The Christmas Gift

The wind. Always the wind…the cold, cold wind.
It’s there when I rise; it’s there when I lay down at night, fully clothed and under enough blankets to outfit a dozen beds. But there is no other choice given the family’s financial situation.
“Situation” is not my word. It’s my mother’s. Rather than just coming right out and saying that we’re broke, she has been insisting that we are “in a situation.” And to be fair I suppose having the heat and electricity turned off because she couldn’t pay the bills could rightly be called a situation.
I suppose having to eat all our meals with my grandmother and grandfather because we had no food of our own could be called a situation.
I suppose…well, at the age of twelve I suppose there are many things about life I just don’t understand. For instance I don’t understand why my father, who lives on the other side of the continent, didn’t’ want to live with us, didn’t want to make even the slightest effort to see me…get to know me.
I don’t understand why my mother, when she could still work, had to work for a dollar an hour at the laundry, although I really am grateful that she has some work at least.
I don’t understand why she didn’t have anyone to love her, well, besides the family and me.
But what I mainly don’t understand is why she’s dying.
Tell me how that’s fair! Tell me how, with everything else she’s had to endure it’s fair that she now has terminal cancer.
How I hate that word!
Two days before Christmas. She’s home because the doctors basically told the family that she could just as easily die at home as at the hospital and, besides, it would be a lot cheaper given our “situation.” I’m not certain I ever came close to comprehending the pain she had to endure those last days, but I know it was terrible. She liked to have me come and sit beside her bed and read to her from a battered old Bible she’d had since childhood. She said it gave her comfort.
She held up her hand for me to stop reading and said in a voice all hoarse and raspy from screaming, “I have something I want to give you for Christmas.”
I said nothing, mainly because my voice had suddenly stopped working.
She motioned for me to come closer, and with tremendous effort raised herself on one, bony elbow and kissed me, whispering, “Don’t forget your momma who loved you.”
And then she was gone.
The memory is still quite painful for me, and I think about that gift.
Cheap? I suppose one could argue the point.
But for me it was priceless.

2 thoughts on “The Christmas Gift

  1. That was wonderful! I experienced so many feelings in such a short time from this story. It had playfulness, humor, sadness yet joy in the Gift your precious mother gave you before her last breath! Anxious to read more of your writings and your poetry as well!

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