Saturday, October 8, 2011

Mom's Towel

An e-mail I received today from an old high school friend opened a floodgate of memories concerning my much loved mother.  When I say "much loved," I don't mean just by me or our family but by everyone who came in contact with her.  I truly don't remember anyone saying a bad thing about Mom.

The note from my friend Dave, explain he found...well, let me show you his words..."Been cleaning out some stuff here and found an old face towel. The ends were decorated with beautiful blue, homemade edging. This was part of a wedding present your mom gave us 46 years ago. The other pieces were long ago worn out. I think I will keep this one."

Yes, that would have come from my mother.  Mom was an invalid.  She coped with muscular dystrophy and heart problems.  Her vision was problematic too.  She had to undergo cataract surgery brought on by the MD.  The operation was much different then.  In fact I brought her to Ithaca, where I lived, to have the procedure done.  As required back then, she had to recuperate for many weeks and my wife at that time, my dad and I nursed her back to health. We did the same for the second eye.  Boy, it's a lot easier today.

Because she was housebound, she couldn't get out to buy gifts.  She wouldn't let anybody do it for her either.  She insisted on making something special for each person.  She said she wanted each gift to contain some of her love.  It wasn't an easy task for her.  Besides muscular weakening in her arms and hands, the MD also caused drooping eyelids.  We used to tape her eyelids up and rig special lighting so she could perform her work.  I vividly recall her hunched over with her glasses close to her project and knitting or crochet needles almost clinking against those specs.  It would take her days to accomplish what a healthy person could do in minutes but she always managed to live up to the challenge.

Once I asked if I or anyone could help her.  She refused any assistance saying it wouldn't be right.  She wouldn't take credit for a gift from her if it wasn't totally her craftsmanship.  She explained her effort was part of the love she wanted to convey.  I often wondered if some of the recipients realized the sweat equity and love their presents represented.  Many, like my friend Dave, did.

Dave mentioned the wedding present was given 46 years ago.  Mom was 64 at that time, five years before her death.  Those were tough years for the regal lady.  In February of '69 I had just come back to Ithaca from visiting Mom in the Ilion hospital, when my brother-in-law called to tell me of her passing.

Through the years I've read many descriptions of people's reactions to news such as this but I honestly don't believe you can describe it.  I've heard people say it's like getting a blow to the gut or knocking the wind from your sails  but it's so much more.  I remember I felt an immediate sense of loss of boundless love and unconditional protection.  And that was just the start. (I never thought this would be so hard to write about.)

My wife was eight months pregnant with our first child, Danielle, and Mom had told me she'd try her best to see our baby.  She promised, with all her will and strength, she would fight off the grim reaper to hold my daughter in her arms.  It's the only time in my life Mother didn't keep a promise to me and it took death to make it happen.  The early morning of my mother's funeral we rushed my wife to the hospital to give birth to a premature, jaundiced little girl.  It was symbolic Dani was born in the same small hometown hospital mom died in.  I'm convinced God conceived this scenario to ease the pain of my mother's death with the joy of my daughter's birth.  Later that morning I left the hospital to attend Mother's funeral.

While cleaning out a closet a  few months ago, Gal Friday found an old, small, flat cardboard box.  Inside she discovered a few linen handkerchiefs with dainty crocheted edgings of various colors.  I recognized Mom's handiwork.  I thought about the work and the love they represented.

At first I considered giving them to my daughters, but young folks today don't place the same value on things like this as we did.  It's OK, I guess.  Things are a lot different today.  The modern lifestyle, with so many built-in conveniences makes it hard for younger people to have any kind of rational touch with yesteryear.  They never experienced life without computers, cell phones and other electronic gadgetry we older folks never dreamed of.  I still remember ice boxes, ice wagons and milk delivered to the backdoor in bottles with cardboard tops.  How can that compete with an IPad?  During my lifetime the world has experienced more change than ever in the history of humankind.  Is it any wonder kids can't relate?  Why would they?

So I decided to give these special gifts to a person who could sincerely appreciate what these linen handkerchiefs, with the crocheted borders, really meant.  I gave them to Gal Friday's 94-year-old Aunt Esther.  She absolutely loved them even before I told her the story behind them.  You can't believe how much happiness these hankies brought to Aunt Esther.  It was just as mom would have wanted.

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