Tuesday, 4 November 2014

The boomerang cardigan

Mum phones unexpectedly, mid-afternoon. She’s distraught.
“What's the matter?”
She gulps. “Tears and rage….. I can't even talk - just tears and rage.”  

When she calms down, the story emerges. She’s just found her much-loved handspun cardigan at the local op shop.

My mind’s a blank. How could this have happened?
“It’s your's?” I ask, casting my mind back. “Definitely yours?”

“It’s unmistakable - homespun, stocking stitch with wooden buttons,” says Mum. There’s a pause. “I made it dear, I should know.”

A moment of realisation. It was me! I must have thrown it out - mistakenly putting it in the pile for the op shop.

In rest homes, space is tight. The bedroom can fit little more than a bed, a chest of drawers, a tray-table, maybe a small chair, and a tiny closet.  For the last five years, I’ve been in charge of Mum’s clothes. With her passion for op shopping - and for clothes -  the collection grows. I keep half of them in bags in my basement and the rest are crammed into Mum’s wardrobe and drawers. When the seasons change we go through them, cull a few and swap them all around.
It’s like running a small branch of Savemart.

“Who would have thrown it out?” asks Mum. “A perfectly good cardigan. Who could do such a thing?” She lowers her voice. “Perhaps it’s been stolen. Then discarded to be resold?”

I confess. I apologise. I explain what must have happened as best I can. I apologise again.

Mum’s relieved no malice is involved. An accident, nothing deliberate.
“It wasn't the fact of losing it," she says, “it was the thought behind it. The idea that people were getting rid of things before I’ve gone.” I apologise some more.

Enough already. “It’s forgiven, it’s forgotten,” says Mum. “I dont want to hear another word about it.”

But dementia is perverse - sometimes the very thing Mum wants to forget is the bit she retains.

When I visit the next day the homespun cardigan is hanging in the wardrobe. Pricetag and receipt still firmly attached. And all her doubts have re-emerged. I explain again and remove the tags.
Mum's still making enquiries about the provenance of her cardigan the next day.

I decide to change tack. I acknowledge that it's completely my fault. A bad mistake. Undoubtedly it was.
But her cardigan came back!

What were the chances? 
That I would accidently put the wrong item out for recycling?  
That the bag of clothes would find its way to the very shop that Mum and her friend were browsing?
And that Mum would find her own precious cardigan amongst the sea of discarded garments?

“It's a miracle," I tell her. “The boomerang cardigan!”
Mum laughs. “That’s true,” she says. “The boomerang cardigan.”

And this time it makes a memory.

She’s forgiven me but she’s still a bit cross. At the op shop people.  
“They priced it wrongly - seven dollars!  They have no idea. There was lot of work in that cardigan.”

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