Today Mona called me from Mom's apartment. "She's having another one of those days, if you know what I mean."
Me: Is she depressed?
Me: Do you have any ideas?
Mona: No. Maybe some antidepressants.
Me: She's taking antidepressants. And I think Dr. Z. has lined up a psych nurse to come over there; I'll call tomorrow and check on it.
Then I talked to Mom and it was hard. She begged me to get on a plane and come tonight. When Mona walked out the door, Mom pleaded, "Please don't leave me!" We talked for a half hour and she was inconsolable. When Mona came back in to lay out her pajamas, things were going so bad that I told Mom I'd call her back in half an hour. I set the timer on my phone.
The timer went off and I had an idea.
Me: Mom, I need some advice. Can you help me? I have two questions.
Me: My first question is: Larry's birthday is tomorrow, and Tom and I have not been able to find anything for him. Will you help me think of something? Please! We're having the hardest time.
Mom: Now Larry lives next door to you, right?
Me: No, Larry's our best friend who lives in Orlando.
Mom: The first thing I always think of is a book. Does he have any special interests?
Me: A book is a great idea! Hmmm, let's see. He's interested in pocketknives, birds, photography ... The problem is, we don't know enough about the things he's interested in to make a good choice.
Mom: Can you send him something to eat?
Me: He loves chocolate. The problem is, it's so hot in Orlando right now that you can't send chocolate without it melting.
Mom: What about that candy that's hard and lasts a long time unless you eat it?
Mom: Yes! That's it! Peppermint!
... Is he interested in gardening?
Me: Well, he lives in a condo where that stuff is already taken care of ... but they do have a little courtyard. What were you thinking?
Mom: I was thinking of climbers. Something that might grow up the side of a wall.
Me: Like jasmine? That smells so good. Have you ever smelled it?
Mom: I don't know! Does it have little blue flowers?
Me: I'm not sure. I've seen white jasmine around here. But I guess a plant would be hard to ship.
Mom: I was thinking of a seed packet.
Me: Oh that's perfect. What else?
Mom: Maybe you could send him someone's name who he doesn't know, who he could correspond with. A mystery correspondent. Maybe he'd like to correspond with Margaret. You could send him my name!
Me: That's a great idea. I love that. Keep going ...
Mom: Does he like your drawings?
Me: Yes! I usually make wrapping paper out of them, and he likes that ... Let's see ... I could make a t-shirt for him. But I don't think he wears t-shirts. Oh! But wait! Maybe I could have a drawing silkscreened on a mug!
Mom: Oh that would be lovely! A coffee mug.
Me: Well, he doesn't drink coffee ... but he drinks tea! That's a great idea! OK, I'll probably do that. What else?
Mom: Does he like leaves? What if a little shoot is sprouting from a ... what's that called ...
Me: A trunk? You mean, send him a little tree?
Me: That's such a good idea. But a little tree would be hard to ship, too.
Mom: What if you wrote a note that said in a separate envelope you will find a seed. You can put an acorn in a separate envelope. You can tell him you're sending him a sprig of a tree and that he can watch it develop. Send him something that will bloom within the next six months.
Me: Does it have to bloom within the next six months? How will I know it will bloom within the next six months?
Mom: You can just put a dash followed by a question mark after the sentence.
Me: Mom, you've given me some great ideas. Thank you. Now are you up for another question?
Me: You had mentioned that Margaret and I should do a book together. (We have decided not to call Margaret "Aggles" anymore around Mom, because sometimes she thinks Margaret and Aggles are two different people.)
Mom: Oh yes!
Me: What do you think the book should be about?
Me: Cooking!? What kind of cooking?
Mom: Desserts. Is there any other kind?
Me: (many laughs) OK, Mom. Give me some more ideas for the book.
Mom: (switching back to the first question) Does Larry have a good reading lamp?
Me: That's such a good idea, Mom. I had actually thought of a book light. A reading lamp might be hard to ship, but at least it wouldn't melt. Maybe I could order it from somewhere and have it shipped to him.
Mom: Is he interested in a storage or a passage or a way to get around like flying?
Me: He likes to travel! What are you thinking?
Mom: Maybe a little airplane. Does he have plenty of pictures of his wife?
Me: That's a good idea, too! I have lots of pictures of Barbara that I could give him.
Mom: Does he need any clothes like socks?
Me: I thought of socks! But Tom says guys don't really like socks as presents. But I love socks, and I think he might like them too.
Mom: You could tell Tom that they can act as a cushion if he doesn't like them for other reasons. How about an umbrella? Or other rain things.
Me: Actually, I think it rains in Orlando a lot. Maybe an umbrella would be good. But what other kinds of rain things?
Mom: Overshoes, galoshes. Do they need an air conditioner? How is he for watches?
Me: Oh God, he loves watches!! He loves clocks and watches. But he already has such a great watch. We could never buy him a better one.
Mom: They would probably appreciate a letter telling them what we've done that's fun.
Me: Oh, I know they would. What would I tell them about in the letter?
Mom: One of those water places that they advertise.
Mom: Yes! If he likes music, maybe you could buy him a recording.
Me: He loves music. What kind of recording do you think I should choose?
Mom: I don't know. It depends on how much space they have. Maybe something like a record player that they could keep in the closet.
Me: Oh–I know they have music players. I thought you meant a piece of music. On a CD or something.
Me: But what would the music be?
Mom: Some symphony. A short one, if there is such a thing. The artist could be from a long time ago. Woodwinds.
Me: Well, Larry plays the piano. And he does like classical music. He doesn't really care for jazz.
Mom: That's how smart he is.