Joanna’s gloves

Winter has settled on the Delta, though not the winter of my Midwestern life.  Nearby mountain ranges bear snow but here in the river valley, the temperature hovers near 40 at night. Fierce winds blow through the willows.  Migrating flocks rise over the river.  Rain soaks the ground and the rivers rise.

This morning I drew on my Ann Taylor coat, fifteen bucks at the local consignment store when I realized that I needed something dressy last winter.  I reached my hand into the deep pocket and felt leather.

Joanna’s gloves.

I found them in her dresser when we cleaned out her bedroom, a few days after the service.  I still could not believe that my mother-in-law  had died, though I had stood with her children and my favorite curmudgeon in the dim light of the room.  I tried not to impose on their grief.  I had no right.  But I loved her, despite the shortness of our relationship and my once-removed status.

She had never worn the gloves.  She kept them in their original box.  Perhaps she found them too lovely, like a candle in its cellophane, unlit and unsullied.  Maybe she had purchased them just before her long decline commenced.  They might have been a gift.  I opened the box and drew back the tissue.  I touched their pale surface.  My favorite curmudgeon said, “You can have those if you want, honey.”  He turned away.  I could feel his tears.  He died a year later; they said from lung cancer, but I knew better.  He died of a broken heart.

Over the last summer of her life, I did everything I could think of for her.  I brought potting plants.  I sang and read.  I drew her attention to the daily log which the cognitive therapist wanted her to keep.  I asked her questions about her childhood.  One day near the end, I sat with her in the dining room begging her to take just one more bite of food.  “Thank you very much,” she said, but she looked away from the spoon.  She gazed out over the garden behind the facility where she lived.  I could see the flash of heaven in her eyes.

I slipped the gloves over my hands as I waited for the car engine to warm this morning.  Their softness skimmed my swollen knuckles.  I’ve never owned such a beautiful pair.  

It’s the second day of the sixty-first month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

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