All my life, it was my mother who bought my gifts. Every holiday, birthday, or event was commemorated by her alone. I don't recall my father giving me anything directly; I would have remembered and it would have been significant. My father raised 6 children with his first wife before I came along in his second marriage, and I wonder if, since his first wife was schizophrenic, maybe he had to buy all the gifts then, and this time he was through with it.

Every time a gift giving date rolled around, I was asked specifically what I wanted. I made a list that mom chose from, to make it easy, since they would never know what I wanted just because I lived under their roof and was the only child raised by the two of them at the same time. I blame myself too, because I never let them in on much when I was growing up. In return, I don't think I ever bought my father many gifts either, besides shirts or sweaters mom knew he wanted. My father gave me enough by being a carpenter, a carnie, a bouncer at and Irish pub whose band would watch me grow up and do shots of whiskey with my dad between sets.

College brought the odd gifts. Soap and socks were the staples, both then and now. With her it's either been things I never want or things that are right on the money. Bulk packs of sandalwood incense, Christmas lights with fimo bulbs, curling irons, Dove soap, underwear, dish towels, little teddy bears with lace aprons, and now, for a belated birthday, a delicate silver bracelet with turquoise beads.

My mom tries, and it's more than I could ask for. She can't undo my blocked childhood or the family secrets locked away in her denial, or all the sadness her children bring her when they don't write back or visit. My gift to her will be my homecoming, it will be to quit smoking to honor my father, it will be my swallowed pride.

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