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The Gift

The acceleration of life has found a way to tauntingly linger. We only live minutes away, but it feels like hours until Jason returns from his trip home. Appearing ready for an impromptu vacation, he tiredly totes two bags, heavily pulling on each shoulder.

“I have some clothes for you,” he wearily states, opening the bag. Peeking between the barely unclasped tines of the zipper, two glassy, black eyes stare out.

“What is that?”

A slight sparkle enlivens the blue of my widened eyes. As the forgotten Christmas gift is unveiled, patches of black and white fur tickle the inside of the bag. Tenderly, yet eagerly, Jason reaches in. The heads emerges, lead by small round ears, followed by the dark, glassy eyes, and a triangular thread-knit nose. The plump, plush body provides an unyielding base for the outstretched legs and slightly bent arms. I lift him from Jason’s hand, the soft fuzz on my chilled hands. Ming, the panda, solicits a hug; heartily, I oblige. The petite, soft body grazing my cheek. You are so cute, Ming.

He takes his post at my side, eyes twinkling.

“I’m glad you like him,” Jason’s voice tinged with pride.

“I love him. He’s the happiest thing in this room.” The defiant corners of my mouth dare to turn against the nearly imperishable scowl that had settled.

With Ming safely cradled in a gap on the bed, sleep is imminent. Yet, despite the dimmed lights, the hushed sounds in the hall, and the darkness outside, I cannot rest. A vice tightly clamps on my right temple, then attaches to the left one. One twist at a time, the pressure increases. Behind my forehead, my brain aches, swelling to an enormous size. I can barely keep my eyes open with the pain, yet can’t sleep with the pain. Feeling Ming’s soft feet, I plead. If only you could fix this headache, Ming. His sparkling eyes dull,“I’m sorry. Cuddling is my only speciality.” Holding him closer, the fur tingles on my neck. When longing for headache abatement fails, I am thrilled when nurse Joleen returns.

“How are you doing, Laura? Are you comfortable enough?”

 “I’m doing okay, except for this headache taking over my forehead.”

“I can bring you Tylenol for that.” My aching nerves find respite after having convinced myself there was no hope for medication. “If you need anything else, just call and let me know. The doctor says you should stay in bed as much as possible, and limit moving around. Of course, you can get up to use the restroom, but no extra walking around.”

I guess we are stuck in bed, Ming. Dejection drapes over me like a new blanket. From under this heavy, restrictive cloak, his consoling face contemplates my disheartened eyes.

Bringing the pain pills, a blanket, and a pillow for Jason, Joleen leaves us to rest. Between throbs, I look to my left, the stiffness of my neck preventing over-rotation. Flipping Ming’s arm up and down, a gentle pat, pat pat engages my elbow in playful distraction. Exuding a calm existence, his friendly, dark eyes plead with me,“Everything will be okay. I’m here now. Cuddle me.”  Unclenching my grinding teeth, the adjoining muscles release their hold on my face. As the medication absorbs into my bloodstream, the pressure valves in my temples relent. Ming’s comforting expression and his soft touch lull me to a shallow slumber, and for the first time in nearly 24 hours, I leave behind the hospital, the lavender room, the soft glow of the wall sconces.

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