It is Still Gift Giving Season!
It is a good entertainment, a bunch of people calling in to have psychologist Dr. Wendy Walsh interpret their dreams. I would consider doing so but I would just be baiting her to test her accuracy, because I already know the meaning of my dreams and nightmares. Perhaps that is one benefit of living as one single and not getting out much for so many years. I have had plenty of time for introspection and to develop self-awareness. As far as my nightmares, I often end up repeating the words of Jimmy Buffet’s “Margaritaville”: “Some people say that there’s a woman to blame but I know it’s my own damn fault.” I can blame my friend and fellow American High School alum Tim Marymee for exposing me to Jimmy Buffet during our trips to Skip’s Cabin at the end of the summers during our junior and senior years of high school, but I cannot hold him at fault for this repeated nightmare that I return to Fremont on Christmas Eve, go shopping for a present for my mom, but as the sun sets all the stores close before I have found a gift for my mom.
Granted during our high school years Tim and I developed this habit of last minute shopping starting around noon on Christmas Eve. Tim played wide receiver and defensive back on our high school football team and I played offensive and defensive lineman. We employed our skills in the last minute shopping frenzy. The most difficult assignment was trying to tackle the mom gift. He would cover the kitchenware zone carefully scanning the perimeter for potential gifts. We knew our limitations and shied away from women’s apparel, our weak zone. I might take housewares. Communication was key. As soon as one of us saw a potential gift we would converge on the location. Often I would block for Tim so we could muscle our way to a sales table. As a wide receiver Tim appreciated getting some downfield blocking; that did not happen often enough.
As an aside one of the funniest plays, one that we had to play over and over again with commentary in the Monday post-game film session was the time Tim successfully caught a pass on an out pattern. It was a play action option pass thrown to the left side of the field. I had pulled left from the guard position so I was in front of the quarterback as he threw the ball to Tim. I saw Tim catch the ball. Then Tim saw two defensive backs charging toward him ready to put a hurt on him and he just tossed the ball out of bounds like he did not need that level of abuse. It was one of those magic moments when Coach Vares would say, “This is the first time in all my years of coaching that I saw that move. What were you thinking son when you just tossed the ball out of bounds? Were you thinking out there?”
There were no such lapses Christmas Eve when we had to get a gift for our mothers. We never missed; we executed with precision and timing. Often we would arrive at 1200 and have completed the mission by hour 1400. That is why the repeated nightmare of not getting a gift for my mother is odd until I remember the time I did fail to give her a gift.
It was in August of 1999 a week after my friend and colleague Norman James died from a recurrence of cancer. I spent six weeks assisting his sister Linda in helping him make his exit from the world. We had just finished cleaning out his apartment. I still had his bike on the back of my car when I got the call that my mother was in Washington Hospital Fremont with a stroke. The only reason she had made it to the hospital was because my cousin Joseph Johnson had happened to go by to check on her and found her lying on the floor. Somehow I got caught in something that was a cross between an emotional and a physiological response. There was a part of my brain that said this was not happening even though my mother had recovered from a stroke five years before, even though earlier in the summer she had reported experiencing “spells which were probably mini-strokes (transient ischemic events, TIA’s). As a nurse she knew what they were and as someone doing medical research involving critical care I knew what they were but neither of us would say it. I knew the implications of a second major stroke but I still denied the urgency of the moment when a nurse from Washington Hospital called me. This could not be happening, because I was not ready for another emotional challenge.
Somehow it took hours before I realized that I just needed to go, even though I had my clothes already in the car when I got the call and there was no need to pack. I saw another emotional challenge and I did not want to run through it and take the hit. I wanted to toss the ball out of bounds and end the play. Somewhere around Magic Mountain I was overcome with this overwhelming sense of fatigue that was probably as much emotional and psychological as physical. I pulled off to the side of the road and napped. I could not believe how long I was asleep. When I awoke I drove with a sense of urgency toward Fremont but I arrived after sunset. When I arrived at Washington Hospital I was informed that my mother had slipped into a coma a few hours before. I had arrived too late to deliver her gift.
I did not need my friend Tim to help me pick out this gift. I did have a nurse from Washington Hospital who called me while I was on the road to tell me that if I wanted to speak to my mother I should get there soon. Unfortunately, I had already delayed too long by the time I got that second call that more directly stated the issue. I was looking right at the sales table but I did not see it, the gift my mother most wanted. She wanted that one last chance to see her son and say, “I love you.” That is my recurring nightmare, the sun is setting and the stores are closing and it is too late to get my mother the gift she most wants; I had already moved too slow and waited too long.