Unforgettable Gifts

So while my in-laws can be difficult to buy for, my parents, on the other hand, are as easy as a rocking chair. However, in all fairness, let me just say that my parents are vicious little trolls dressed up in bib overalls and sweatshirts with "Grandma’s Apples" with the names of grandchildren embroidered across it.

They really do think each unwrapped gift is perfect, even when it’s a box filled with new dish towels to replace the 40 years-old, swiss-cheese versions in the drawer; or a pair of leather and suede, adult mittens (rare as hen’s teeth, trust me), which will replace the pair that’s been wrapped a dozen times or more with duct tape. Even when they are ultra-particular with something they want, it makes gift-buying easy. For example, my dad is always, ALWAYS cold. Anything under 85 F is downright frigid. I suppose that’s quite true if you’re skin is as thin as tissue paper and you’re an adult male who weighs 120 lbs. There isn’t much there for insulation. So he likes long-sleeved shirts, all year ’round. BUT…they must button up, collared shirts. They must be snap-buttons (he has very limited use of one hand and cannot manipulate standard buttons). They must have breast pockets, which also must snap. They must be flannel – and not itchy flannel. They must be plaid. And lastly, they must be a men’s size small.

See? Difficult, yet oh so easy.

Shopping for my mom use to be much easier, but ever since the dementia set in and her Alzheimer’s diagnosis, she’s less social. She takes less and less joy in those simple things we use to buy her years ago. A new set of storage containers 10 years ago would have been THE gift! She would beam and parade them around with pride. This year, she nudged the box dismissively with her toe when I asked to see what kind my sister picked out for her.

The reality we face about us as a family buying things for my mom, is that a lot of it is given as a result of her Alzheimer’s. This year that meant a large clock that included not only the date but what day of the week it is because she no can no longer remember (she sent Doodicus two birthday cards, both very late as she had forgotten, and both cards had money in them (we joke (because what else can you do) that now is the time for the kids to ask Grandma for money, because she’ll forget she did a day later)). A new space heater for her bedroom (my parents haven’t slept in the same room for nearly 20 years now) to replace the one that shorted out and caused some sparks, which luckily was caught by my nieces who happened to be visiting. The saddest gifts we had to give her was all new bedding when for some reason yet unknown to anyone, she went to bed with a wet towel on her feet and turned on the heated mattress pad. Yes, she set her bed on fire "only" scorching the mattress but burning large holes in the mattress pad, sheets, and blankets. She said she was not injured, but really we only know what she’s either willing or capable of telling us. And finally, we bought some smoke detectors, during the installation of she complained bitterly because she did not fully understand why. That and probably a mix of guilt and embarrassment that it has come to this.

That means we are left wondering just how soon will we have to commit mom to a nursing care facility. When she was originally diagnosed almost two years ago, the neurologist said that as long as she can still drive safely, take care of herself and the home, she can remain independent. Starting an accidental fire in her bed changes the dynamics of the household drastically. It changes them in a way that our family can no longer think of in "ifs" but in "whens".

Yesterday, Doodicus asked about Grandma’s diagnosis. "Will she forget things?" "Yes," we answered.

"Will she forget us?" We could only answer honestly, "Eventually, yes." He will remember her, and that’s the most beautiful gift.