I was online, searching old Amazon orders for a part we’d bought for our 1998 Buick Regal. The car was Mom’s. She’d given it up at 86 after I said her grandsons would be grateful to use it. She’d laughed with delight as Gabe, newly licensed, pulled away from her place in her Buick, heading home to California. It was a good car, but the original parts were wearing out. That’s why I scrolled through my orders, to see which window pulley assembly we’d purchased last time.
As I scrolled, I was struck by all the gifts I’d ordered for delivery to Mom in Kansas. I haven’t lived there for 30 years. When Dad died in 2000, my husband and I were in Connecticut. Mom left the farm for a retirement community the year before Gabe and Miles were born.
Over the ensuing years, Mom lived in a condo, then an independent-living apartment, then an assisted-living apartment. At the start of the pandemic, after she fell, Mom moved into nursing care.
With each move, her life shrank, and my Amazon orders grew.
When I first started ordering from Amazon, Mom was still parenting me, coming to Connecticut to help me with the twins. She’d arrive with gifts for her grandsons and clippings and photos from home for me. And always, Dove dark chocolates for everyone. I bought her Christmas and birthday gifts during those years, but little else.
A few years later, after our family’s move to California, I asked Amazon to keep Mom supplied with Jumbles puzzle books. She sat in her recliner a lot. Later, she took up Amish romance novels and jigsaw puzzles, and I turned to Amazon again. It didn’t seem like enough.
My life was overflowing, but time stretched long for Mom. Though she wouldn’t say it, she was lonely and grieving. Her son Darin, my only sibling, died. Guilt poked me when I thought of Mom sitting alone. I called often, went when I could, and mailed letters. I suggested she come stay with us, but she didn’t like to fly, and she didn’t like California. I started buying her clothing—pajamas and sweatshirts and fuzzy socks.
The gifts were a proxy, offering warmth and comfort in my absence.
I helped her through each move, disposing of furniture and ordering what would help her settle into ever-smaller spaces. Eventually, Alzheimer’s made it impossible to do puzzles or remember what she read. I didn’t know what to do for her anymore, to help her through her endless hours in the waiting room of her tiny world.
In her last year, during the pandemic when I couldn’t visit, we met often by video chat. I was grateful she knew me. But outside of seeing my face, the only thing she wanted now was food. Mom had diabetes. Years before, I’d tried to control her sweet tooth, then I stopped saying no but refused to supply the sugar. Now, I decided that if she wanted sweets—in her late 80s and so clearly done with this physical life—by God, she should have them. Amazon was happy to deliver.
There were orders for Planters Honey Roasted Peanuts and packets of caramel popcorn. There were chocolatey snack bars. I’d ordered Ghirardelli hot cocoa and big bags of Dove dark chocolates. Mom didn’t have much to say to me then, but she always remembered the latest delivery of sweets. We’d baked pies and cinnamon rolls together when I was growing up, side by side in happy silence.
Now, again, sugar became our love language.
I knew I was hastening her approaching transition; Mom was in hospice now. The nurses told me she was snoozing the days away, skipping meals, then waking at night to snack on sweets. We were all fine with it.
As I scrolled through the years of orders—my feeble attempts to show my love, to break up her routine and lift her spirits—my heart ached. But I also felt reassured. Perhaps I hadn’t failed her so badly. Despite being 1500 miles away, I’d been constant, and loved her the best I could. The gifts were only part of the care I’d shown, but here was a record of them.
I was at Mom’s side in her last hours. Since then, my Amazon shipments have decreased. There’s a recent order for socks—wool ones for my son at college in New York. And the car window assemblies, which I found in my scrolling. But maybe I’ll order a bag of Dove dark chocolates and have it shipped to myself for a change.
I’ll share them with my husband and sons. We’ll eat them as Mom did—in one bite, with moans of appreciation. We’ll stuff their creamy goodness into our mouths and remember Mom’s generous laughter, her love, and her sweetness.