Monday, December 29, 2008

A Gift

We brought my mother to my sister's house on Christmas day where she sat embraced by her family...daughters, sons-in-law, grandchildren and great-grandchildren as presents were exchanged, children were excited and she was loved. We were loved, all of us, each in our own way and for our own reasons we loved and were loved and shared the best of Christmas with each other. I worked at not watching her, not forcing the moments of our time together on that day to burn into me so I could hold the memory of this Christmas forever. It was hard to look away.

I never knew my Grandmothers so what I know of how grandchildren love their grandmothers comes only from watching my children, nieces, nephews and grandchildren. The love I saw on Christmas came in the form of my nephews' hands extended to help their grandmother up the steps, genuine smiles, the deep from the heart smiles from 'the girls' that revealed raw emotion that most of us don't allow to surface often enough, and throughout all the food and wrapping paper and laughter there were my mother's great grandchildren, those beautiful children who wove themselves into the fabric of our family and the celebration of our time together.

We took my mother back to the Nursing Home and as she walked in I watched her greet everyone in a style becoming a reigning monarch. She drew broad smiles from staff, warm greetings from visitors and mild glances from others who live there. She announced her return to all who would listen and even those who couldn't. Her room awaited and she sat in the chair beside her bed with the same sigh she uttered when she returned to her chair in her house after an outing. A sigh that, for me, translates to a degree of comfort, a level of contentment, maybe even the beginning of satisfaction. Whatever she truly felt on that day, at that moment I have no way to know. But what I saw, what I watched, what I believe she felt was acceptance. Acceptance of her, acceptance for her and at some level acceptance of this transition in her life. This transition that has affected all of us so deeply but none more than my mother.

As she fades away from us I will try to hold fast to what I saw on Christmas day. Her ability to love and be loved. A gift that now extends to the third generation. A gift she has given freely and gladly. A gift of true value.

Monday, December 15, 2008


This weekend we shared a day with our daughter and grandchildren of fairy tale proportion. A day of preparation, a day of anticipation, a day of celebration. On this day we carried the boxes down from the attic, the boxes so well known to us even though they are seen only twice each year, once when we unpack the decorations and again when we repack them. The boxes that hold our years of Christmas. Boxes that look very much like those we are packing at my mother's house. Unlike those boxes, these hold the excitement of Christmas, excitement clearly marked in black magic marker.

As we unwrapped the ornaments, put the baby in the manger and tested the tree lights we told stories of our past, stories of family gatherings, Christmas Eve with 'the cousins', Christmas mornings with our parents and grandparents. We hummed along to Christmas carols and made subtle adjustments so all the bulbs didn't remain on one branch. On this day we brought Christmas past into our home and into the lives of our grandchildren.

When we thought the day, this day, our day, could not be more we were treated to a visit from Santa himself. In our house, on our day, a family memory was made. A memory that will live on in our family for years to come. A memory that will one day be brought down in a box from the attic and shared on a day like our day. A day that bridges gaps. A day that brings us together. A day when life finds its way down the stairs, out of the boxes and into the lives of those we love.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Right Time

My daughter called me today to tell me she shared my blog with her friends. She read some of their comments to me at just the right time. A time when I needed to hear kindness, needed to hear her love, needed her. She's like that, quietly entering my days at the right moments, moments when I need to be reminded that work is not my entire life and sadness is not the only emotion I can feel.

My sister is like that, too...there at all the right times. Tonight our right time was at our mother's house, just the two of us drinking tea at the kitchen table surrounded by boxes of our mother's life. We talked of old times and new times and good times and bad then moved things from one room to another, pretending to pack, pretending to be ready for this transition in our mother's home.

Whether we are ready or not, transition comes and we must rely on ourselves and each other to help us through. I am blessed to have people in my life who do just that....let me rely on them. I hope I return the favor.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Hardest Part

I sat with my mother this afternoon and did something I've never done before (well, I guess I have done it but that was when I was a teenager so it doesn't really count!). I lied to her. Straightforward, bold faced lie. When she asked me if her cat was okay and was everything okay at her house I told her the cat was fine and so was her house. In fact, we haven't seen the cat for several days and yesterday we spent the day packing up her belongings, tearing up her carpets and set her living room couch and chair on the lawn in front of her house with a sign on them that read "Free". They were gone before nightfall. The couch, her couch, the place she sat every day to watch tv, read or visit with her friends and with us now sits in someone else's house while my mother rests comfortably in the Nursing Home fully trusting that we are caring for her things. She doesn't question it. She trusts us. That's the hardest part, her trust.

Intellectually we know we are doing the right thing. I know she won't come home again. Her dementia worsens every day now and it is more clear than ever that she is in the right place. It is evident. We see it. We know it. We believe it. We just are having a little trouble getting our hearts to accept it.

My sister asked me the other day if I thought the dementia patients who are no longer able to speak were screaming in their heads. I don't know if they are, I hope they are not because I know from experience how exhausting that is.