Moms sits at the head of the table which faces the outside through the sliders and to her left is a picture window. It is a fairly wooded backyard with lots of birds. The view outback is beautiful in every season.
“Pretty blue sky”
“Yes, it is”
a minute passes, maybe…
”pretty blue sky today”
Mom will fixate on a word or a phrase, occasionally I can predict what the phrase will be for the day. Her thoughts are elementary these days. Anything slightly complex is too confusing for her, she gets frustrated. The frustration shows in her eyes and it is incredibly difficult to watch. “Eyes are the window to the (soul) heart” they say, it’s true, I swear that I can see her heart through her eyes.
It is hard for us to think in simple terms once complexity becomes our norm. In moms case she no longer has a choice. Her brain just wont let her get to the right stuff.
It still amazes me to think of what she would accomplish in a day or a week and the organization and drive it took for her to do it. The complexity in which she lived, I believe she was happy for the most part. She is one to be admired, life was not at all simple for her, she could made it look that way though.
Kids always keep things simple, for them I believe it is because they don’t know anything else yet. For mom it is because she can no longer manage the complex thoughts. She connects with young children quite easily.
Mom will lean forward in her seat and put her hands out in front of her and wait (patience is one of her older traits), sooner or later someone may arrive to her outstretched hands and when they do her eyes change and they soften.
Paxton held moms hands today and just looked at her for the longest time (I couldn’t take a picture because I was so involved in watching and admiring their simple intensity) and mom was smiling, then all of a sudden Paxton launched herself up on mom and gave her the best hug ever. As I was watching Paxton, (my 2 year old granddaughter) with mom, I realized that their relationship is quite simple , with an overflowing amount of love. Mom truly lights up when my grandchildren (some of her great grandchildren) are around her. She interacts with them on their level. Even when she doesn’t understand what they are saying she is happy with them around. They color, they sing, they chat, they smile and hug. Accepting and uncomplicated love.
Over for an afternoon visit, Timmy, (my 2 1/2 year old grandson) insists on coming outside with me to help get mom off of the day care bus. He will start chattering to her right away, before she even has her foot on the ground, he chatters about, I’m really not sure what its about, but he goes on and on. Once off the bus , mom will acknowledge that he is talking to her.
“you don’t say, well you have a lot to talk about”
as she leans in to me
“What is he saying? I have no idea what he is talking about”
she is smiling the whole time and often reaches for his hand.
Timmy will run in and up the stairs, talking to mom the whole time.
He will wait at the top of the stairs still chattering away as she forces her knees to bend enough to get up the stairs. Timmy connects with mom wholeheartedly and it is obviously special for them both. He points to her chair and takes her cane or gets the other cane in the corner. He will walk around with her cane for a bit, he always returns it to her. Timmy and mom might roll the ball, and chat, they eat cookies, go outside and sometimes watch Mick. (Mickey Mouse) Most days, when he is leaving, he will run over to her and give her the best good bye hug, sometimes he just blows her a kiss. She smiles a big smile (again her eyes soften) and blows a kiss back. Accepting and uncomplicated love.
The kids keep things simple, most adults unconsciously ignore or think they have outgrown the simple.
The kids will do the same thing over and over and over and each time they will find humor, fun and entertainment in that same action. We enjoy watching them.
Paxton: “momma do it again”
Megan: “ready set go”
Megan: “ready, set go”
We have all been part of the repeated actions/sayings of kids and know how cute/funny/sometimes annoying it is. Yet we will continue that repetition for a very long time because it is obviously making them happy.
After a visit to Megan’s, when mom and I were riding home in the car, is when I truly realized the connections with children and old people. The 10 times Paxton wanted Megan to repeat the game actions, and the 27 times mom mentioned the color of the sky are as different as they are similar. Similar because it is what their capabilities happen to be.
“Pretty Blue Sky today”
the traffic starts to pick up the closer I get to Fall River and I focus on my driving
“pretty blue sky, not a cloud in it”
“I know, huh”
my mind wanders and a minute or two passes
“pretty blue sky today”
… I didn’t respond, I just thought. I thought about Paxton “again momma” and I thought I need to acknowledge moms comment, ( commenting on the sky). I halfheartedly converse with her about the sky, (of course) but as unimportant and repetitious as I feel it is, it is probably the most uncomplicated topic for us to share and for her to think about as we travel back home. I don’t need complicated conversation that minute. Mom and I can no longer converse with any complexity. Just hearing a loved ones voice can be reassuring and comforting.
Frustrating, it is, to try to vary a response to her repetition and do I even need to?
We are willing to play and repeat the same game or song or activity over and over again with a 2 year old, while we smile and giggle with them. Yet we will become frustrated when it is an 89 1/2 year old that repeats the same few words, sayings or ideas over and over again. Why would our expectations be greater for someone who is no longer capable of the same cognitive function as they once were? This cognitive deterioration is the realization that the conversation needs to adapt to the individual going through the process. Just as we adapt to the 2 year old. The frustration, at least for me, is sadness for the loss that I already feel.
“Pretty blue sky today”
“It really has a variety of blue shades and as you look straight out it is white, did you notice that mom”
“I do now, and the clouds are gray on the bottom”
“funny, that the sun is shining at the same time as gray clouds are here”
“maybe it will rain later”
then we were quiet
The innocent qualities of children are very similar in some ways and drastically opposite in other ways to an adult with dementia/Alzheimer’s. The appreciation for the simpler things leave our minds for what we perceive as more important things and we really don’t ever welcome simple thoughts back.
Until a circumstance jolts you back.
We arrive home and saunter our way into the house. Mom shakes her coat off into my hands and shuffles to her chair.
It is hard to describe moms cognitive state. How does her brain decide what stays and what goes? Does she have any idea how much she doesn’t remember? Is what she remembers associated with an event? Does she remember what she has been through? What does she remember about each relationship she has made over the years?
I think of the relationships that she has had with so many others over the years and wonder how each of them influenced who she is. Probably early year, I would guess.
Mom was my first female role model and she had quite and impact on me. She was strong and energetic. She was relatively even tempered and happy. Loyal and loving to her family and friends. Her attitude, its just crazy, when the chips were down (and that’s an understatement) she picked up the chips and stepped forward. One step at a time, but she did it. Mom is either modest or naive because she is so unaware of her inner strength. She was caring and kind; she never (ok, rarely) had a bad word to say about anybody. Fun, funny and often times quite witty, she always enjoyed a good laugh. Her glass was usually half full.
We lived together the first 17 years of my life. As I matured, and my relationship with Mom evolved, we were not only mother and daughter but also “friends” and eventually “best friends “. I know a lot of mothers and daughters develop this kind of amazing friendship, and I hope it is as strong as ours. Living together for the past 32 years has allowed us to strengthen and create this amazing bond, I’ll call “best friends”.
The 4 of us
You know what though, I really need to describe the relationship, “best friends” with a few words and examples;
its unconditional; nothing that either of you will do could possibly change how one feels about the other. Is it because we are mother and daughter or is it that we have been part of each other’s lives for all of my life (61 years)?
you have a trusted confidant; the ability to confide in another individual with the reassurance there is no judgement. My confidant, will still listen and she will show her concern with an expression or a knowing nod, (even when she doesn’t understand) but she no longer gives an opinion and I crave it.
ongoing respect/admiration/trust; thinking so much of each other for what they have achieved because of who they are. Our respect/admiration for each other is mutual, even now as she struggles to maintain her dignity while her mind and body try to let her down, I have to admire how she is handling aging and old age. She trusts me completely and I know that. I want others to know and admire her for who she has been and respect who she is.
supportive; emotionally, financially, physically, whatever the other needs, always. The support that mom needs these days goes far beyond what I had imagined she may need. (emotionally) I see her looking at me and I smile at her, I think she needs assurance that all is good. I always kiss her goodbye and goodnight, letting her know I am here. (physically) I will hold her hand as she walks and pick her up when she falls, I’ll hook her bra, comb her hair, put her socks on her feet, cut her toenails and change the battery in her hearing aid. (financially) She is now my dependent, financially and more.
fun loving; sharing time and enjoying the companydoing what you enjoy. (Ex.staying up late to play Nintendo , getting peanut buster parfaits after the kids go to bed, spontaneously going to visit Paul and Bernie) We are still having fun and taking our adventures as circumstances will allow. Sadly though I seldom see that look on her face or the sparkle in her eye that was there when she was having fun.
sharing; thoughts, emotions, tangible things, experiences, time. We have shared everything. She seldom shares her deep thoughts with me now, but we share quiet snip-its of conversation and lots of time sitting together, sometimes we walk out back. We share a touch, holding hands, a ride in the car and a look. We can still share many experiences, it is just on a completely different level these days. Sharing has a different value to me now, and time has become the most important part of our sharing. It just doesn’t matter what we do.
giggle buddy; sharing a similar sense of humor, that you can giggle about the same silly things, giggle till you cry, and as mom would say “tinkle a little” kind of giggle. Although it is not as frequent as it once was, I still find that on a rare occasion I have my giggle buddy.
Don’t think for one minute everything was always rosy, I mean we can not exclude the fact that we also have had many differences and disagreements. That is all part of a relationship. Also, did I mention we are both a little stubborn. Even through our differences our friendship never wavered.
I just wish I knew if she misses the same things that I do (how can she miss something if she can’t remember, but does she remember, is it in there somewhere?) There are moments when we look at each other – and for a second it is a familiar, however brief, look – but my heart catches for a minute, wishing it would last longer, but then it’s gone.
Katie and I took mom to have our nails done. (this is an adventure/an experience for us) It was a nice pampering, and it was different, we don’t always pamper ourselves and rarely get manicures. It was an afternoon event really. (it was another thing we could share, with little physical effort on her part, she poops our quickly) We even stopped for lunch, (soup at Panera).
When we arrived home (about dinner time, mom eats by the clock) Bob asked to see our nails and we both modeled our newly manicured hands for him .
” nice, very nice and did you ladies have a good time?”
without missing a beat, and in her old witty way….
” oh yes, we did, but I thought you’d have dinner on the table by now?”
the comment took us all by surprise and we burst into laughter ( my giggle buddy).
In my mind I said “there she is, that was her,” for that moment, she had returned. I wanted to cry along with the laughing. I miss her sense of humor.
It was fun, even if it was just for the moment. That was three weeks ago.
“I can’t believe how long this manicure is lasting”
“I know , huh, your nails still look great mom”
Sometimes she seems to be so aware , alert and participatory for a couple of minutes, hours and even once in a while a few days. Then for whatever reason she retreats once again. The times between the old mom returning is becoming shorter lived and further apart,
So where does our relationship go from here? Does our relationship have the same value to her now (since she doesn’t remember everything) as it once did?
For me, there is more value to our relationship now than there ever was. It really has become about the moments.
I peek into the living room and there she is, fast asleep in her chair. It is what she does most of the time now.
Unless I keep her out of the chair and busy. ( and by busy I mean coloring, or talking on the phone, sitting on the deck, having a cup of tea, her word searches have even become too much for her) Even then it only lasts for a short while and she will be right back to “her spot” and asleep shortly after she arrives there.
Before she started going to day care, she slept a lot and I was concerned about the amount of sleep and lack of stimulation. I wanted her to be doing more, even just swiffer the floor or dusting the furniture. I wanted her to be like she use to be. I wanted so badly to be able to” fix her”.
When she first started going to day care, she would come home exhausted and that was good, after all she was having a full day. That was the point, keep her busy and active and interactive. Make her days more meaningful.
Mom is up early during the week, about 6 usually, she has always had an internal clock and there were times I didn’t have to wake her, lately, though, that seems to be changing. She routinely gets picked up by 7 – ish or so by the day care bus. I have a calendar of events that gets sent home so I know it can often times be a busy day. (guest students come in, or they play games, listen to music, sittercise, and now she even gets her showers there) I love that, it is all so important. I have to be away at work so it is our a perfect arrangement right now. She arrives home at about 3:30 ish. I meet her at the bus to walk her in the house.
“how was your day?”
“oh good, uneventful, really?”
She climbs up the stairs, at least it appears to me that it must feel like a climb to her, a long climb. There are 6 steps (split entry) for her to climb at the end of her day. I’m sure she longs for that spring in her step now. I always walk behind her and sometimes give her butt a little push to help hoist her through that final step.
The dogs are anxiously prancing around for mom to come in and up the stairs, excitedly wagging their tails waiting for the attention and the affection she will show them once she makes it to the top of the stairs.
“hi babies, wait till nana gets in and Ill pet you”
“did you miss nana today?, I missed you too”
As soon as she is at the top of the stairs – we take her coat off and I hang it up, she will shuffle over to her chair, it’s “her spot” (we all remember that relative, and that is how you will always remember them, in their particular spot) . Unavoidably she will groan.
“whats the matter mom?
“oh nothing, my knees don’t want to work.”
shuffling to her chair
“I’ve been sitting all day but I can’t wait to sit”
“thats ok, go ahead and sit”
It really is only a matter of minutes and she will nestle in and pull the afghan (that she made, and it’s beautiful) up over her. She taps the arm of the chair inviting Rookie (the small dog) to join her. More times than not Rookie does and they nap together for a while before dinner.
After her full day, it is an earned nap time.
Poor mom. I can’t help but think that she must be making up for all of those hours of lost sleep from her younger days. First with dad, on occasion they had late nights, then kids, and no one sleeps with young kids, or even during their teenage years. Mom will tell the story about the time dads mom (grandma King) was staying with them for a short while after they were first married and one night when mom and dad arrived home in the wee hours of the morning, grandma King was waiting up and spoke “rather harshly” to mom about “keeping daddy out so late”. Quite funny now, but mom was quite upset, as you can imagine, a new young bride, at the time.
I love the weekends for the simple reason that there is no reason to rush up and out. We can take a leisurely approach to morning.
Most weekends now I will inevitably have to check on moms breathing at least once in the morning. How in the world does she know she can sleep in? (She doesn’t remember what she had for lunch, or even 5 minutes ago – I will never grasp, how, in her sleep, she knows it is the weekend ) Many times she has slept until 10 and that has never been her thing.
“I can’t believe I slept so late”
“I can’t believe you did either, but its okay, its the weekend”
After the normal morning rituals , medicine. coffee and breakfast , Mom will make her way to “her chair”. In the cooler months this is where she is camped for the day, in and out of sleep. In the nice weather I will be sure to get her outside for a while and she usually will find her comfy chair and nap out there too. If here is activity she will “watch and nod” all through it.
She also sleeps anywhere. She has even fallen asleep making gravy a couple of years back. We thought that was funny, because it was unusual.
Rehearsal dinner for Katie and Tims wedding, and some of her loving grandchildren, once again found this to be entertaining.
Who falls alseep during the super bowl?
Sometimes she is just in a zone, almost nodding off and sometimes she is out cold.
Either way and anywhere, she is where we are.
Usually when she falls asleep, she is sitting up and she is leaning her head back so her hair gets matted and sticks up all over and it is so thin. Sometimes I see her in the mirror trying to comb her very thinning hair over her exposed head. I have tried helping by curling her hair, or using special combs to add volume. I have even tried stylish hats.
“I’m not a hat person”
There once was a day when she could whip her hair into a beautiful french twist, throw in a few bobby pins and she looked fantastic. Her hair was thick and darkish. She was always quite meticulous about her appearance.
She can no longer make the effort to see the back of her head. You know how new babies have that bald spot when they are tiny, due to the laying on it, that is the comparison I have.
I try to be sure that when we are going out in public that she looks and feels put together.
Mom is such a beautiful person inside and out.
She is just tired.
Our bodies get tired as we age. All of our parts have been doing what they are suppose to do for , in her case about 90 years.
………….and have served her well.
Our routine after dinner is pretty close to the same every night; mom will look at the clock and try to wait a bit before going to bed.
“I suppose it is silly to go to bed now when it isn’t even 8 o’clock, but I’m tired”
“mom just go to bed if you are tired, you’ll be more comfortable”
“I think I will, I’ll probably read for a bit”
We say our good nights and off she will go.
She doesn’t read.
My bedtime routine has evolved to include a few new things. I will quietly walk into moms room and check her hearing aid, to be sure it is open (saves the battery) then I walk over to her and take off her glasses. Sometimes she will giggle a little.
“I didn’t read much”
“Its okay, mom, I love you, sleep well”
and I kiss her head
“love you too”
she snuggles in under her covers and I turn out her light.
The quality of moms life changed with this approval
We started planning mom’s 80th birthday party a year in advance because we all wanted to be able to make it for this milestone event. We are all so spread out across the country so we knew this was going to need some serious coordinating.
The five of us talked back and forth until we decided on the exact date and then we had to be sure we could all get the time off from work.
“Deb, did you hear what I said”?
“Well I’m outside now talking to you because Mom got her hearing aids and I can’t talk in front of her anymore. so, no I didn’t what did you say? ”
“We booked our flight”!
“I can’t believe this is all coming together and she suspects nothing!”
Mom had her new hearing aids for her 80th birthday birthday party and it was fantastic. The 5 of us and most of our families were together for our three day party.
Mom loved it. She was so happy. When she is around her family she is always so happy. I was so happy that she was able to have the hearing aids before her party.
Acquiring hearing aids for mom was a costly event the first time around – they were over $6000.00.
The bigger battle, however, was convincing her that she needed them. Then convincing her to wear them. Have I mentioned she can be a little on the stubborn side.
“Mom, do you want a chicken for dinner?”
“Do you want chicken?”
“I didn’t understand you,stop mumbling”
A little louder
“DO YOU WANT CHICKEN FOR DINNER?”
“ sure, how are you thinking you will cook it?”
This was how most of our conversations were going for a long time. We got that card in the mail that most people get that says something about hearing loss and a free exam and blah blah blah. I’ve always pretty much ignored those ads.
I started reading about hearing loss and how normal it was for people in their 70’s to lose their hearing. I came across a few articles talking about hearing loss and cognitive function. Read that article , because after I did, I called and made her initial appointment for the free hearing exam.
She did not want to go for the exam and she did not want to have hearing aids and she certainly did not want to pay for them. I can be pretty persuasive with mom, and I felt I needed to be. The fear of her losing her cognitive abilities was a big deal. She had already started with repeating herself and forgetting things, and of course we attributed that to “old age”.
Long story short, she got her hearing aids, and wore them. For a few years it was great, she participated more in conversations and seemed to be back to herself. (even though I didn’t realize there was a problem with her not being her normal self until after she got the hearing aids. I think she was slightly depressed) She was in her late 70’s when this all took place. Hearing aids need adjustments to keep up with the continued loss of hearing and after a while (4 years for mom) they can no longer be adjusted and you will need new hearing aids.
For some awful reason which I cannot fathom, most insurance companies do not cover hearing aids. With all of the evidence about the quality of life this is completely unfair. We did not have another $8000.00 (cost increased of course) .
She went without.
It was awful and I mean it, her hearing was worse than ever and she had lost one of the “not working so good” hearing aids so now she had only one and that barely helped.
I had been trying to get moms insurance changed because I began to realize just how bad her insurance was. This process of changing her insurance and trying to find someone to help was PAINSTAKINGLY LONG AND TEDIOUS.
Elder Services was moms saving grace. Mine too. I’ll tell you, once you find the right people to help, life gets so much better. Still took a long time but they told me what I needed for documentation and how to get it to the right people and what was going to happen. Mom needed to be approved for the program Navi Care afer she went through the Mass Health approval process.To be approved for Navi Care insurance she basically had to prove that she had no assets, no hidden money, property or stocks, etc. She had to prove she was poor. She doesn’t know she is considered financially poor and I would never tell her. She was approved, of course.
The quality of moms life changed with this approval. We had caseworkers and nurses calling to check on mom and they came to the house and got her a walker, a bench for the tub, physical therapy and any thing she could possibly need. They sat with us to see what her needs were and then they made sure these needs were met.
This is how we could afford her daycare and her new hearing aids!
Not top of the line hearing aids but they worked. They even sent her home with batteries and wax guards. I was so grateful, it made a world of difference her moms daily life.
I know when it is time to change the batteries, or when she isn’t wearing them.
“Mom, would you like a cup of tea with me?”
“What did you say about me having to pee?”
“Do you have your hearing aids in?”
She reaches up to touch her ear
“Oh I guess not?”
“Do you have your hearing aids in?”
She reaches up to touch her ear
That is how I know it is time to change the battery. Or when she isn’t laughing at Bob and I while we banter back and forth, because we are funny, and she is usually amused. So when she isn’t laughing it is time to change her batteries
Sadly mom has lost a hearing aid, the right ear, twice now, and they only replace it once, so she only has the one hearing aid now. her left. It is still good though and she does hear much better with that one than without any, but occasionally she will misunderstand what is said.
Recently, I had a few friends over for an afternoon “tea” (wine) and mom often times joins us for a while.
This particular visit we were all sitting around the table snacking and talking about our new year’s resolution diets, as we do every year. You too, right?
“On fridays we all meet at the gym and get weighed and workout together”
“You get laid at the gym?”
We all burst out laughing and I knew she needed new batteries then for sure!
Mom may be considered financially poor but I hope she feels the riches in her life.
I feel guilty about this conversation, it takes place at least once a day, while I am making dinner. There are times when I will find something for her to do. I know she needs to be included in everyday tasks, she needs to feel useful. It is just that she is so limited as to what she can actually do these days.
I know I have mentioned this before, that mom was always very busy, what choice did she have in the 50’s with five kids, and a husband, right? She was non stop, the house was always clean, the kids were mostly clean, the laundry always done, groceries always shopped, meals always ready, and everyone was usually happy – all her doing. We were all blindly dependent on mom, for everything. For the most part I believe she was happy about it.
What a great feeling it is to be needed, not only needed but also able to provide for those needs, that’s rewarding. However it can create dependence.
I will often give mom a task. Here is the problem, there are times when it is work to come up with a task for her. She is weak and she is unsteady and she is slow.
“can you help me husk the corn mom?”
“oh I suppose I can do that”
She is so weak now that it is hard for her to actually get those husks off of the corn, but she plugs away, peeling one leaf at a time. When I could have had all 8 ears peeled in the time it takes for her to peel one. She is helping and contributing, that is important. She needs feel needed and useful. Eventually I will help her.
I typically have my list of Saturday chores.
“Is there anything you’d like me to do?”
“can you swiffer the floors?”
her typical response
“I suppose I can do that”
Can she do it? No, she really cant do it easily at all. Its an ordeal. She is so unsteady now that she has to use her cane in one hand and swiffer in the other then I feel guilty for doing it. I have to tell myself that its okay if its difficult, at least she is doing something useful. Now I watch her to make sure she is doing okay with it.
Trying to give her a bit of independence is getting almost impossible.
As always timing is everything, and if she doesn’t swiffer right away, she will simply not do it, I’m not sure if she thinks she already did it or just forgot about it altogether, I silently question. Then I swiffer the floors.
There are times when the conversation is a little different,
“is there anything you’d like me to do?”
“sure, do you want to dust the living room?”
I believe my problem was in the asking
“no. I really don’t”
And she doesn’t. So how do you respond to your mother when she asks what she can do, and then she picks and chooses what that will be. I chuckle. Then I dust.
For her to dust the living room requires such great effort. For her to walk up the stairs, requires a great effort. Husking corn is a lot of effort. Putting her coat on is an effort.
She has had a task here and there that I would just leave for her to do. She use to be able to stack the kindling when she was able to walk around the yard with more stability, but that has become too difficult as well. I could easily just spray the grass that grows up between the bricks in the patio with vinegar and it would die and we would be done with it, but it is a great job for mom. Every once in a while she will notice the grass growing up between the bricks…
“I guess I better stop slacking with my weed pulling”
She will sit in a chair and bend over and pull grass for a long time. We always make sure to comment on how nice the patio looks . She feels useful.
It was not that long ago, she would do all of these little things with ease, cleaning the kitchen. Helping with the wedding favors for Megan and Robs wedding.
tying wedding favors
I pick out moms clothes every morning, I lay them out on her bed and put the clothes from the previous day in the laundry basket. We don’t talk about it, I just do it. I started doing this because she would wear the same clothes for as many days until I pick something else out.
6:15 in the morning, getting ready for work
“Debbie, are you busy? Can you come help me for a minute?”
“will you help me with these stupid socks, I don’t know why I cant get them on my feet.”
again, 6:15 in the morning, getting ready for work
“Debbie, are you busy? Can you come help me for a minute?”
“will you help me with this stupid sweater, I don’t know why I cant get my arm in the right spot.”
So often I feel sad for this conversation, but it takes place more frequently these days. There are times when I will find an excuse to just go in and help her without her asking, I don’t want her to feel she has to ask, so I try to be available. I don’t want her to feel useless. We can have a little morning chatter while we dress her.
recently, 6:15 in the morning, getting ready for work
“Debbie, are you busy? Can you come help me for a minute?”
poor mom sitting on the edge of her bed unable to hook her bra, she looked beat, no words were spoken until she was dressed.
We both know. We shared a halfhearted grin.
(I said this earlier…..What a great feeling it is to be needed, not only needed but also able to provide for those needs, it’s rewarding. It creates dependence. She is very dependent, but it is not reward that I am feeling)
lately each of our conversations are ending the same way……
“thank you dear, what would I do without you”
she sounds so tired
“your welcome mom and I’m glad we don’t need to worry about that”
With 5 kids in our house growing up, Christmas was always an exciting event. It is one of those holidays that needs to evolve as families evolve. We usually stayed home on Christmas morning and went to my aunt and uncles house for Christmas dinner. There were times when Uncle Hap played Santa and came to the house.
Sometimes though Aunt Julia and Uncle Harry and Aunt Bea would come to our house, either way it was always so much fun and quite exciting, with the anticipation of Santa’s arrival. Mom listened and observed each of us so well and “Santa” always brought exactly what we needed and wanted. Mom often talks about the year the kids all got up at 3 am and had everything opened before her and dad got up. The year of the toboggan was one of the best and as always a family gift.
That is mom and dad in the midst of all of this tobogganing fun.
We often got those kinds of gifts, family gifts, for us to enjoy together, best gifts ever really and I would say the closest thing to buying time.
Lots of years of lots of food and lots of fun and lots of love.
I would never have changed any moment of my childhood… until August 31, 1969.
That was the day that Mom suddenly lost Dad.
Five kids lost their dad that day too and it was the worst day of all of our lives. What mom lost was far different than what any of the rest of us experienced that day and beyond. She never really expressed what she felt, there were moments of expressing her sadness but that was it.
“I just wish I had been able to have more time with him.”
This quote of hers will always stay with me – simple and heartfelt.
Hard for me to jump right back into the holiday talk but I’m going to. After you lose someone you love , it seems that the first of everything after they are gone is the hardest to try to adjust to. The first birthday, anniversary, Thanksgiving, the first Christmas, etc.
Well the first Christmas after Dad passed away I can not even begin to imagine what mom was going through and you know what, I don’t think that I thought about what she was going through either. Bruce and Barbara wanted to have something special for a family gift (mom told me this , years later) so they got the pool table that year. That is how we learned to play pool. Things evolved, rapidly after that year, as they do, as families change.
Aunt Julia and Uncle Harry and Aunt Bea would still join us but that gap was evident, a missing puzzle piece, a black hole.
The gatherings got smaller each year as someone would move out and share the holidays with their significant others and families. Eventually Aunt Julia and Uncle Harry moved to Florida and Aunt Bea passed away. All of that is a normal evolution of the holidays for all families. When we all had our own kids and we were scattered about the country we did different things but always thought of each other and we all tried to find time to talk to each other on Christmas eve or Christmas day.
Mom and I always spent Christmas together wherever I was, I was the one that was always closest in mileage. There were some inconsistent years for a while, say 20, but whoever was around we would get together sharing food and exchanging gifts. Some years we were a large group and some years a little smaller.
Gift giving evolved too, and just like most families we eventually decided to cut back on the gift giving and buy for only our own kids and mom of course.
Our newer traditions also evolved; Christmas eve we would have a big dinner at home joined by Barbaras family, then we would all go to church, and then back to Barbara and Michael’s for dessert and gifts. The gift giving evolution was really fun as the kids got older. We tried it all, drew names, yankee swap, family gifts, my personal favorite, “if I could get you” gifts. It was so much fun just being together and as we all know it really has never been about the gifts.
Mom loves time with family, any and all of them/us. For years at Christmas, mom would get everyone who lived close enough, a gift certificate to a local restaurant with the understanding that we would all go together. That was her way of getting more of that time together. That too has evolved.
How about what to get mom for a gift now.? Everyone has been a little creative, Bruce usually would send her a pretty floral arrangement and moms loves that. One year Katie and Tim sent her a “cookie of the month” gift. Mom and I have always done our stockings for each other, it’s been fun. I get baffled now and then, I hate to waste money just for the sake of getting her a gift, however I always put panties in her stocking.
“oh and they are pretty too” .
I had gotten her panties with lace around the top. Yes even at 89 she still loves to feel pretty and the feeling of looking nice. So it is the feeling and not necessarily the lace on the panties or even a gift for that matter.
She really only needs time, family gifts of time together, that is what creates the feeling. The boys always call – she may not recollect any part of the conversation but she absolutely remembers that they call.
She can not crochet a dishcloth this year, she wont be making peanut butter balls, she wont fall asleep making gravy this year, and we wont be getting together at a restaurant this year, but she will happily spend time with you. She will chat with you on the phone or she will sit and watch the little kids play or the bigger kids gather together and be goofy. Although she doesn’t eat much at all, she loves to see the feast, and she always looks for the sweets. Baileys Irish Cream, we can not forget her Baileys.
Her gift to us, is time.
Mom always just goes with the flow, she always has, and even though she has a tough time remembering what is going on, she remembers how she feels in situations. The feeling she gets from being with and hearing from family is the best gift, and for her and dad it always had been too, it exudes from her face, her smile and her whole demeanor brightens.
We sat and colored Christmas pictures the other day. I thought I should have been doing laundry or dusting or a thousand other household chores, but then I remembered the gift of time and Moms quote.
“I just wish I had been able to have more time with him.”
How have I let time go by and how did I get so caught up in other things that I could neglect the time, our time. That gift does not have to be on Christmas day or Christmas eve and it doesn’t need to be in the form of an actual gift.
Our time together is often quiet these days, but it is somehow quite comforting to have someone that you love just be near.
“what can I get you for Christmas? ”
“oh geez, mom, I don’t know, I really don’t need anything, how about we start a new tradition?’