in autumn skies.
the days gone by.
Still sweet as
a sister’s love.
from high above.
When she stares
into my eyes.
So many “moving days” flash through my mind like a slideshow in an old Kodak carousel.
Up to this point, moving days that I recall have been full of happy memories.
My nervous anticipation as I unpacked my little red car to move into my first college dorm room. And the bittersweet excitement I felt when MacGyver and I left my hometown in our little Budget rent-a-truck as newlyweds to drive 1500 miles away and start our life together.
My overflowing sense of pride as we moved into the first little house we purchased years later, and the unbound joy we felt as we brought our babies home from the hospital and moved them into their newly decorated little rooms.
I can also envision moving my kids to their own college dorm rooms in the not-so-distant future, as hard as that is to believe. Just imagining how bittersweet that will feel puts a lump in my throat.
So many moving days filled warm, bittersweet feelings.
Then there’s tomorrow. A move-in day I hadn’t really ever imagined, mostly out of denial. The day I move my Mom into a nursing home.
A wonderful, safe and perfect place for her. But a nursing home no less.
She doesn’t recognize me much any more and her head has started to hang lower as if her little neck muscles are starting to give up, so I don’t think she will be sad about the move. Correction: I pray that she will not be sad, or give me that far-away, but at the same time, not-so-far-away look in her deep, beautiful, soulful brown eyes.
Our roles have now reversed. And as such, I have written her name in Sharpie on the labels of all of her clothes and towels as I have packed them for her moving day. As if I’m getting ready to take her to camp tomorrow.
It’s all very surreal in so many ways, as the snow spins in the wind outside my window this first day of May.
A new and different kind of ‘moving day’ indeed.
1. Family. This year, like many years of late, we get the extra bonus of having my sweet niece (aka daughter, best friend, sister) here with us. Then on top of that, we get to see some of my cousins and their families in the mountains for a few days after Christmas which is an extra special family treat. We also miss our family who we don’t get to see on Christmas but who we keep near to us, in our hearts.
2. Food. In particular, a much more expensive slab of meat that I usually buy which traumatizes me because This Bitch Can’t Cook and I don’t want to ruin it. Plus, lots of other wonderful food like buttery mashed potatoes and pie.
3. Tradition. My family tradition Christmas cookies and the old tin cookie cutters that were my Grandmother’s which I use to make them. I always think of my mom having the dough ready for me after school to help her press out the cookies when I got home. I would help her make green and pinkish red buttery frosting and we would carefully frost each one and add multicolor sprinkles. Every bite brings back those memories tenfold. I can’t remember a year when she didn’t make them for us or when we didn’t’ make them for her.
4. Meaningful Moments. A Christmas tree so pretty each year that I can’t stop staring at it — with multicolored lights and each branch covered in sentimental ornaments. Nothing about it matches which makes every glance meaningful.
5. Festivities. Fun and new cocktails that my niece makes for us – usually cranberries involved — with a jazzy Christmas song playing in the background.
6.Memories. Sleeping in my sister’s bed on Christmas Eve when I was little (this was a treat as she only let me do this on certain holidays). I swear I can feel her green checked bedspread at my fingers now and picture and smell the antique furniture that surrounded her bed. And hear myself asking her if it was time yet to go downstairs.
7. More Memories. My Grandma sitting in our green and white wing back chair with her slippers on in our fancy room watching my sister and I open gifts with an occasional giggle, especially when we opened whatever Madame Alexander doll she had given us that year. She had a smile and giggle that were perfection.
8. Music. Especially our Charlie Brown Christmas album that my husband has played every Christmas morning since we’ve been married for the last 21 years. This, with a hot cup of coffee and crumpling wrapping paper noise — more perfection.
9. Joy. Exemplified by our dog Tony completely freaking out when he hears us opening gift bags and rattling tissue paper on Christmas morning because he thinks every bag has a new toy or bone for him (this dog has a good memory). Monkey dog follows suit.
10. A tradition of Counter-Tradition. Staying in our pajamas well past noon on Christmas. Going to the local Chinese restaurant down the street on Christmas night (we do our big home meal on Christmas eve). Being the only Christmas- celebrating folk there makes us feel ‘edgy,’ as my niece would call it. Always reminds me of the Christmas Story movie (You’ll poke your eye out) and the restaurant scene with the singing and the duck (Chinese Turkey) – CLASSIC – you have to click and watch this scene.
What does Christmas mean to you?
Wishing you and yours the happiest of holidays….
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.
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