  My mother has always had a good memory for the details of people’s lives: how many children they had, their husband’s name and occupation, where they raised their families. I goggled her high school friend’s name and found a Phyllis living in Connecticut who was the same age as my mother so I called her.  When I introduced my mission and myself over the phone, Phyllis said with excitement, “Lynn Cutler, oh my God, I remember Lynn as clear as day.  We were very good friends!”

In the course of the conversation, I gathered some details of Phyllis’ life that I would later share with my mother, and found out that Phyllis’ birthday was on December 12th, a day before my mother’s birthday. My mother was equally excited to talk with Phyllis so I arranged for these two old friends to connect by phone on their birthdays with the help of a translator for my mother since her speech is impaired from her stroke.

Finally, I gave a real gift.  It makes me very happy that my mother can connect with an old friend who holds a memory of her as whole and healthy, and in spite of their current limitations due to age, the two of them can still celebrate their 88th birthday with each other.

Yeah, that’s great, but what am I going to get her next year?