“Tell me a funny story,” I said.
From her fetal position, she rolled on to her back and her green eyes lifted upward to retrieve the story I needed to hear.
“I remember one Christmas when I was first married to your father. He was such a last minute shopper.”
“Yeah, he still is.”
“We went to the mall the day before Christmas and we’re walking all over the darn place in and out of shops, trying to buy for people. And I was getting so stressed out. I managed to finish my list, but of course, I had spent more money than I wanted to. I still had to buy for Grandpa and I was in a panic. I had no idea what to get your father’s dad, you know. And I just said, ‘Jim, I don’t know what to get him! I don’t know what we’re going to do! These shops are closing!’ I burst out in tears. I just broke down right there in the middle of the mall. And your father told me, ‘That’s okay. I know what we can get him: a hoe.’ And so your Grandpa got a hoe that Christmas. I was so embarrassed. But, he liked it.”
“Well, he was a farmer. I’m sure he needed another hoe,” I laughed. “Was the wrapping all screwed up?”
“Of course the wrapping was screwed up because your father wrapped it as usual with about three or four different kinds of wrapping paper scraps with the tape all going this way and that way.”
We both laughed at the Christmas hoe. It felt good to laugh that hard. When our chuckles finally died down and the swish of her socks began again, it dawned on me that I had no idea what to get my mother for Christmas. She closed her eyes and I watched her chest rise and fall with breath.
I gifted her a massage. The spa told me it wouldn’t be a problem to accommodate a woman with four drains hanging out of her liver. My mother had never had a massage before and neither had I. But my mother died before she had a chance to book it. I booked it on the day of her funeral. Her ashes in the urn, the urn in the ground, the people who came and then left. And I lay on the massage table with a stranger’s hands kneading my numb body.