By Judy Berman
What’s the greatest gift you can give a parent, one who has done everything for you?
Just making them proud of the adult you’ve become might be the intangible gift they would treasure the most. To know that their children are happy and living productive, useful lives would be the best gift ever.
But the one you put under the tree. What would that be?
Many years ago, I recall a mother getting many fantastic gifts from her children, and she wept openly because she didn’t get what she wanted.
I was stunned. My Mom, Mildred Fiet, would have been delighted with any of those gifts.
When I was a kid, Mom might be lucky to get a jar of Pacquin hand cream from me for her birthday, Mother’s Day or Christmas. My weekly allowance was only 25 cents, and I wasn’t very good at saving money.
From the size of the package, she had to have known what it was. But she’d always act surprised, smiled when she opened it, and say that it was just what she wanted.
Once I started working, I was able to buy her some nice things. But the one gift I thought she’d be thrilled to get, she tried to talk me out of buying.
I was haunted by images of my Mom trying to ward off the cold in Las Vegas’ freezing winter nights.
She’d bundle up in a heavy coat, mittens and a warm scarf when her shift ended at Flamingo’s coffee shop. Yes, she was still working at age 78.
One night, flipping thru the pages of an L.L. Bean catalogue, it hit me. I spotted the perfect gift to keep her warm – a camel hair coat. I lost no time and ordered one for Mom.
Just a few weeks before Christmas, she went into the hospital.
Mom said the doctor told her the operation she needed was “risky.” That’s certainly a word no one wants to hear before they go in the operating room.
She suggested that I cancel the order for her coat.
That just wasn’t like Mom, and that concerned me. I insisted everything would be OK, and her coat was on its way.
Then, about a week before Christmas, my brother, Hank, called to tell me that Mom was not going to have the operation and would be coming home.
January 2001 was a month of highs and lows. We were looking forward to the birth of our first grandchild the following month. Mom had already crocheted a baby sweater set – hat, booties and sweater for Danielle, our oldest daughter, to give to the baby.
I was scheduled for surgery. Then, we got word that Mom had a set back and was admitted to the hospital’s critical-care unit.
One day after her 79th birthday, she died. It began to rain heavily. It’s as if heaven was crying the tears we’d been shedding for more than a week.
When we visited Dad, Mom’s camel hair coat was hanging in the closet.
Alone. Unused. It still had the tags on it.
This was the last gift I’d given to my Mom, and she never had a chance to wear it.
Dad donated it to a charity. I hope it wound up with someone who really needed a nice warm coat.
Mom, who knew the hardships of The Great Depression, would have loved that happy ending.
Is there a gift that has special meaning for you – either one you gave or one you received?
Photo: Berthe Morisot’s oil painting of “Le Berceau” (“The Cradle”) – 1872 https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/42/Berthe_Morisot%2C_Le_berceau_%28The_Cradle%29%2C_1872.jpg/487px-Berthe_Morisot%2C_Le_berceau_%28The_Cradle%29%2C_1872.jpg
Photo: Mom and I when I was about 3.
Photo: camel hair coat – L. L. Bean – http://cdni.llbean.com/is/image/wim/250446_2772_41?wid=428&hei=494
Photo: Our granddaughter, Kaitlyn, wearing the baby outfit my Mom crocheted for her – 2001