My Mother’s Last Doll

Mother's little guy

My mother’s little guy

I’ve written before about my first doll. I’ve written about my mother’s Storybook Bride doll that I could never play with. And I’ve written about the sewing doll that my grandmother and I made clothes for. This post is about my mother’s last doll.

It wasn’t really a doll. It was a knitted humanoid figure stuffed with cotton batting. My mother’s college friend made it for her, along with a matching hat and scarf. She sent these items after my mother moved into assisted living because of her Alzheimer’s Disease.

By that time, Mother wasn’t walking and stayed in the building almost all the time. She only went outside to go to doctor appointments and an occasional wheeling around the premises in good weather. She didn’t need the hat and scarf.

But she kept that stuffed creature with her always. She called it her “little guy.”

“Where’s my little guy?” she asked whenever it wasn’t in her lap.

My father always gave it to her before he wheeled her out to meals. “Here’s your little guy,” he told her.

Many Alzheimer’s patients need a lot of tactile sensation as their more complex cognitive abilities diminish. They rub at their clothes or pick at furniture, or find something to keep their fingers moving. Some adopt dolls or stuffed animals as “loveys”, just as toddlers do.

Before Mother had her little guy, she ran her fingers over the tablecloth at meals and on her trousers when she wasn’t at the table. The soft yarn on the little guy seemed to fill a need. I don’t know if my mother realized that her good friend had knit the doll for her or not.

The two friends met for the last time in Monterey, California, in February 2011. My parents had rented a house in Carmel that month, and I spent a week with them there. While I was there, Mother’s friend, who lives in Sacramento, California, drove down for a visit.

Mother had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s by then. Her abilities had diminished significantly, but she knew her friend well on that visit. We had lunch on Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey, and afterward the friend and I shared a few tears at Mother’s decline. I know it hurt this fifty-plus-year friend of my mother’s to see how much Mother had lost. My mother had been the smart one in their college group, while the friend was more artsy. But she was far more competent than my mother that February afternoon.

It was about two years later that the friend sent Mother the hat, scarf, and doll.

MTH first doll and little guy

Mother’s last doll and my first doll

After my mother died, my father and I packed up most of her clothes to give away. But a few things didn’t find their way into the Goodwill bags. When my father died just six months later, my siblings and I found the knitted little guy, together with the doll I later determined had been my first doll.

I don’t know how these two dolls came to be together. As I wrote in an earlier post, I didn’t even know the origins of the other doll until I saw the picture of my first Christmas.

But somehow it seems fitting that my first doll and my mother’s last doll stayed together. I’ve kept them both. They are still together.

March 4 would have been my mother’s 83rd birthday. I will be thinking of her, and of her friend who knit the little guy.

What “lasts” do you remember about a loved one?

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  1. Thank you for sharing this lovely story of your mother. I’m so sorry you and she had to go through such a rough and heartbreaking illness.

  2. It must stir a lot of emotion to see and ponder those dolls, Theresa. Poignant post about what this “little guy” meant to your mom. It makes me think of the role that memory plays in our lives on many levels, not just with elderly people who have memory loss for one reason or another but our own memories of moments with loved ones. I think now of the last time I held my little dog before he died (October 2015). I can see his face, his eyes, so tired from his efforts to feel better during the last week of his life, and I can feel the warmth of his body as I held him close to me.

    • Carla, Last times are often poignant. Sometimes we don’t know they’re the last time, and only appreciate them later. And sometimes we do know, which makes it all the harder at the moment.
      Thanks for sharing your last moment with your dog.

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