I know better. I really do. What kind of holiday high was I on to think that turning on old holiday music while I decorated my tree during a Little Red Riding hood visit was a good idea?
Being a bit of a sentimental sap already (especially with old tunes), holiday music has a way of making me miss ‘what was’ more than any other kind of music. Thoughts of my Mom and sister and I decorating the tree while the Christmas music blared into our fancy room with green carpet and yellow velvet love seats, and all of my Mom’s plants all around the room.
I would get so upset if they started to hang one single ornament or place one strand of silver icicle tinsel garland before I was there with them. They knew what a younger kid complex I had, so they were very patient with me. We would get the tree decorated perfectly, just in time for our cat Rascal to knock the whole thing over during the night.
So while my Mom (Little Red Riding Hood) was here today for her Wednesday visit, I thought some holiday music might put a little sparkle back in her eyes while I worked on my Christmas tree so the boys could decorate it later. Sometimes little things like this can bring her back for a moment. But sometimes reaching for those random lucid moments can be downright exhausting.
I’m really not sure if she even knew who I was today. She barely spoke a word and her Alzheimer’s seems to have progressed to a new level. She can’t really dress herself and she seems to have little energy. I can’t really be sure if she still thinks I even look familiar. She hasn’t known our names for about two years now.
I kept asking her if the new garland looked okay on the tree and if she liked it. Not even a smile — which is usually the saving grace of these encounters. She just looked at me like a was a complete stranger yammering at her and she continued to pick up tree needles from my floor.
As I adjusted my tree ribbon and listened to Bing Crosby drone on about his White Christmas dreams and someone sing about Santa coming to town and checking that list twice, a few tears streamed down my face in slow motion.This isn’t going to get any better and I just hope it doesn’t drag out forever, for everyone’s sake. And I feel guilty for thinking that. Nobody gets better with this disease. They just run out of life.
I tried not to let her see my tears, even though I really don’t think she could notice. I wished I could have called my sister to complain, whine or speculate about what’s next on this dim horizon. But I haven’t been able to do that for 13 years. She left me here to figure all this out, even though I know she didn’t mean to.
I know in my heart I have so much to be grateful for. My health, my family, a roof over my head, my friends….. But this morning just sucked.
So after a few songs, a few more tears, and a few more blank looks from my Mom who was still collecting dust bunnies and needles from my floor, I grabbed the remote from the table, clicked off that damn music and walked away from the tree. My throat was tight from my pent up tears and I took a deep breath.
I noticed Mom had something in her hand. It was a grocery list that my stepdad had written and probably thrown away. She must have had it in her pocket. It was in three pieces and she kept looking at the pieces and refolding them. She’s been a list-maker since I can remember. I grinned because some old habits really do die hard.
Who knew what was going through her head while that music played and I decorated a tall outdoor tree in the center of my living room? Maybe running her fingers over the little pieces of that list in her hand brought her some kind of comfort that she needed. If that’s the case, I’m certainly grateful.