As adults, we have all had wonderful old dolls. They are different for each of us, some tall, some short, some blonde, brunette, lots of hair, no hair. They are all very different and diverse but in every case, very precious to each of us; bringing a source of comfort, love, joy, frustration, sometimes even anger or tears. We take them out periodically and spend time with them, then when some moment happens, the dinner is done, the church service over, the magic hour chimes and we put our dolls back on their shelf, at first somewhat casually and as time goes on, more and more carefully.
As we mature and move on with life our dolls watch our achievements with joy. The excitement and demands of life, eclipse them; our own families, careers, life in general. Our dolls just seem to become crowded out with other seemingly more pressing or more interesting avenues and undertakings that life presents to each of us. We do not mean to ignore them, time just gets away. Today turns into tomorrow and tomorrow into next week or next month, and so it goes.
Sometimes the dolls feel lonely, overlooked, forgotten but they wait, trying to be patient, hoping their people will notice and remember they want to share in those happy and new things. Yet as much as they may knock on the glass, their people do not think these old, dusty dolls would fit or they are just too busy to notice. The dolls never stop loving, but a new sadness enters into their eyes and hearts.
Eventually, either the appointed time rolls around and it is time to take the dolls off the shelf again. But wait, one doesn’t seem quite right. The doll is broken. How did this happen? Why didn’t we notice? Our heart breaks, we didn’t realize if only we had spent more time with both the dolls. As we put that doll away, sadly, with tears and prayers, we look to our remaining doll; it looks much frailer than before. We explore different possibilities to make our remaining doll safer, and put it even more carefully on its shelf. Bring in others to look after the doll, after all, we have families of our own, jobs to do, appointments to keep ….
We continue with our life and check to make sure our one remaining doll is in good hands. We take our precious doll off the shelf ever so carefully, and promise we will not take it granted; but as happens, the loss of the one doll becomes a memory and we forget. We still take the other lone doll out, but less and less frequently. Then one day we come and our remaining doll, oh no. Wh-Wha-What has happened!
Next comes the mad rush to the hospital, the painful decision, the transfer to hospice. Our doll, in its last days has once again become real, and as we watch the one that raised us, skin so pale, translucent, hair, so thin and white, our parent smiles that smile always made things better; from when the bully down the street called us a name, to when we fell off our bike and scraped our knee.
“Mommy.” “Daddy.” we say, heart again broken, tears flow freely as we remember all the times we could have spent but something else seemed so much more important or vital or interesting. We think of all the times we argued when we could have stayed quiet. We spent so much time doing the ever so important things forgetting what was truly important, wasted precious time. Time we wish we could have back, but it is gone.
Then, in a moment, that precious doll, that precious parent is gone. The tears run down our cheeks in great torrents, our tummies hurt from the pain crying and trying not to cry. No time for mourning, put grief aside; there is too much to do; arrangements to make, the service, the burial, the reception to thank those who came. Then come the thank you notes to write, the attorney’s to see. Finally, the things that belonged.
“Some day this will be yours.” we remember hearing. We laughed and said, “I know, I know, but I’d rather have you.” Now the reality hits. Now as we hold that ring, that pendant, sobs wrack our bodies and those sobs come and come. We remember the conversation, we pick up another item and remember the day we gave it to them, the pleasure on their face. But with them come the “if only’s.” These drive us to more action, to dull the ache, the hurt, the regret.
A year goes by we are getting it together. We visit that empty shelf less, our tummy hurts less, as long as we don’t think too hard or too long. “It was a blessing it happened as peacefully as it did.” we share as others inquire how we are doing. But, oh, what we would give for one hour, with our parents again. We remember their love, their smiles. We ask, “Have I made you proud?” There is no answer, we can only hope, for our dolls are gone, only memories remain.
The story does not end here, for as you and I turn around, we realize that shelf has become ours. We live in our homes, call the kids, but they are so busy with their own lives, all those important things to do and people to see, they take us off the shelf on special days: birthdays, some holidays, church on Sundays. We see their Facebook posts, try to send enticing emails, but, we have become the dolls on the shelf.