Last year, Mom lived in her own little house. She felt independent that way, though we turned off the gas on the stove for her safety. She could go for her walks every day, eat breakfast by herself, then I would pick her up for the evening meal. She stayed well fed that way – both physically and socially.
Her memory was still keen enough to remember Christmas past. She decorated her little house as best she could, which was actually quite nice. She surrounded herself with warm and comfortable memories. Nonetheless, she seemed to know deep inside that something wasn’t right – there were so many things she couldn’t do anymore, and so many names no longer came to mind. But it was a good Christmas last year – a good Christmas.
(As always, if you click on each photo, you will see a full sized version of it.)
This year is different. Mom now lives in a nursing home. After falling and breaking her hip in January, she recovered physically, but mentally, it was a downhill year. Of course, that is the norm with Alzheimer’s patients. They never get better. The nursing home is a nice place with a very caring staff. As you would expect in a Christian home, there was a Christmas tree, a crèche and all the other signs of the year. As Mom and I sat next to the tree in the lobby one day, she leaned over to touch a tree ornament. There was a connection of some kind as she touched that ornament, but the memories had faded too much.
On Christmas Day, I made my usual visit. On the advice of a photographer who saw my pictures in an online forum, I told Mom the Christmas story, just as she told me when I was a child. I wanted her to know there is a God who loves her. She smiled.
Then she opened some presents sent by my siblings, all of whom live out of state. Though I had to explain who the people were who sent them to her, once I used the words “your children”, she smiled and she knew. I teased her for tearing the paper – as a kid, I was always lectured to ensure I saved the wrapping paper for later use. When her gifts lay next to her, she asked me for some paper and a pen. I found some, gave them to her and wondered what she was going to do.
She laboriously began to write. Something inside told her she should write thank you notes. I had to remind her Karen began with a “K”, and she tried valiantly to write more than the scribbles she put on paper. She, of the school teacher hand writing, could not write a single word.
But we soon went out to the lobby to sit, talk, and laugh together. As I sang “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, she tried to sing along with me. She knew some of the words, but the part she loved the most was something I added at the end of the song. “ . . .you’ll go down in history. Dunh dunh.”
She laughed trying to sing the “dunh dunh” I added, but her frail voice couldn’t go as low as mine.
Laughter made it a good Christmas after all.