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A Gift

By: Grahame Atkins

I could not recall the last time I sincerely said 'I love you' to my wife. After fourteen years of surviving the rolling seas of matrimony the statement seemed superfluous, without any sense or purpose. Our mutual respect and love, that once triggered instant passion and desire, had been covertly replaced by mutual apathy and blind acceptance. Do not ask me when or how, it just slowly happened, and the frequencies of soft whispers and warm hugs dwindled year by year.

We were blessed, and some may say cursed, with two children who, throughout our marriage, innocently conspired to be the epicentre of our world. They did not realise the strength of our devotion to them or our determination to fill their childhood with priceless experiences and memories. They asked for nothing but were given all we could afford while worn out furniture was replaced with not so old worn out furniture, and the corroded family car was simply never replaced. We all witnessed the passing of a time filled with pleasure tinged only with the seemingly obligatory occasional pain.

It was, of course, a major mistake to feed those children. They grew from smiling babes in arms to tall, diet conscious, craving to be adult, teenagers in what seemed merely weeks. The parental smile at innocent remarks or mispronounced words was soon replaced with a scowl as they let slip offensive language collected in the schoolyard and used in their daily communication with friends. The willingness of the child to please was swapped for a mutter and a shoulder shrug when asked a question. But despite their growing independence they were still loved, even when the surprise and joy of the forthcoming Christmas was diluted with a present list around the end of October.

The children's Christmas present list held very few shocks. A new game machine for my son, designer labelled clothes for my daughter. A full meeting of the financial management concluded that 'The List' should be filed under 'hopeful' rather than 'possible' and a 'probable' alternative list was discussed and agreed.

For days after the meeting I was increasingly puzzled as to what to buy my wife for Christmas. Something for the home was a distinct antidote for a happy holiday and the thought of yet another bottle of perfume standing half used on the dresser seemed pitiful. I wanted to buy her a gift that would make her smile and something that would be so very personal and special. By the end of November I was still no nearer my goal.

I not only searched stores, I also searched my heart. By mid December I had realised it was not an object I was seeking but reconciliation. My growing acceptance of the children's eventual adulthood made me question my life values. Before long I knew that I wanted the gift to say the three words that I found so hard to whisper.

Although I have never been a devotee to any God there have been times in my life I have quietly thanked Him for deliverance hoping that a respectful word of gratitude might help convince Him to also smile favourably the next time. This was just such an occasion.

One evening I hid from the reality of the pressures of work and home by surfing the Internet. When I found a site offering ideas for gifts I was awestruck when one seemed to leap from the page. It was perfect apart from costing just a little more then I had planned. The idea was to make someone's dream come true by enjoying a possible 'once in a lifetime' experience. The gift was to allow the bearer one day in a recording studio, irrespective of ability, to record their favourite song or songs. My wife had always loved singing, but never in any arena except the kitchen or the bathroom. It seemed a perfect opportunity to do something that was just for her.

I hid the paperwork within a huge silver star tissue box, which I managed to hang on the tree Christmas morning. After watching the children, somewhat disappointedly, unwrap their presents; I gave her the star. When she found the surprise inside her initial reaction was, of course, pure shock. The shock turned to tears that worried me somewhat, but all was well when she explained how happy she was with the gift.

I booked a hotel for a weekend near the recording studio, and the weeks leading up to the day were full of worried anticipation. It was to be our time together, with no children, and her moments of indulgence in her fantasy.

The weekend was a huge success and she actually cut five of her favourite songs onto a CD that would be forever an inspiration to us our children and hopefully our children's children. Emotions ranged from fear to excitement, but it was worth every penny and every second spent. We were closer together then we had been for years and although those forgotten words were never mentioned, I felt in my pride swollen heart that I still loved her.

The pleasure it gave and the end result of the gift were purely a bonus. The real gift was the ability to open my eyes to what was already there and the opportunity to start to put some thought towards my partner in life. Some pathways are worth walking over once again as you can often see things you missed the first time. Who knows? Now that the clutter of broken bikes and deflated balls has been cleared from our path perhaps we will take more time off just for ourselves and maybe those words will pass through my lips unhindered. Time will tell, and time is the most precious gift of all.

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