Things I want to keep in mind.

Month: December, 2016

Early morning musing

I have been waking up really early in the morning and not being able to return to restful sleep. This morning, it was 4:45. (It has been as early as 3am!) I normally wait until at least 5 am to actually get up. Once I wake up, my mind turns on and it is useless trying to go back to sleep. This morning, my thoughts went to my mother and this blog so I may as well put those thoughts to paper.

My mother has declined to the point of not speaking – or at least not much. In recent months, she has been repeating back whatever she hears – although not always. If you ask her how she is – she will say, “I’m good”. It takes her a minute to respond but she will respond. She doesn’t recognize anyone though – not really. And now, even if I tell her who I am, there is no recognition of the name or my status as her daughter.

It has been difficult to visit her at the memory care facility, with a one-sided conversation and no feedback or reaction. She lies in her bed most of the day unless she is hungry, then she will wander down the hall to the kitchen area. Some days, she will be sitting in her chair just staring or dozing. She has lost a lot of weight and is getting pretty thin. If she were her old self, she would be thrilled. She struggled with her weight all of her life.

I try to remember the last time we were able to have a real conversation. I can’t pull up a specific time or date – she used to call a couple times a week just to check in. She would share some gossip she had heard or talk about something at her church. Even on our best days, we didn’t have a lot to talk about. Naturally, I now wish we had been able to talk more.

When she had her knee replacement, we took turns staying with her. We had to make sure she ate, took her meds and that she did her exercises. I think that period of time was the most we had ever talked. We were trapped in her house and neither of us could leave. And she was “medicated” so she was a little more talkative. Our conversations were about family – about my kids, my siblings, my dad. She wasn’t one to open herself up. I think she believed that as my mother, she couldn’t show any signs of weakness or need. That was how she lived her life – just powering through, on her own, no matter how she felt or what she wanted for herself. There was a lot of stored up resentment and that’s what most of us felt from her. As children, we learned to avoid anything that would remotely cause a conflict. Consequently, a lot of the time, that meant avoiding her altogether.

What that means for me now is that I have a hard time visiting her. It isn’t just that she doesn’t know me or talk to me, it is the years of not being able to talk to her prior to this odd dementia. Trying to establish a relationship with a stranger behind a wall of my own making. Heartbreaking.

I know that there will come a day when she passes. Will it be soon? No way of predicting. I also know that she loved all of us in her way, the best way she could. She took care of us and she would have done anything for us. The times she couldn’t give us what we needed were because those were the same times she couldn’t get what she needed. I understand.


Choose good

Can you think of one word that describes Christmas for you? For me, the first word that comes to mind is “pressure”.

If you are single and don’t have a significant other, Christmas can mean loneliness and feelings of inadequacy. Maybe you had a certain someone and now you miss them. Maybe you didn’t and you feel like you never will. I remember those Christmases. Being at “home” for the holidays was nice but there were so many reminders that others had “someone” to share Christmas with and I didn’t. It would have been a lot easier if people didn’t look at me with those pitying eyes, as if I didn’t have anything if I didn’t have someone. That’s a very common misconception. Don’t fall for it! Single people do have fulfilling lives! Spend time with people you love and who love you, what could be more significant?

If you are married, you may be caught up in the frenzy. Christmas time means spending time with family and once you are married, you have two families to divide your time between. Each of you has special family traditions and co-mingling those traditions can be difficult. Oh, the pressure. Try not to foster the tradition of arguing over where to go at Christmas…best to discuss and decide in advance and then be a good sport about the decision.

If you are married, with children, it becomes a whole new kind of frenzy. Naturally, you want to create your own traditions for your own family. Traveling “home” to your parents’ house means packing up a whole lot of stuff; sleeping in strange quarters; and flying or driving in winter. It also means being with people you love (mostly) and sharing time with siblings and cousins. In this day and age, with our busy lifestyles, it may be the only time you see your extended family for the whole year! Even though it can be strenuous, it can also be a very gratifying time for you and your children. That depends on you, your spouse and your family. MORE pressure.

If you are divorced, with children, it means slicing up the holiday into chunks of time in which you have to share said children with an ex who is late, lazy and self-serving. Okay, not all exes are like that but during the holiday, it often feels that way. Gift giving can become a competition of who can afford the best gifts. Choosing dates and times, church celebrations, dinners, transportation – it would be easier negotiating for hostage release with the iranians! And the children…imagine the pressure they feel.

As a mother of 35 years, I can tell you that the pressure is immense during the holidays. Of course, most of it is self-imposed but that doesn’t make it any less daunting. With a limited budget (in both time and money), there are gifts to purchase (making sure each child has an equal number of gifts); goodies to bake (allowing the children to “help” as part of the festivities); family events to dress for (do they have nice shoes/clothes?), Christmas programs and concerts (again, do they have nice shoes/clothes?); Christmas parties and gift exchanges with family and in-laws; two different office parties (his and mine) all while working full-time. Oh yes, there is a plethora of pressure.

Then, as quickly as it started, it stops. Your nest is empty. While the transition was gradual, each child left home and moved into their own life individually, it feels like it was overnight and happened all at once. Some years during the holidays, the house is full to bursting, kids are sleeping in cots or on the floor. Other years, there is only one or two and it is SO quiet. I am preparing for the day when it will just be my husband and I. We’ve made a pact that we will still put up the tree and stockings. We will maintain that tradition for ourselves. We will have our family Christmas dinner/celebration on a different date – one when others can come without the pressure of the actual Christmas DAY. We will accept that they may not all be able to attend the celebration. We will try not to put pressure on them to do so. (Really, I will try.)

The most important part of Christmas is to enjoy the time that you DO have with others. Don’t let the pressure push you into the frenzy. Pick and choose what will work and what won’t. Choose good instead of perfect. We often try for that brass ring when we could just relish the soothing motion of merry-go-round.