by Frances Edstrom
My sister Susan (childhood nicknames Sukey, LuLu, and Susu — Susu stuck and we still use it) came out to help me in my recuperation from recent hip revision surgery. Friends and longtime readers will recognize her name and realize that she has been out here at least twice before when I was in a similar (but far worse) health situation. In fact, people say, “She’s a saint.” Now I am not sure if that’s because anyone who willingly puts aside her life to help out another person whose health is temporarily compromised is widely considered to be a “saint,” or if these people know me and assume that caring for me when I am sick must be “hellish,” and only to be suffered by a “saint.”
Well, if she was a saint before, then I don’t know what the hierarchy is that she would be elevated to now — Archsaint? Ubersaint? Megasaint? Saintalicious? Because…because (and I shudder to think what might be the fallout on the determination of my eternal resting place might be because of this)…I sent her out to do my Christmas shopping.
Now, it’s one thing to ask a caretaker to get a cup of water, or your medications, or even to hand you the newspaper or the computer. It’s quite another to ask her to do your Christmas shopping, especially Susu.
Susu happily lives a quiet, some would call simple, life in a very small town in Massachusetts. It is close, but not apparently so, to big thoroughfares that can carry one to Boston and other spots. But it is not itself overrun with the malls, megastores and migraines of suburban living. It has a nice little compact downtown with a few shops, and on the outskirts of town are a grocery store and a warehouse store — BJs — where one can buy the essentials. You can live quite comfortably from cradle to grave never having left Ayer, Massachusetts. It has a hospital, a good number of funeral homes and of course the cemetery.
Susu does not have children, which has saved her from the annual quest for the “have-to-have” kid gift that the toy and electronics industries have so maliciously foisted upon us poor parents and grandparents.
An aside here. Back many years, I could not find a Nintendo to save my life, and really, I thought my continued position as parent of three kids might depend on it. I told my mother, thinking that surely the Boston area would have more of these things than the Winona area. She called me all breathless to tell me she’d found one. “Fantastic!” I said. “I’ll send you a check. How much was it?” She named a sum under $100, and I was immediately suspicious. “What does it look like?” I asked. She described it, and I knew it was the Nintendo carrying case, not the machine itself. My heart sank. Not much good in a carrying case if there’s nothing to carry! But the story ended happily, as someone else found it for me by camping out in the toy department of a local store and wrestling the UPS delivery man to the ground (not really). So, the carrying case was a hit as well.
But back to Susu. I sent her out with a list, and off she went, a virgin thrown into the den of the Christmas merchandiser. Hours later, she came into the house dragging behind her enormous plastic bags which held the booty. She plopped down on the couch opposite me, gave me a look that seemed a lot like a glare, and said, “I need a drink!”