The Handkerchief

Talk about forgotten gifts.

On my 21st birthday, Mom and Dad gave me a bottle of rosé wine (I could “officially” drink at 19, but the folks wanted to mark that occasion by buying me wine) and …  a forgotten gift.

Although it was from Mom, it was the kind of gift you’d be hard-pressed to make a 21-year-old do back-flips over.

Of course I’m dragging out the suspense, like the bright wrapper around the gift, but there’s a method to this madness. I’m feeling the need to milk the metaphor, so let’s have at it…

Gifts given and—especially—not given. Actually, I’m a terrible person to give a gift to: judgmental, dismissive—generally not a “happy-grateful receiver.” Most of the gifts I’ve received have meant little to me over the long haul. Gifts require some thought; they’re usually dressed up in some fashion (hence the “bright wrapper”) just to conceal the awesomeness of the gift, merely extending its intended effect—to delight the receiver.

Perhaps Dad’s Timex watch has meant the most to me, because it was one of the first (and perhaps only) gift I can remember I was invited to pick out for myself.

But Mom, she was thoughtful, too.

I was reminded of that this past week.


My brother Brian, his wife, and I went to Indiana with our parents’ ashes in the back of a rented Honda.

Not your everyday road trip, but one we’d been planning for quite a while. Brian coordinated with our Aunt Joyce and Uncle Gordon, who still live in East Indianapolis. We drove to Bloomington, Ill., on Tuesday and Wednesday morning headed straight to our birthplace north of Indianapolis, in Broad Ripple.

Everyone was on best behavior, knowing it was an odd journey. But I had a secret I wanted to reveal, but not before it was time. I had every expectation it would be understood, but spilling it too soon, I felt, would only water it down.

On Thursday Gordon drove us to Greensburg, Ind., with the wooden boxes containing Mom and Dad.

Without priest, pastor or clergyman, we interred the boxes at a gravesite Dad had already purchased at South Park cemetery. All Brian and I did was buy the headstone.

Again, the metaphors fly. We bought a stone, but the gift I brought was more fragile than granite. When I thought of this trip over the last nearly four years since Mom and Dad died, I imagined more pomp and circumstance, more ceremony—what we feely types call closure.

But there is no closure.

Nothing is ever closed. Nothing is ever “finished.”

I know this to be true.

But on Thursday, April 5, 2012, at approximately 1:30 p.m. EST, my parents, Paul J. [Junior] Maupin and Jacqueline Adams Maupin, in the form of ash particulates from a kiln fire at a West Florida mortuary, were finally laid to rest in the graveyard of Mom’s ancestors in Greensburg.

That’s when I pulled out the gift, returning the favor to the giver, Mom.

On my 21st birthday, she gave me six cotton handkerchiefs.

“I remember that,” Brian said at graveside. I pulled the tattered last handkerchief from my pocket and said, “Mom gave me this on my 21st birthday. I thought it was stupid and useless. But I’ve used those handkerchiefs, and this is the last, worn and yet … clean. I want to bring that gift back to Mom.”

My aunt, uncle, sister-in-law, and brother were a little surprised, but pleased. I’d thought of what this had meant to me, so I shared it with them:

“You’re given something, but sometimes you don’t know its worth until much later… this handkerchief has been with me now over 30 years … and now I want to leave it with Mom, since I now know its worth.”

I tucked the handkerchief into the box with her ashes and Gordon lowered the boxes into the crypt. We all said some words and lingered for a bit. I told Dad it’d be awhile before I got his $350 loan back to him. Brian chuckled. “I know.”

As we walked away, the clouds shifted and the sun came out.

~ by completelyinthedark on April 8, 2012.

3 Responses to “The Handkerchief”

  1. I keep thinking of the man she was acknowledging and proud of. Pretty awesome.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. beautiful story telling

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on Completely in the Dark and commented:

    Exactly four years ago this past week. Cliched to say, but “seems like yesterday.” All-new post in draft mode and up next Friday. Cheers, MM


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