At least fifty times a day, mother-in-law approaches me about something trivial. Lately, her topic of choice has been the outside breeze. It is breezy, it isn't, it isn't now, but it will be, maybe tomorrow it won't be. Other times, she complains about her million real and imaginary ailments. Her hips, back, legs, feet, head and stomach take turns hurting. Otherwise, she's about to have a stroke, or she has the world's worse, most intense and mind exploding back itch. But a few days ago, she interrupted my work (which consists mostly of taking care of her and my mother, and writing on this site) with something different. It held utmost importance for her.
I noticed a little happy anticipation as she timidly stood by my office door, gesturing permission to enter. Mother-in-law had a gift for me. This was overall surprising and I suppose refreshingly different. At first, I didn't want to accept her gift and I even started to reject it before I caught myself. Then I thought, "I just recently wrote about kindness. I'd better be kind and pretend I like her present." So graciously, I listened to her story about the gift. It was something she had bought a long time ago, had tried on, but it no longer fit her. She never wore it and she was certain it would fit me and I would make good use of it. Due to rapidly progressing dementia she forgets many, many things. Thus, considering the source, I was quite doubtful about the accuracy of some of her details, especially since her gift did look slightly worn, a little wrinkly and like mother-in-law herself - very old.
They say people see their entire lives pass before them before they die. Well, sort of like that, I reviewed the spiritual implications in the current interchange. Surely, "It's better to give than to receive", but in this case I, the receiver, may have been doing more giving because when the gift was presented I was actually able to refrain from laughing. I do recognize the importance of receiving a gift politely, especially during grace filled moments, which this was not. The gift was just so unusual, it left me with a vacant smile and a wondering gaze. Only dumb cliches passed through my mind to comfort me in this time of etiquette perplexity - "It's not the gift, it's the thought that counts." But this only made me wonder, "What the hell was she thinking?"
"Tha...thank you so much", I stuttered insecurely. Mother-in-law beamed proudly as she wallowed in what was for me quite an awkward moment. Of course, I had to listen to the story of the gift three more times before mother-in-law felt comfortable leaving her treasure to my fullest enjoyment.
"When it comes to giving, some people stop at nothing."
Right about now, you must be dying of curiosity to know what mother-in-law's abundant generosity entailed. Well, here it is. This may even give you ideas for your own gift giving. Would you let me know of any similar gifts you have received? I'd love to compare.