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.
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.
“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.
“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.