My grandmother is 78, and has the early stages of dementia. She is still living independently though with some help from her daughters (my mother and aunt.) She can become very fixated on certain things and very remiss in other areas.
Tonight was my 30th birthday. My family and I went out for dinner, and my grandmother gave me a hand-knitted rug as a gift. It’s not the sort of thing I’m wild about, but I was touched that she gave me a gift at all, since I really hadn’t expected her to.
Halfway through the dinner I heard from my somewhat-amused mother that Nan had actually given me “[Aunt's] blanket.”
As we prepared to leave the restaurant, my Aunt drew me aside and said, “I hope this doesn’t make you feel bad, but Nan actually gave you my blanket, so I’ll be taking it back.”
I smiled and said I’d sort it out with her when Nan wasn’t around.
On the way home with just my parents and myself, I heard the full story: Nan had suddenly panicked at not having anything to gift me for my birthday and wrapped a blanket that she had knitted years ago for Aunt’s children, and which she had borrowed back from Aunt about a year ago for the pattern. Clearly, Nan simply forgot that the blanket had already been given to Aunt and thought it was hers to give.
I really do appreciate the effort that Nan went to to give me something to unwrap, especially given her poor mental state right now, so the actual blanket is irrelevant. What I’m curious about is this: was Aunt rude to tell me that she’ll be “taking back” something that had been given to me an hour before as a gift?
Aunt was not in earshot when my mother initially commented on how I’d been given her blanket, so as far as I can tell, this was the first she thought I’d heard of the issue.
For the record, my grandmother is, and has been, an avid knitter and crocheter and has more blankets and other knitted things than would be needed for an entire orphanage, so her handiwork is not in short supply. I was just a bit taken aback that my aunt would approach the issue in that way, especially in public, at my birthday party.
I have left the blanket at my parent’s house, as my Aunt and I don’t see each other particularly often, and if Aunt would like her blanket back, she can have it. I just hope she hasn’t tried to explain things to my grandmother, as I know she wouldn’t understand and would be hurt- she would see this as me rejecting her gift.
What’s the correct etiquette in this situation? 0602-12
Look at this way, you were given something that your Nan did not own and had no right to give to another. But in cases of mental impairment, we extend extraordinary grace to overlook the “oops” and make things right discreetly later. Your aunt could have waited until later to mention it or spoken to your mother to please find a way to get her blanket back to her. But the urgency in needing to tell you right away suggests to me that she had a strong attachment to the blanket and wanted to make sure it came to no harm, particularly if she sensed you were not “wild” about it when you opened it.
This is one of those situations where I’d appreciate Nan’s thoughts in wanting to gift you something but return the blanket to its original owner without further ado. In the grand scheme of life, this is mere pebble in the road. Move on.