Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Christmas 2013

Another year has gone by. Christmas wasn’t the worst case scenario with mom; she remembered what the 25th represented. But the changes in mom were very obvious and we believe this is likely the last year that mom will remember what Christmas is. We decided to just make the most of what we have and I tried really hard this year to adopt an attitude of positivity and focus on what we have rather than be down about what we’ve lost.

Last year, mom was obsessed with continuing her family tradition of gathering her family together for Christmas Eve. This year, we heard not one word about Christmas Eve. As the 24th approached, we made plans to have a more intimate celebration with only my siblings (and their families) and my parents (rather than the usual extended family celebrations from the past). On Christmas Eve, we gathered at mom and dad’s house with our traditional holiday foods and gifts. Mom didn’t understand why we were there.

“Christmas is tomorrow, the 25th,” she said.

We tried to explain Christmas Eve, but the memories have seemingly disappeared. It took a lot of coaxing and convincing to get mom to sit down and open presents with us. In spite of the sad reality of the situations, we tried to find the humor and the bright spots of the night. Mom was really cute (and funny) when she opened her gifts. With each gift, she looked at it as if it were a foreign object, and then once she figured out what it was, she hurried off to put it in her room where it belonged. 

“What is this, what is this? Huh? This is the lip stuff, yeah? The lip, the Mar-the Mary-the Mary Kay stuff too for the lips? Yeah? Oh good, oh good I needed this too, that’s really good,” she said when opening my sister’s gift of the Mary Kay Satin Lips set, which she’d been nagging me for for the past two weeks. Then she stood up and hurried away to her room to put it in the little basket on her counter, beside her empty tubes of lip cream.

Each time she took her presents to their new homes, it was hard to draw her back to the living room to open some more. I was so excited to give her my gift. I got the idea during mom’s hospital stay in the summer. Her room was cold and the blankets were thin; mom was freezing the whole time. I wished that she had a nice blanket she could bring along, and so my idea for her Christmas gift was formed. That month following her hospital stay, my sister-in-law and I took all of the grandkids for a photo shoot. I selected some beautiful fabric and immediately got to work. This gift would be one-of-a-kind and I had hoped mom would love and appreciate it.

 560 By the time it was my turn to give mom my gift, she was antsy and did not want to sit down. I was able to get her next to the couch where she stood and opened my box. She held the blanket in her hand and said,

“What is this?”

I told her it was a blanket.

“A blanket, I’m confused, what’s a blanket?”

I explained to her the purpose of a blanket and pointed to the pictures of the grandchildren as she still tried to piece together the clues of what her gift was.

“Oh a blanket,” she interrupted, “the thing you put on your bed to keep warm? Is that what it is, it goes on my bed?” she asked.

“Yes mom, that’s right,” I said, holding her back for just a minute longer to show her again the pictures of the kids. She was ready to put the blanket in it’s place.

 20131220_122546 “See here, mom? These are the kids, this is Raelynn right here and her name is right next to it. And here is Ryder,” I explained, as I pointed to both the names I had embroidered as well as the pictures of each grandchild.

The lightbulb finally went on.

“Oh the kids, all the kids are on here too, all of the kids are here?” she asked, glancing momentarily at the pictures.

20131220_122726 “Yes, all the grandkids,” I replied, smiling that she had made the connection.

“Ok, I’m gonna go now,” she said, motioning towards the hallway with her blanket.

Mom took the blanket back to her bedroom and tossed it onto her bed. My sister found her back there, sitting on her bed, next to her blanket, waiting to take her medicine (which, by the way, wasn’t scheduled to be taken for another hour).


That was the extent of our celebrating with mom. On Christmas morning, we have a traditional breakfast which dates back to when my mom was a kid; her mom created this tradition. Mom refused to come out of her room to join us. She did come over to my house later in the day for Christmas dinner with my dad’s side of the family. She brought herself a sandwich for dinner and sat at the computer. When my Aunts gave her gifts, she told them that she didn’t know what those things were and that she didn’t need them. My Aunts, understanding mom’s condition, just chuckled and gave her hugs.

Though the memories we are able to create with mom are becoming less and less, I embrace the time and the memories we do have with mom. Though it’s not the ideal situation, I do think that someday we will look back on this Christmas Eve with fondness in our hearts.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Oh Christmas Tree

In my last post, I voiced my concerns about whether or not mom would remember Christmas. So far this year, she has forgotten every single holiday; though she does remember most everyone’s birthdays and anniversaries. Last year, she was very selective about what she did remember about Christmas and she didn’t participate in many of the festivities. So it goes without saying that we’ve been apprehensive to see what this Christmas season brings.

A couple weeks ago, the weekend after Thanksgiving to be exact, my siblings and I went over to mom and dad’s house to put up their Christmas tree. Mom was in her usual place: at her computer. We weren’t sure what kind of fuss she might make when she saw a tree in her living room. Would she know why it was there?

tree By the time we had all finished decorating the tree, mom strolled through the living room on her way to the kitchen. She didn’t notice the tree at all. I drew her attention to it and asked her if she remembered why we put up a Christmas tree.

“Oh yeah, there were those things too that had the pictures of the kids on it too, the grandkids too and also you kids too when you were kids and I always liked to put those on so good, too,” she responded.

She was referring to the many ornaments that have been made over the years bearing our pictures on them. Mom remembered!!

Over the past week and a half, we’ve talked about Christmas with her, as a reminder and preparation of the upcoming holiday. She has told my dad that she needs to go to Bath & Body Works (where else??) to get my sister’s present. When I was over on Monday, I was talking to her about Christmas, asking her if she remembered, and she commented,

“It’s on the 25th too.”

She was also a little annoyed that all of her holiday decorations did not make it out this year; particularly her nativity set.

“I told your dad to get that thing down too, it’s way up high, that thing with the thing and Je-Jesus too…”

I don’t know if she will remember all of the family traditions…the Christmas breakfast that her mom started with her as a child, the Christmas goodies. I don’t know she’ll venture out Christmas shopping this year with me or if she’ll even understand the concept of presents. But she remembers the most important part about Christmas-that it’s all about Jesus!

I go into this holiday knowing that it is very likely the very last Christmas that mom is aware of. It can be depressing to think about, and there’s still so much she’s unaware of; I miss her especially at this time of year. But after my “Blue Christmas” last year, I’m determined to make the best of the situation, enjoy the moments we have and make her last Christmas memorable for all of us.

Monday, December 2, 2013


The holidays are always tough when you’ve lost/are losing someone you love. Last year, my mom was very disconnected from all of the holidays festivities. BUT…at least she knew what they were. She had at least some faint memory of Thanksgiving. This year, mom had absolutely no idea what Thanksgiving was.

I tried several times prior to Thanksgiving to prompt her and spark some kind of memory about the upcoming holiday. I talked about it, explained the food, even showed her the date on her calendar. When I showed up to her house on Monday with all of the kids (who were out on Thanksgiving break), mom was confused as to why they were out of school. I tried to tell her that it was because of the holiday that week, to which she responded,

“Holiday, what? What do you mean by holiday, what are you talking about holiday. I don’t know what you’re saying.”

I suppose deep down I knew that it wasn’t going to click. I suppose I just wasn’t ready to accept it. I held hope that once all the family arrived and once she saw all of the foods that it might click. I spent the early afternoon at my in-law’s house before heading over to my parent’s house around 5:00 Thanksgiving evening. Mom, of course, was in the office, playing her computer game. I asked my family if it had finally “clicked” that it was Thanksgiving; as suspected, mom was oblivious. In fact, she couldn’t quite figure out why everybody was over in her house, though she said it was “real good” that some relatives were around often to visit. She didn’t recognize my Aunt, who she sees a couple of times a month. She was confused about who my sister was (her darker hair, recently dyed, has mom a bit confused).

I went to say hi to mom in the computer room. I sat down beside her and she asked why I was there.

“It’s a holiday today mom. It’s Thanksgiving. It’s that holiday right before Christmas when you eat all the good foods…remember?”

“Hmm? Holiday what? I’m confused what you’re saying, holiday. My stupid brain, I don’t know what you all keep saying holiday. My brain is so stupid.”

Try as I might, I could not bring her back and help her to remember Thanksgiving. The concept is gone. Thanksgiving with mom is gone.

Last year, the holidays were hard. I felt really blue. It was the first holiday season that I really didn’t have my mom there to help me with the food, the planning, etc. It was the first holiday season that we faced knowing mom had dementia. But at least she knew what the holidays were.

Seasons change. Another year has come and gone and dementia has taken more away from us. While we celebrate what we are thankful for, I am thankful to still have my mom. But I sure do miss my mom and the way life once was.

I wonder now…will she remember Christmas?