So this is Christmas…baby Sweet Cheeks, in all her red-headed glory, stares in awe at the sight of her first Christmas tree. Taken by her mother, Nicole, doesn’t this photo capture to wonder of Christmas as seen through the eyes of a child?
Nicole (my niece) transformed this photo of her daughter (my great-niece) into her annual Christmas card in Shutterfly. Nicole and baby Sweet Cheeks live in a neighboring state, so I don’t see them often. So, receiving this adorable card in the mail brought a smile to my face and filled my heart with the Christmas spirit.
You see, it’s been challenging this year to find my Christmas spirit; almost downright impossible.
Since October, my 84-year-old mother’s health has declined to the point that she is now under hospice care. Her remaining days with us are undefined, so I’ve faced the prospect that this may be the first Christmas without her. I’ve moved her to another, better, care facility and she has rallied a little, giving me hope. But, this is the first year in many, many years, that my mother will not be “home” for Christmas.
In my twenties, my parents went to Mexico for Christmas without us, their children. Now that I’m around the age they were when they did this “to us”, I understand. We were young adults, with active lives full of spouses or significant others and felt the pressure to split holiday time with our partners’ families. Suddenly, my parents had to “share” us and they rebelled by going on a fabulous vacation without us.
The Universe took care of them ever considering that option again! The resort had great difficulty keeping staff on-hand on Christmas Day and it took my parents 5 hours, sitting in the resort’s restaurant, to get their Christmas dinner! That was the one and only time they had Christmas without us, except last year. Last year was the first year without my father, who passed away in January 2013.
So, now here we are…this Christmas.
My mother is not physically strong enough to leave her facility. I tried that, bringing her to my house, at Thanksgiving and it was an abysmal failure. She was sick the entire time and didn’t eat a bite resting her head in her hands, her arms propped on the arms of her wheelchair. When I would ask her what was wrong, what I could do to help her, she replied in her usual fashion, “I’m fine.”
Clearly, she was not “fine.” In caring for her on Thanksgiving Day, I realized it is not about me…me wanting her at my home with family for our traditional celebration; my selfishness in wanting our traditions to be the same year-after-year. Because by wanting things to remain the same, as they were, places unrealistic pressure on my mother to be “fine.”
John Lennon’s song, “So This Is Christmas”, keeps running through my head…
So this is Christmas
And what have you done?
Another year over
And a new one just begun.
And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young.
I’ve told each of my family, near and far, that I’m not bringing Mom, Grandma, Grammie, home to my house for Christmas. She just can’t physically manage it. It is no longer about us, about what we want. Our focus needs to shift to what she needs.
So, I’ve asked each of them to visit her and bring Christmas to her. The first to do so were Tiffany and the Princesses P (Princess Sweetie Pie on the left; Princess P on the right). Tiffany sent me these photos from her phone as they visited and told me that they were reading Christmas stories to Grammie and singing Christmas carols to her. They brought her colored pages torn from coloring books, too…their frankincense, gold and myrrh offerings to their beloved Grammie Jo.
Tempted by a juggle gym in the backyard, the girls took a few moments to play in the yard outside their great-grandmother’s bedroom window, to the delight of my mother. As the hours flew by and the day progressed, my mother, filled with the joy and love that only young ones can do for us, to us, rallied enough to get up from bed. Caregivers transferred her to her wheelchair and wheeled her into the dining room.
Now dark outside, sharing a dinner of cheese quesadillas, the Princesses filled the residential care facility with youthful exuberance and unbridled sunshine not fully grasping the significance of what they had done, just by being there with her, for her, in the moment. These precious angels surprised her with a day filled with joy, laughter, songs and love.
So this is Christmas
For the weak and the strong
For the rich ones and the poor ones
The world is so wrong.
A girlfriend told me the other day that it took her 10 years to stop mourning the loss of her mother. Tragically, she lost her mother at a much younger age than mine is today. While she hasn’t “recovered” from that significant loss, what she meant is that it took her 10 years to no longer cry when she thought about her mother or when holidays rolled around and she missed her. Her sharing this with me gave me a sense of peace – an understanding that the grieving process is different for everyone and there is no timeline to grief and loss. Thank you, Teresa.
So, as has happened to families throughout time – as families move apart, grow apart, or lose family members to death – our family has transitioned from our old family traditions to new ones not yet fully formed, fully realized, fully grasped, fully understood.
And, my heart aches…
Until Next Time,
(other posts about elder care)
- The Gift
- The Best of the Rest of Your Life
- Open Hands
- You Be Bitches
- Both Sides of Clouds
- Requiem for My Father
- Pictures at an Exhibition
- Murphy’s Law
- A Gifted Man
- Many a Winding Turn