Thanksgiving weekend one year ago was when this journey began – when Mom crashed her car and ended up in the hospital with elevated blood pressure and a possible TIA (mini stroke), and the case manager told us she could not go home to live alone. It’s hard to believe that it’s only been a year. One year that has encompassed two major moves, two hospital stays, a whole lot of adapting to increasing physical and mental limitations, and (for me) a whole lot of learning about, and accepting the responsibilities of, being a caretaker.
This Thanksgiving was the first one I’d spent with Mom in several years, and I was determined to have it here at my apartment so that she could have a real, home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner. No restaurant meals and especially no depressing holiday spent in an assisted living facility, not while I’m around! Though she’d been discharged from skilled nursing five days before, she was still not strong and her legs were certainly too weak to climb the eight steps into my building. I borrowed a wheelchair from her facility and, with the help of two strong friends, hauled her up chair and all, step by careful step. Just getting in and out of the car was enough exertion for her that she needed a nap as soon as I got her inside.
Thursday I let her sleep late and then made us pumpkin butter pancakes and coffee for brunch. She watched the Macy’s parade while I did food prep and got the apartment ready, and she took a mid-day nap so that she’d have the energy for company. By the time my friends started arriving around 4:15, I had her dressed and sitting in her wheelchair and had even curled her hair. She did great, though she only ate about half of the salad-sized plate of food I set in front of her… and my friends were great, too, making a point to engage her in conversation and make sure she felt included while I was busy in the kitchen. Around 8:00 p.m., I think, she told me she needed to lie down and I wheeled her into the bedroom and helped her into my bed. But she got up after half an hour, wheeled herself out into the living room, and joined us for pumpkin pie. All in all, it was a good day and I felt very blessed. And very, very thankful.
All that excitement must have been a bit much for her, though. The next day she was so tired, I could hardly get her out of bed. We didn’t dare try to wheel her down the steps, so my guy friend from across the street held her arm and helped her very slowly descend the stairs. She went to bed as soon as I got her back to her temporary room at the assisted living. But she got up again at dinner time and agreed to let me take her down to the dining room in the wheelchair.
When I greeted her table mates in the dining room, I asked them all if they had a good Thanksgiving. “No,” said one of the gentlemen. “I did not have a good Thanksgiving. I didn’t have any of my family here and I had a cold sandwich in my room for dinner.” It hurt my heart to hear that and I wished we could have taken him home for dinner with us. I’ve decided to bring her three table mates little holiday presents at Christmastime, and I’m wondering if I might even be able to bring that particular gentleman a plate of leftovers from our Christmas Eve dinner. When we said goodbye that evening, Mom said to me again, “I don’t know what I’d do without you.” I am just so grateful that I don’t have to think of her having a cold sandwich alone in her room on a holiday. Having her with me for Thanksgiving was a lot of work, but it was so worth it.