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A Gift and its Cover

My grandmother was a strong, active woman in her youth, and even into her 80s.  However, age began to catch up with her, and in her late 80s and early 90s, she was frail, with poor circulation—so poor that in the end, she stopped wearing even socks, and went barefoot in the house as she moved about slowly with her walker. Her mind became fuzzy, and she didn’t talk much, and she stopped worrying about the zillion things she’d always worried about.  She stopped lecturing us.  Instead, she would gently smile just to see us.  Her fierce love became gentler, though undiminished.  When asked how she was, she would say only, “I won’t complain, it’s better than the alternative!”

Buying her a gift for Christmas had always been a challenge.  Whatever it was, after admiring it, she would frown and say we shouldn’t have spent so much money on her.  In my teen years, we all thought that my father came up with the best solution the year when his Christmas Eve shopping stop (for that was always his Christmas shopping day) was an Irish import store, and he bought her a Belique holy water decanter.  She opened it and said, “how beautiful”, and then started to frown and open her mouth again, and realized she would be maligning a holy item, and stopped.  “How beautiful,” she said again.  “Thank you.”

But for her last Christmas, the difficulty was finding something she would appreciate.  No one wanted to give her a house robe, or bedding (too depressing), and she wouldn’t be able to learn a new game (she needed reminders of the rules for her favorite card game).  After much thought, I found something pretty that could be put somewhere she could see and enjoy it.  Something fragile.  Which posed its own challenges—I had to find a box she could open easily, lest it get dropped in the opening, for her hands had grown clumsy.

Well, the only thing I could find that was the right size and would open easily was a box that said “Sexy Shoes” in big, bright hot-pink letters on the top.  I wasn’t at all sure that one should give such a thing to one’s conservative Catholic grandmother, it seemed all wrong.  But I was running out of time, and I knew I’d be forgiven even if it was a dreadful gaffe, so in the gift went, and, carefully, the wrapping paper was taped around it. 

On Christmas, Gram smiled gently at all of us, but had little to say.  When the time came, she dutifully shuffled to her sturdy chair-of-honor in the living room, where gifts had been placed, sorted, in piles.  With a little help from enthusiastic great grand-daughters, she tore the paper off my package, and her eyes lit up, and she smiled broadly.  She lifted up the lid so everyone could see it.  “Look everyone” she swung out a bare, swollen foot, so we all would be sure to get the joke “D______ gave me sexy shoes!”  Oh, she dutifully took out and admired the gift inside, but it was the box that made her day.  Suddenly it was clear that she was still with us in mind and spirit, not just in body, and that she was really enjoying Christmas. 

Thank goodness I didn’t have a “more appropriate” box! 


Creative Joyous Cat

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December 2018


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