The Gift


Over the course of our lives, we all must have received gifts that overwhelmed us with their thoughtfulness, suitability, and timeliness. One I received yesterday from Mr. wendydavis qualified in the first two ways, but as to the third, please consider the implications of its irony as you read about what may end up being my favorite present ever.

Over a decade ago I sustained some pretty severe brain damage during knee surgery, although none of the surgical team would ever even admit anything had gone awry. When I woke up from the anesthetic, among other horrors, I discovered that I’d lost all sense of time, basic arithmetic skills, boatloads of words, people’s names, and more annoying things like cognitive abilities.

Knowing a bit about different strategies and exercises that could help, and inventing a few of my own, I did gain back a lot of my brain over time. One avenue I chose for some healing was starting to write, first as a contributor to the local free press, then slowly online. At some point a few years ago, my healing seemed to have plateaued, which was quite discouraging, given that one upon a time I did have at least a certain amount of mental game. It was starling to learn how much intellectual ability depends on memory, especially of the short term sort. One needs to remember several ideas, words, concepts, at once in order to weave them into some coherent whole.

But ha! I did get basic arithmetic skills back eventually, and as a side note, I will say that the IRS officials who graded my forms for our family taxes were kind to me about my many errors. Every year when they sent my sent my pages back full of red ink, I imagined the look of bemusement on their faces as I looked at them, and read their…suggestions…as to what I’d done wrong.

Math skills? Whoa, Nellie, no! Truth is, I am now hooked on calculators and even do some simple math arithmetic with pen and paper, just in case. (oy) Oh, but time, time. Time is not my friend, and even which events in my life came before others requires knitted-eyebrow hard thinking, and I try to create milestone markers that sometimes help sort things out.

Laughing as I type because I’m recalling having created and printed birth announcements for our daughter’s first child. Upon receipt of the first batch, they were forced to nix them due to the fact that…er…I’d gotten the goddam year wrong. Pfffft. Okay, I made a second batch, over-nighted them, and got a call. Wrong year again, goddam. Thus, one of the standard family jokes in the family was any variation on: “Hell, y’all must know I’m just about to zero in on it!” Hmmm; maybe even the IRS agents had that same faith in me.

But over the past year it’s become clear that the damage to my noggin has predisposed me to dementia, whether of the Old Timers kind (as they say around here) or not, who can say?

But back to the gift. The woman Mr. wendydavis has worked for over the past ten years recently grew very ill, and seemed to be dying. He’d been remodeling four different houses on her big spread, and as her money supply grew short, began doing a lot of the work of the employees she’d had to let go. But a new one was nursing her before her son agreed to all in hospice workers to take over once she reached the point she required round-the-clock help. While she was by no means and easy woman, he was pleased to be able to offer her care and comfort before her death, and often acknowledged how much he’d learned in doing so. Love is action, of course, even more for those who might be well-meaning, but not easy to like.

Once she’d died, her son had some hard financial decisions to make, and one was how to sort through what myriad of her possessions to keep, sell, give away, and so forth. Now I will say that she seemed to have some extraordinarily nice stuff, including fine arts, jewelry, furniture, and whatnot. But still: stuff. Her son, generous soul that he is, told Mr. wd that anything he spotted that we might like, say so, and in all likelihood, he would gift the items to us.

But as joss would have it, Mr. wd had just had to spend weeks in Nebraska clearing out a lifetime’s full of stuff from his parents house, and he came back home with a burning mission to clear out this place in advance of the time our kids would need to be faced with the same unenviable task. So, long story short, we decided to just ask for a few bits and bobs here that wouldn’t clutter up our house much, mainly fabrics from the global south, a few pieces of rock crystal, a few fossils of sadly unknown origin, and such. He did, by the way, ask to bring home a number of her paintings to show me, not that we asked for any of them; he would need to sell them to keep the place afloat.

Time, that devil, whether it be an agreed upon reality or something else, it does make itself known in our lives, and having no sense of it can become a trial. By now, I’m down to writing myself little notes on the calendar next to the bed, like an ‘H’ for hairwashing day. Now, I try to wash it only every two days lest I go bald, as the hairdressers advise. But hell, most days I have to run to my laptop to discover what the hell day and date it even is, in order for my notations to have any instructional value whatsoever. Cripes, I feel like an idiot.

Last night Mr. wendydavis came in from work, laid down most of his assorted paraphernalia on the dining room table, straightened up, but with one hand behind his back. Perhaps I’d looked at him quizzically, but he said, “Go ahead and ask.”

“Ask what?”, my face must have asked. “Ask me what I brought you” (another wee family joke on accountta I don’t get out in the world much these days).

Bringing out a rumpled bag, he laid it on the table, and began to open it, possibly with a mite of trepidation. He pulled out a sweet little battery clock…that only marked the days of the week! I laughed with such mirth that I almost cried; what a lovely gift for a half-demented, crazy crone, old of brain before her time!

When I had a bit of time, I worked to get the clock out of its rather elaborate, not quite hermetically sealed cardboard packaging. What ho? I finally put my Walmart cheaters on, took it to the window’s light, and saw that it was secured by two tiny screws with large plastic washers. Okay, I went to get assorted jeweler’s screwdrivers: nope, they wouldn’t budge. I went through several sizes of Phillips head screwdrivers, and finally muscled those little peckerwoods off. The instructions for setting the clock were on the back of the box, so I gave it the old college try. “Poke the tip of a pen into one of the two indents in the center of the clock’s works, then rotate clockwise.”

Well, of course I needed to advance it six days’ worth, which meant spinning the sucker about three hundred times, the pen popping out at intervals. “Christ,”, I’m thinking, “what the fuck? Do they imagine some geezer needing to be reminded of the goddam day is already in a nursing home and some orderly will be doing this shit?” Okay, sit closer to the window, tip the clock back, jam the pen in ‘one of the two indents’, flip it back, crank the wheel, what.ev.er. But once I finally found a new batter that actually had some juice in it (the third one, mind you), I finally saw that the hand (singular) had actually noticeably advanced. Scoooooooooooorrrrre! Ha! That sucker was finally edging toward Saturday when I decided I’d hang it up in the morning, and reckoned I’d found just the right spot near the bed.

Yesterday was a long day, and I blessedly slept late. At 5:28 this morning, I whispered to Mr. wd, “It’s time to get up; do you want to use the bathroom first?”

“No,”, he said. It’s Saturday, and I (ahem) don’t have to go to work.”

I hung the clock before I even ate my toast. Here it is. Thank you, Mr. wd, thank you for sharing, Dana B. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll know that tomorrow is Sunday, and not a workday. If I can see the clock in the day’s first light, of course. Winter? No way; sorry, dear; it’ll suck to be you again. (Sure wish I’d gotten one awhile ago, grumble, grumble…)    :)

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(cross-posted at My.firedoglake.com)

22 responses to “The Gift

  1. Also been on GST (Geezer Savings Time) since retirement a decade ago, thanks to my daughters’ sense of thoughtfulness, suitability, and timeliness. AND, I’d forgotten to replace the battery recently and looked up to see it stopped On SATURDAY (even a half-fortnight clock is correct, once a week)! Thank YOU for the memory;~)

  2. seriously she’d bought you a day clock? the dear heart. and yes, once a fortnight…. ‘timeliness: where the hell had it been all these years? :)

    welcome, wish i’d remembered to give it a title. even the clock wouldn’t have reminded of *that*.

  3. michaelcavlan

    Oh dear. What a stellar story. Oh and f#$%ing Doctors. I can pretty much guess what they did to fuck up yer noggin. It is called an anoxic brain injury because of something they did cut off the blood (and so oxygen) supply to your brain for a period of time.
    Yer Mr Wendye Davis is a good one and I laughed out loud at the present.

    Ye have done well Wendye despite those bastard Doctors. This Nurse knows, trust me.

  4. As we expected (and my daughters reminded me in tick-talk today, “Relax.”), we all believed I could ignore the seconds’, minutes’ and hours’ rush, and concentrate, if at all, on the retirement DAYS’ somnolent stream. But, NO Thanks to the Poppy/Willie/W/Barry/Hillie? Company depredations on US ALL, NOOOOO! OR WELL:

  5. t’was a great gift, indeed. you may be right about what happened. i’d sorta figured it might have been causes by a reaction to the anesthesia, but that might even have provoked the anoxia, eh? they half-fixed that knee, when the other blew out, i decided that even if we had insurance, i would never step foot again in a hospital or OR. just can’t risk losing the other half of my swiss cheese noggin.

    they’ll laugh me off the internet soon, and when i’ve been mocked for my errors at my.fdl, i do tend to get a bit…surly about it. don’t mind makin’ fun of myownself, but others laughin’ at my honest mistakes? that just ain’t right, as daughter aurora dancing sky is wont to say.

    mr. wd is a great one, for sure (same caveat: barring the few times i wanna murdalize him). :) gonna bake him a pie today with the last of the golden delicious apples it peeled and froze , in order to *not* celebrate father’s hallmark day.

  6. goodness, happy hallmark daddy day, bruce. it does make sense for a gift clock like that for retirees. live in the moment, don’t hurry to the next deadline, dollar, tra la la. i take it that your future isn’t as secure as it once was, then? mr. wd figures he’ll work either until he drops, or gets downsized (which may happen quite soon), then be back to livin’ on faith once again.

    my, you do love the association, don’t you?

  7. Their music seems to address the span of human frailty and triumph and whatever gets US through our days. But having ignored Raygun’s federal employee “tax-free” TSP baits-and-switches, I retain fully ‘secure’ retirement. Still, since all our future’s environmental sanctity and my childrens’ and grandchildrens’ financial futures are presently decimated, I $imply REFUSE to “spend their inheritance”. My internal “Eternal Flamer” metronome continues apace to at least try for their sake to attenuate the ravages of time. So, for a change of tempo:

  8. i’m glad they get you through the days. being my most polite: i don’t care for them. yes, that’s a better song, and quite a flash from the past. our kids don’t want our homestead, although i hope we don’t lose it so they might at least sell it. but i don’t really worry about what they’ll inherit or not. they seem never to live within their means, buy all the new tech stuff, ra ra, and it drives me round the twist. what’s the matter with these kids today? (no, i won’t play the ‘bye bye birdie’ tune). :)

  9. If ONLY US’ Officer Krupkes’d frog-march the oppressive Bernanksters, Wall Street-walkers, ticker-tapeworms, their BP (Big Petroleum) grease-gun molls and paid-for plutocrats, I’d be a little more inclined to criticize the petty “delinquent” victims of the above crooks’ fraud and deceit:

    (as an unapologetic federal agent effective against corporate environmental crime in the day, I WILL Shameslessly play this parody of the current derelict class; 0, et al ;-)

  10. please do decode your comment for me. (?)

  11. Simply because our children have been suckered by the rentiers, doesn’t mean they’re not OPPRE$$ED by them (and certainly the minor grandchildren ought not suffer, in any case). I choose rentier-rending, instead.

  12. What a lovely clock! I have had that experience of being completely ‘timeless’ twice in my life – during my working years. I put it down to overwork and fatigue – I was younger then, so that seemed to be what it was.

    It could also well be the stress of trying to cope with so many confusing breaking stories – like now the rapid events in Ukraine and Iraq that have horrific overtones – plus alarming disconnect with newspeople and bloggers supposed to be helping us but under their own stresses – at times I have to go away from that all with that feeling of brainburst too overwhelming.

    I was greatly relieved to see two interviews on the Real News with an Iraqi explaining how ISIS may be perceived by his countrymen – it sounded sensible. Then also this article:

    http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/06/15

    It isn’t long, and again, it is helpfully sensible.

    We can’t do it all, wendye. Rest up; we need you well rested! (I really can’t believe you are brain damaged – if that is the case for you, oy mama – I am in deep doo doo way over the cuckoo’s nest!)

  13. bruce, i thought that might have been your meaning, and i agree…to a point, especially in regard to the grandchirren, innocent of anything that will blow down to them. but i gotta say that both our kids are around 30, and have bought into the consumer society too whole-heartedly. this is the generation we keep looking toward to get activated to fight the machine almost reflexively, choosing different values, and flipping the bird to the rentier financial class. and of course they may soon.

    no, parents are clearly not the only teachers and major influences kids have in their lives, and who knows when and what roads they might reclaim later. but theory always had it, and i concurred with passion (so it goes, lol)

  14. well, juliania, the damage was pretty major, but i was able to create some new neural pathways with a lot of effort. but really, the only reason i kinda bared my soul about the struggle was to be able to explain why the gift was so bloody fun…and funny. tick…..tick… it’s monday!

    various stressors can sure play a part in the ooky hegg-aches, but not always. and when they come, forget reading, arrgh.

    now the bad news is that once again i didn’t dodge the taxman’s bullet. when mr. wd brought the mail home saturday, he told me i fooked up the forms again, and they want more money, oopsie. haven’t looked at the papers yet, maybe today. they always politely tell e that if i want to argue their calculations, i am very free to do so.

    yes, the common dreams piece looks good. and no doubt the real news interviews are, as well. for now, my gaze is still on ukraine, and i may put together a new post, but as what’s being rained down on the novoroosyians is so egregious and are escalating, not diminishing, it’s hard to want to weave a lot of into a coherent whole. and as stephen cohen says, it’s a far more dangerous situation than iraq, for which nation the die was cast long ago, tragically enough.

    my stars, the news that iran may partner with the US and NATO to fight isis is that same old “the enemy of my enemy is my (sorta) friend” shite that has underpinned the Empire’s FP for far too long. and once again, the media scribes just keep bringin’ the propaganda uncritically.

  15. michaelcavlan

    A song that has helped guide me with my son Sean. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sMmTkKz60W8

  16. michaelcavlan

    Stellar article in Common Dreams. Sadly, myself and countless other progressives have been banned from making comments at Common Dreams. I have talked to many of them and they seem to follow the same pattern. No warnings, just poof. Banned. All of the ones that I have talked to are all opposed to the Veal pen politics of the two party system and call for action outside of it.

    I agree with you about Ukraine. The implications of the situation in Ukraine are horrifying and the complete black out in the corporate media about what is really going on there is stunning. Same can be said for the majority of the liberal and “progressive” news blogs out there.

    Our Govt is backing the extreme right wing Neo-Nazi Provoda party and the Right Sector. No-one in this country knows or even seems to care when they are told about it.

    I weep for this nation. Perhaps we all deserve the upcoming future and our fate.

  17. michaelcavlan

    Wendye
    Just found this. It is a German left politician speaking out on the German leader Angela Merkel. Speaking truth about Ukraine. https://vimeo.com/98184722

  18. zounds, that was one barnburner of a speech, wasn’t it? she had some of them until she mentioned france (boo, hiss, grumble). but thank you so much! in the cohen interview with thom hartman (blech), he had said how completely important that is that in germany, they are having actual debates about ukraine, while in the US, the narrative is one track only. hooray! i will embed it, and am at least now a little inspired to wade into creating a post. as ever, i have about five pages of links to sort through, decide on, try to remember the content. i was ruing the fact that i’ll need to listen to the cohen interview again, its having been two days since i watched.

    right wing svoboda, but yes, indeed. and putin is one of the wild cards; cohen says georgia and *ukraine* are his red lines, but ive wondered if he may have meant *crimea* rather. well, time will tell. thank you again.

  19. Oh, I definitely did not intend to compare my couple of days of incapacitation to your original horrific hospital experience, wendye – only to the mind-fuddle of disremembering hubbie’s un-work day, and it is a very sweet piece in that respect. (My boys gave me a new kettle on Mother’s Day, and I’m still overwhelmingly happy about that!) I certainly admire your achievement in getting mindfulness back after the ghastly loss and as you say, ‘recovery’ after a medical expedition doesn’t put one back to being the person one was before, know that well myself.

    I still do think that at least for me the psychological barrage of untruthiness and loss of pride in country (even an adopted one) is wearying to the nth degree, but it is lovely to find fresh insights from old heroes – this from I forget which counterpunch article:

    “…“A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”[James Madison]

    I hope you’ll find it a small gift that when I read those lines I thought of you and your work here. Knowledge is power in so many different ways. And yes, our kids have been sent on foolish errands while we tried to hold them to higher roads. But still, you stand as a shining light, so I believe they will eventually turn and look and say ‘That was our mother.’

  20. all of what you’ve said is no small gift, juliania, and oddly, i am one of the few friends our daughter has, so i hear from hr at least twice a day, and that’s a good thing, on balance. son, not s much, but he married a fundie christian republican who urged him to join the national guard, so…we don’t hear from them much. but who knows if one day he will remember what he learned here? love them both passionately, i did, and teach them what i could.

    i just didn’t want to leave you under any misapprehension that the brain damage was minimal. i woke up stupid as a box of rocks (perhaps why chePasa calls me miz rock since i conceded the point once, lol), and the struggle back has been monumental, and is now…going backways. but everyone has their own stuff to deal with, of course; this is just my own trial.

    i am so glad you got a wonderful kettle from your sons. i have a few woven things to send you once i get a bit ahead $. the irs says we owe another $3 grand, oh dear.

    love to you, ww.

  21. thank you for the song, michael cavlan; i’d missed in in my excitement with the left party candidate’s speech to the bundestag. how funny to hear that lynard skynnard (sp?) had recorded a song like that. :)

    best to son sean.

  22. Which explains the deceived and the dementia-induced; what’s Merkel’s excuse? Die Deutschefrauen certainly know a Nazi when they see one ( or a whole Schutzstaffel); witness Wagonmeister Sahra’s enlightenment of Angela in open debate. Perhaps Merkel suffers yet from the Bush Wagnerian mind-meld:

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