In a couple of months it will be Mother's Day. Even in today's economy, you can count on the fact that restaurants will be jammed with women in every age range being wined and dined by their families, and flower shops and greeting card stores will do big business.
And I will remember, as I always do when that date rolls around, the most priceless Mother's Day present I ever received.
It was the Mother's Day that our daughter, Kaitlyn, was twelve, and she announced at breakfast that she had a very special gift for me.
"I've neglected you lately," she said solemnly. "I've been so busy that I haven't scheduled enough time for you. To make up for that, I'm going to spend the whole day with you." She smiled at my look of bewilderment. "That's your present, Mother! I'm going to spend every minute of this entire day with you. What shall we do first?"
"That sounds wonderful, honey," I responded in amusement, "but I'm afraid I have work to do." I was running behind on an article assignment and had expected to devote the day to getting it finished.
"That's all right," Kait said agreeably. "I'll entertain you while you write. Then we can go out to lunch and to a movie and then we can go someplace expensive to shop for a blouse or something. You're much too old to buy all your clothes at K-Mart."
The idea of trying to write with a chattering parakeet perched next to me was inconceivable, so I reluctantly put my assignment on hold and went out to "do the town" with Kait. We had lunch at the Chic-Fil-A (Kait's favorite eatery); saw a movie with Nicholas Cage (Kait's favorite actor); and ended up buying me a blouse (in Kait's favorite colors) at a moderately expensive department store. Since Kait had forgotten to bring money, I picked up the tab.
"Did you like your present?" she chirped as we walked hand-in-hand to the parking lot. "Wasn't it special to get to spend so much time with me?"
"It certainly was," I told her, trying not to dwell upon the fact that I would have to work half the night to get the article finished so I could FAX it to my editor in the morning.
Six years later, in 1989, Kaitlyn Arquette was chased down in her car and shot to death in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Kait's murder has never been solved, and police have lost all interest in it. The bright face with the mischievous smile and the misplaced dimple exists only in scrapbooks, on Internet pages, on the jacket of Who Killed My Daughter?, and in occasional reruns of syndicated segments of "Unsolved Mysteries."
Oh, dear God, if only I could have that day back again! The laughter; the silliness; the taste of those greasy lumps of chicken; the two hours squandered at a movie that I had no real interest in seeing; the shirt that spent more time on Kait's back than it ever did on mine. Whatever happened to that orange and yellow blouse? Why didn't I cherish it, sleep with it under my pillow or, at the very least, wear it to the funeral?
Did you like your present?
I whirl to see who is in the room with me, but I am alone at my computer, diligently meeting a deadline.
The voice was only in my head, but I answer it anyway.
"It was a wonderful present," I whisper. "It was the most wonderful present in the world -- the chance to spend a whole day with you."
Causes Lois Duncan Supports
Operation Smile and Hospice