Friday, January 4, 2013

Blue Christmas

Christmas is finally over.

Ordinarily, I love every single moment of the Christmas season. It is my favorite season of the entire year and I anticipate it for months in advance. I relish in choosing the perfect gifts for each person, in going to the Christmas parties and hearing the joyful sounds of Christmas carols.

This year, I was just wasn't feeling that Christmas spirit. We had some nice moments and carried on our family traditions of building Gingerbread houses and Christmas cookies, visiting Santa, going downtown to see the lights, reading scriptures on the birth of Jesus. We did Christmas crafts and attended Christmas concerts (band and choir) for our girls. I did my usual Christmas baking and delivered goodies to close friends. We went to a Christmas party at church with my dad and I even threw the kids a party/gift exchange with their friends. I picked out the best gifts for the people I love, things that came from the heart that I knew they would love. But as hard as I tried, I couldn't shake off the feeling of emptiness and sadness that hung over my head, like a dark cloud. Something was missing.

That something, is my mom. I miss my mom. In years past, we spent our baking days together, listening to Christmas music while we worked. We always went shopping together, whether it was to shop for the kids or shop for my dad or to pick out presents for other people on our list. Mom loved it when we came to her ward's Christmas party at church. It's always been important to my parents to have all the grandkids together for those kinds of parties and keep our family traditions intact.

The season started out a little bit better than expected. Mom made a Christmas card list, filled out all of her Christmas cards, complete with a message about Jesus, and sent them all out on her own. That was encouraging to me! We went over to their house to help them decorate the tree, and she remembered how to do that (even though it was not decorated up to her pre-dementia perfectionist standards). I felt a little bit of hope that maybe she would still remember and engage in our Christmas traditions of the past.

As the season wore on, mom seemed disconnected from all the festivities surrounding her. She did not go the Christmas parties at church. She couldn't remember what any of our Christmas goodies were, let alone help bake them. She didn't know who Santa was. She seemed confused on what many of the festivities were about. Aside from the shopping trip to Kmart for my dad, she didn't engage or even attempt to engage in any Christmas shopping. My siblings and I coordinated all of the Christmas meals without any interest or input from my mom (she was just happy that I had assigned her to bring the broccoli-cauliflower salad for Christmas Eve).

On Christmas morning, we did what we do every year: we opened our presents at home with our kids and then went over to mom and dad's for our traditional Christmas breakfast. Christmas is not Christmas without this breakfast. We wait all year to have this yummy goodness. We have had this breakfast every single year of my life. Mom's mom came up with this recipe and started making it for her kids when mom was little. So by all means, mom should have remembered Christmas breakfast. As I was began making breakfast, mom walked into the kitchen. I asked mom if she'd be having Christmas breakfast with us, knowing deep down that she wouldn't have any. She looked at it strangely and said,

"No I didn't know about that."

"Mom, this is the Christmas breakfast that your mom created. We've eaten it every year, you always loved it! Christmas isn't Christmas without it!"

"No I didn't remember about that. I already drank my Slim Fast," she said, as she walked out of the kitchen.

It was the expected response, but still disheartening to say the least. If she's forgotten the traditions of the holiday that we've held so near and dear all these years, who is to say she will even remember the holiday itself next year?

In the past, mom always got giddy at present time. She absolutely loved to pass out presents to her grandkids and delighted in their reactions to what she had picked out for them. This time, mom sat on the couch, staring straight ahead with a blank look on her face. She showed no reaction and no emotion as we each took our turns opening presents. At one point, my niece went up to her to give her a hug and say thank you for the present. Mom had very little response; she didn't hug her back and seemed confused as to why she was hugging her and what she was saying to her.

The only time she showed any emotion to any present opened was when dad opened the laundry detergent that he had given her. Dad knew that mom had picked out something bizarre for him; he had been anticipating what it was for days. We all huddled around him as he opened the present and directed mom's attention to dad. As dad opened his present, to find Gain laundry detergent, he had sheer amusement on his face. We were all chuckling and finding the humor in the situation. Dad looked at mom and said,

"Thanks dear. I need this."

Mom sat slightly forward in her seat on the couch and, waving her finger towards the laundry soap, told him very seriously,

"Yeah, that's why I got you that, yeah. I know you like that."

"Perfect. Absolutely perfect," dad said, trying to contain the chuckles.

For as long as I can remember, my dad has always filled out his gift tags to mom using pet names. In fact, they both did it. They would write things such as: "To Mrs. Claus, from Mr. Claus" or "To Dee, From Guess Who" or "To Toots, From Sancho" (don't know if I spelled Toots right). I always thought it was cute that they "spiced" it up and made it fun. This year, mom was confused with the tags on the gifts dad gave.

"Huh? What do you mean, Guess Who? What? Who is this for? Why does it say this, Guess Who?" or "Toots, what? I don't know what this means."

When she opened her gifts, she wasn't overly excited and she was sometimes a bit confused at what she was receiving. I had to explain to her several times that the skirts she opened from me were made by me, as she's been hounding me for months about making her skirts,

"I don't know why you won't ever make me any skirts, you're so talented. I wish you would make me some skirts."

She seemed to like the skirts, though she wasn't overly enthusiastic as she has been in years past.

By the time the rest of the extended family showed up (near 1:00), mom was ready for a nap. She was concerned about people coming over during naptime, but dad kept reiterating that it was Christmas and that people would be over to celebrate. That's what we do for holidays. She went back to her room alone, making no exception for the holiday.

I don't know what the future holds; will we be able to have large gatherings next year? Only time will tell. Based on her detachment and disinterest this year, my guess is that by next year, the holidays will be meaningless to her. I look ahead to next Christmas with dread. I don't know how we will make it through. As sad and disheartening as it was for our family this year, I know the road ahead will only get rougher. I suppose my goal for the New Year is to figure out how to cope and manage the despair that comes with losing a loved one.


  1. Wow, this really brings it all home. You are a wonderful writer and I really appreciate the detail you heart really goes out to you, your dad, mom and all your family.

    I want to know what's in that fancy breakfast glass...looks intriguing!

  2. That picture of her looking studiously at her gift says a thousand words, and none of them are happy. On the other side, it's hard to not laugh at the look on your dad's face while holding his special laundry detergent.

  3. Tell your dad that was the perfect response! It made me smile.

    Love Aunt Ellen