Week 8 Word: GIFT
Word Count 499
The Little Match Girl
By Frank Sutliff
The book by Hans Christian Andersen was tattered and showed all of the signs of age, much as the old man did. As he sat day after day in the nursing home, rarely leaving his room, he reflected on his life and wondered how much more of this nothingness there would be.
At one time, he had had thousands and thousands of books, many unread, but comforting still the same. With the ultimate downsizing that came with a move to one small room to live out his days, his possessions became few and the large book collection had been sold for a dime here, a quarter there, and then given to local libraries to sell in their book sales. He remained only in possession of a few books, those that had carried special meaning from his youth.
As he sat alone with the small TV on mute, alone with his thoughts for yet another day, the social worker came in to do her daily rounds and check on him. The daily comings and goings of the staff were a welcome diversion to the ticking of the clock marking yet another day gone by. However, on this day, the young woman, likely sensing his loneliness, sat down in the recliner in the room, and began to make small talk while working on her paperwork. As she sat there, the old man began to talk about his life and how things had worked out. He told her that his life had consisted of making a living, like most lives do, but also how he always made sure that his children and grandchildren would never have to go without, much as his father had done for him. He had sacrificed much but always willingly, hoping that it would be paid forward some day. As they chatted, one question that the old man asked, albeit rhetorically, was “why don’t my children come visit me?”
Sadly, this was a question she heard all too often asked throughout the nursing home. Sometimes, the dementia of some of the residents eased the pain of this question as they in some ways thankfully had no recollection of what had been. However, with others, it was a question that weighed heavily on their mind and certainly, she wondered too, how people could be left to be forgotten.
As she parried his question with grace based on her caring nature and years of experience with the elderly, she knew that it was time to get back to the many other duties that would consume her day. As she got up to leave, she went over to him and gave him a hug as she heard him say “I wish you would never leave.”
A few days later, she found the gift in her mailbox. Simply wrapped, it was a tattered book that apparently had been read to him as a child over and over by his mother. Inside the cover was a simple message- thank you for your kindness.