The Wedding Present

Steve and I received our first wedding present shortly before Christmas. Steve’s mother Judy, a widow who lives in a retirement community outside DC, asked us to visit so she could give us a special wedding gift, a crystal wine decanter. The decanter had been a present to her and her husband Jack, Steve’s father, when they were married in Tampa in 1954.

In a note she sent to Steve, she indicated she wanted to give us the decanter now while she still felt in reasonable control of her health. Her vision is failing, as is her memory, and she’s aware of her fading faculties. We’d wanted to make a visit anyway, as her 85th birthday fell in early December, and we knew we’d be away for the holidays. So we drove up to take her out to dinner and sit for a while.

Steve and his mom Judy

Steve and his mom Judy

Petite, with short gray hair, Judy welcomed us warmly with hugs when we arrived. Despite her frailty, she carries herself with poise. After dinner at an Italian restaurant, she gave us the decanter, wrapped carefully in a towel and tucked into a handled shopping bag. It is a striking piece with family history, and I felt honored she wanted to pass it on to us. As we chatted, her frustration with her increasing limitations became evident. She struggled to see the particulars of the engagement photos we’d brought her as a gift, and when she’d begin to tell a family story she would often frown and pause a few sentences in, shaking her head. “Now, where was I going with that?” she’d say, and give a rueful laugh. She held significant events fairly clearly in her mind: she knew we were soon headed to England, and that she would be spending Christmas day with her daughter’s family. But the finer details frayed at the edges, and sometimes the thread was lost altogether. Continue reading