Simple Needs, Simple Gifts

While grabbing the mail a few weeks back, I noticed one oversized envelope with a stamped New York return address.

“5th Avenue” it read. It was sent from a suite in in the Empire State Building.

Yet my Minnesota address was handwritten.

I smiled for a minute, thinking of the many trips I made to the city when I was young.

I thought fondly of one employer who’d put me up in a particularly posh room at the UN Plaza, overlooking the Chrysler Building.

I remember sitting cross legged on my oversized bed at 3:00 a.m. gazing up at that skyscraper shining brighter than the stars overhead.

I was so overwhelmed with the beauty of it all.

But I never quite made it to the Empire State Building.

Was this some kind of a fancy invitation now, I wondered?

Well, sort of.

Inside the envelope was an offer to select a gift to thank me for my many years of service from a more recent employer. They provided me a with a password to use on an internet site.

I retired back in the fall.

The selections they presented me with were dazzling though I couldn’t find any new car batteries or gift cards for dog food included.

Instead I saw regal looking clocks with chimes, delicate diamond bracelets, circular saws, and 24 piece flatware sets.

Nice merchandise indeed, but I couldn’t help but reflect on the fact that more than 90 percent of possessions I owned when I retired are no longer around.

In order to downsize to an 800 square foot cottage that same month, I needed to pare down quickly. And I was also in the process of paring down to a 30 hour work week with a non-profit.

It’s pretty clear my lifestyle’s changed.

And I have as well, I was thinking as I took a second look at each of the possibilities before me.

I quickly rejected the handsome clocks. My time on earth is too short to sit and watch each minute tick by.

And diamond bracelets aren’t a must for my current wardrobe of three pairs of faded jeans, two sweatshirts, and a salt stained winter parka.

I then consulted my neighbor who advised me that deciphering the detailed instructions for a circular saw would clearly have me running in circles.

And once my late husband was diagnosed with dementia, I threw all formal dining out the window and became a permanent fan of plastic knives and forks.

I finally decided to set the big envelope aside for a while.

Instead, I stopped over at the local thrift store to take a look at a small rocking chair for $4.00.

I’ve downsized so much I don’t have chairs anymore for my grandkids to sit in when they stop by.

I found walking through the shop was like walking through my own personal history museum, as I’d donated so many items there.

To my left I saw my husband’s colorful collection of silk ties, neatly displayed next to several of his crisp blue checked shirts.

To my right were lovingly crafted pottery pieces that used to sit on our coffee table.

And in front of me was a display of our old crystal pieces.

There stood my tall Tiffany candlesticks, our beautifully etched bowls, and all my elegant vases.

I saw my favorite vase where I once displayed the yellow roses I received each anniversary.

I became a little melancholy.

But only briefly.

I know all the goods I donated will find the homes they deserve.

And I’m helping out a worthy local charity that does a great job of helping clients find food, housing, and jobs.

Today I went back again to view the gift website of my old employer.

And this time I saw something new that had been added.

The gift was described as a ‘creative vision’.

An ‘evolution’ of sorts.

One encased with color ‘creating a dramatic presence’.

The words made me think of what I want for this late chapter of a life.

I quickly hit the ‘send’ button.

An aqua infused crystal vase will be coming my way in 10 days.

It’s a simple gift really, yet shining with light.

And it will bring back color to a landscape once cloudy as it frames the yellow roses I’ll be growing in my new little garden.

What more could I possibly want?

What more could I possibly need?

Not one single thing.

A Dog’s Tale

If my dog Tucker could talk, I wonder what he’d say.

He owns tons of tales of his life on the road before coming home with me seven years ago.

Tuck was found as one stressed out two year old stray in rural Missouri, pounding the pavement on country roads.

He’d been on his own for sometime I was told back then by the rescue group. My vet confirmed the same later as he pointed to the worn out pads on those little feet.

Parts of the midwest had puppy mills failing particularly fast in those recession years.

“Tuck might have been kicked out of his puppy mill,” one rescue worker had told me.

It was a common scenario for males who weren’t fulfilling their quotas of ‘contributions’ for their lady companions.

At the time I wasn’t looking for a terrier, but was fostering small dogs until my husband’s worsening dementia made him as much of a flight risk as the pups I’d have in my care.

Though I soon became a failed foster after taking Tuck home once the transport arrived up north.

Within five minutes of sniffing out my house, the little guy claimed my lap and the foot of his bed as his own wearing a grin I’d never seen before in a canine.

Tuck is still territorial today, even more so than some terriers.

I think he figures he’s earned the right after his rough early years.

He loves to act the part of the tough guy, showing off his bravado in his watchdog role.

Yet the truth is he’s actually more fearful than fearless.

A cold stare from a donkey once sent him racing for the hills at Olympic speed while visiting a farm.

And he’s terrified of my Subaru, car sickness still his constant companion so many years later.

My ‘tough guy’ Tuck hid shaking this morning before being crated, just like every morning.

I feared he was worrying again that one day I won’t come back.

And worrying he’d be alone again on a dusty road with no companion.

Giving him his peanut butter filled Kong I asked, “Tuck, have I ever let you down?”

He slowly took the Kong from my left hand.

Then he looked back up at me and licked my right hand gently for a while.

I believe I have my answer.

Even if it was unspoken.

New perspectives

It was something I hadn’t seen before.

A two year old, four year old, and seven year old, sitting still at the same time.

And my three grandkids kept on with this peaceful focus, watching the animals grazing before them.

Maybe I just hadn’t noticed before.

But then I was also slow to pick up that my once wild and wooly caterpillar of a teenager suddenly grew wings.

And then blossomed beautifully into her role as a mom.

I told her so in a Mother’s Day card I tucked into her May birthday present yesterday.

“Thanks for being such a great and loving mother to my grandchildren,” I wrote.

I like to think I’m transforming as well, growing new wings and new perspectives.

This Mother’s Day’s day I drove to my mom’s old care facility after buying a bouquet of daises and box of chocolates. I was there to attend their weekly church service.

I haven’t been back since Mom left.

I do have tough memories of my mom in the care facility with her tearful pleas to go back to her old house. And I’ll never forget the painful care conference with my husband at my side when I realized his dementia had actually surpassed that of my mom’s.

But I also have plenty memories of laughter, with Mom entertaining caregivers and fellow residents while I’d dispense her beloved Dove bars to the crowd.

As I entered the facility today I asked the receptionist to pass out chocolates to any mothers who were working.

And I asked her to share the daises with a resident who might be struggling, or having a particularly rough day.

Once I walked into the tiny chapel, I recognized a few ladies who used to sit at Mom’s dining room table.

I suddenly felt at home.

And I felt Mom right in the room with me.

The small group sang classic old hymns and listened to a sermon directed to the elderly women in the group.

“Remember to always ask for help if you need it,” the minister reminded them.

A gentle, smiling usher from the local church asked me if I would help out some Sunday with the service.

The woman said she is getting older and many of her friends are now residents themselves.

Sounds like she was listening to the sermon.

Though it isn’t something I would have done a few years ago, I’m thinking of helping out.

I can’t think of a better Mother’s Day gift for Mom.

And I know a peaceful new perspective can be mighty good for the soul.