Archive | December 2017

A different kind of Christmas

Christmas Eve was a bit of a letdown this year. Mom’s church began renovations on their sanctuary at the beginning of December, so all the services are being held in the Fellowship Hall, which is in the basement. There’s a live feed to a screen in a room on the ground floor for those who can’t manage the stairs, but it’s not the same.  On a regular Sunday, there might be a dozen people in the ground floor room. For the early Christmas Eve service last night, there were six of us, including the two ushers who handed out the battery-powered candles. Mom and I were alone in our row, and she must have asked me six times why we had to sit in the “overflow room” instead of with the rest of the congregation.  Each time I explained about the renovations and the steep flight of stairs to the basement, I felt more frustrated with the church for beginning this renovation project right before Christmas; and I prayed this subpar experience doesn’t end up being her last Christmas Eve service.

The candlelight piece felt particularly lacking. The passing of light from one candle to another until the whole church is aglow has been my favorite part of Christmas Eve services since childhood. It lacks something when everyone turns on their “candles” at the start of Silent Night, instead of passing the light, but it still works in a big sanctuary full of celebrants. Holding our two lights as we sang, unable to see any of the other lights because everyone was sitting behind us, struck me as rather apt for this particular year — and perhaps that was the lesson for me. Sometimes you have to make your own light in the darkness.


Christmas Eve Selfie

Since Mom can no longer manage the steps into my apartment building, we headed to a local restaurant for our turkey dinner after the service.  The restuarant was festively decorated and busier than I had anticipated; and to their credit, the staff provided excellent and very cheerful service. Mom complained about her soup, but she enjoyed the turkey and mashed potatoes… and she ordered a second mug of hot chocolate for dessert. On the drive home, I took a detour to look at Christmas lights, which she always enjoys.

As we pulled onto the freeway, she asked me “Am I staying at your place tonight?” I felt a pang of regret as I explained that I was taking her home (“so you don’t have to struggle with the stairs at my building”) but would come back the next day to open presents — but she didn’t seem unhappy about it.

Our Christmas afternoon was really quite pleasant. I arrived shortly after lunch, bearing Starbucks holiday beverages and a store bought pumpkin pie. The staff set us up right next to the tree to open our presents, and we had the room to ourselves since the other residents were either napping or away with family for the holiday.  We opened our presents one at a time, read the cards aloud to each other, and Mom tried on the festive outfit from my sister. Then we sat at the dining room table to eat our pie and play a couple games of Scrabble.

When the staff started getting ready for dinner, I helped Mom back into her recliner and kissed her goodbye. Merry Christmas, Mom. I’ll call you tomorrow.


Celebrating her 90th Christmas, and she still enjoys her books!


Another year, another holiday party

Today was the annual holiday luncheon at Mom’s care home. Yesterday I took her to get a haircut and roller set, Mom Headshot 12-9-17and the stylist did a really nice job. Mom looked lovely in her new sparkly green Christmas top, and she seemed to be feeling pretty good. She enjoyed the Honeybaked ham and, especially, the assortment of fancy deserts like macarons, ladyfingers and bon bons. And because it was a special occasion, they let her have 2 1/2 cups of coffee with her meal. (We just won’t tell the nephrologist about that.) My niece was late arriving, and it gets hard to make small talk with Mom these days, so I broke out the Scrabble game to keep us entertained.

Again, it was one of those parties where the guests only talk to the residents they came to visit and to the staff. But Jenny did make a point of introducing us to her brother (at least, I think that’s who he was) as he was seeing her to her room before departing. I also overheard another resident’s daughter talking about her 90th birthday next Thursday, the 14th. My dad’s birthday was December 14th. He would have been 92 this year. As I was sharing that with them, I realized that it was 10 years ago this month that he died. It feels like another lifetime. I was a different person back then, and so was Mom.

We both enjoyed catching up with Sarah, who took a break from finals week to come celebrate with her grandma.

Mom and Sarah 12-9-17

I’ve been a little short on holiday spirit this year, but it sure was nice to see Mom feeling festive and enjoying the celebrations. Mostly I’m just thankful that we made it through another year and she’s still kicking… or, as she always used to say, “perking right along!”



More Like Herself

Happy to report that Mom is feeling better these last several days. We went back to church on Sunday, the first time I had taken her since her most recent hospitalization, and she enjoyed seeing all her friends from the seniors Sunday school class. I never know if she remembers them or if she just enjoys being made a fuss over whether she knows them or not. But she was all smiles, and that makes me happy.

Wednesday she had a follow-up with the pulmonologist, who pronounced her lungs “nice and clear” and says we can discontinue supplemental oxygen during the day (keeping her on 2 liters overnight), as long as they regularly monitor her oxygen level and it stays above 92.

This morning I picked her up to get blood drawn for the labs the nephrologist has ordered, and she was as energetic as I’ve seen her in months. When I asked how she was feeling, she said “Great!” And she remarked several times on how nice it was to get out of the house for a change, so after leaving Quest Labs I drove through a Starbucks for eggnog lattes and a cheese danish. We parked in the shade of a tree and sat in the car with the windows down, enjoying the pleasant breeze and each other’s company while we sipped our lattes and she ate her pastry. When I started up the car again to take her home, she thanked me for getting her outdoors and “allowing me to feel like part of the community.”

I pulled into the driveway, got her wheelchair out of the trunk and brought it around to her side of the car. She was already turned in her seat with her legs out, but when I pulled the chair up beside her, she looked at me and asked “What comes next?” I told her I would help her stand so she could get into the wheelchair. “What do I do now?” she asked. “You push yourself up,” I told her, “and I’ll help by giving you a pull.” That worked smoothly, but I was surprised that she’d needed to ask. This is how it is with dementia. She’ll be just like her old self… and then, suddenly, she’s not.