Read part one The Heartache of Being a Parent

 

The days following her first eye surgery, my sweet little daughter, Trissa, suffered greatly from pain that no medicine could quite alleviate. My wife and I spent many hours holding her and comforting her.

 

As she started to heal, she could sense her vision was improving. When it came time for the second surgery, even though she was only four, she bravely resigned herself to the fact that it was for her benefit. My wife and I had a harder time preparing ourselves for it than she did.

 

Through the whole ordeal, my brother’s family, who lived fairly close to the hospital, always made a place for us to stay when we needed to be down there, and they took care of our children when both my wife and I were at the hospital. Good neighbors took care of chores, brought dinners, watched over our house, and looked for any other way they could help.

 

When we had come home from the first surgery, a good neighbor wanted to do something, and struggled to think of anything we could use. The only thing she could think of was a stuffed bear for Trissa.

 

She found one that was perfect for snuggling. It was just the right size and was stuffed just enough so it had the softness of a pillow. But it had one major flaw. One of the eyes was missing. She tried to find one just like it that had both eyes, but there weren’t any others that were quite the same. She considered getting a different kind of stuffed animal, but kept coming back to the one-eyed bear. Finally, she just decided it had to be the one.

 

As she knocked on our door, she started to have second thoughts. What would Trissa think about a less than perfect stuffed animal. Our neighbor suddenly felt self-conscious and awkward. She considered just saying hi and leaving, and not giving Trissa the bear.

 

We barely heard her timid knock, and when we answered, we invited her in. As she came into the room where Trissa was, what she saw caused her more concern, and she put the bear behind her back. Trissa sat on the couch surrounded by stuffed animals of every kind that had been given to her from loving parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends. They were all new and shiny, not missing any parts.

 

Our good neighbor stammered and struggled with her feelings of inadequacy at what she now considered a broken gift. But she still felt she ought to give it to Trissa, and eventually she held it out. Trissa looked at it through her one eye that wasn’t bandaged. A smile lit her whole face as she caught sight of the empty spot where the bear’s eye should have been. “Oh Momma, Daddy, look, he is just like me.”

 

She hugged him tightly to her chest and started rocking him as she spoke softly the words I had said to her so many times as she was coming out of her anesthesia. “It’s okay. I’m here. I’ll take care of you.”

 

She pointed at the one missing eye. “Look, Daddy. He needs me because I understand what he is going through.”

 

As our neighbor started to apologize that the bear wasn’t perfect, I just smiled. “It looks to me like he is perfect.”

As time went on and Trissa endured further surgeries, all other stuffed animals were soon forgotten, and finally stored away. But Toby, the one-eyed bear, was always there for Trissa to take care of as he also took care of her.

 

And indeed, the imperfect gift ended up being the perfect gift after all. 

Daris Howard, award-winning, syndicated columnist, playwright, and author, can be contacted at [email protected]“>[email protected]; or visit his website