Making sense of Christmas and “it”

Christmas is a time for families, to be with loved ones. How many times do we hear or read that over the course of the festive season? It’s true for many of course, and the Christmases of my childhood are among my happiest memories. From the smell of the pine needles outside my bedroom door to the playful patterns the tree lights made on the bedroom ceiling through the tiny gap in the doorway. (I should perhaps explain that we lived in a bungalow – I was not so indulged as to have my own private Christmas tree outside my door.) In later years, I loved to come “home” even though I had my own home many miles away. Dad was always the life and soul and very consistent – the one-liners never changed from year-to-year. And Mum took great pride in playing the hostess.  

Christmas is still very special for me – the kid in me comes out to this day – but it isn’t quite the same. For Mum, Christmas seems to mean nothing. I wonder what she really thinks of the trees and the cards which decorate the care home. How does she make sense of that? Maybe she doesn’t try to make sense of it at all. About three weeks ago, I took a pile of unwritten cards to her and we wrote them together. I told myself it was to make Mum part of our family Christmas but who was I kidding? It was really for me not her. To make Mum part of my Christmas. The significance of sending love and greetings at this time of year has long gone for her. I look in her eyes and know that those feelings of love remain but she no longer has the capacity to express them. 

We do spend part of Christmas Day with Mum. My sister, my nieces and Mum’s cousin visited on Christmas morning. I’d bought her a pair of slippers – the staff at the home suggested she needed some new ones. I don’t think Mum necessarily concurred. One cursory glance, and they were put to one side. She pointed at her feet and told me she already had some. Why would anyone ever more than one pair of shoes? Why indeed?

The calendar and puzzle – both created from family photographs – were much more of a success and Mum’s “Oh look it’s the family” will be my standout moment of Christmas 2012. It’s the little things these days you see. 

As I say, Christmas for Mum doesn’t really make much sense. She accepts the gifts, the tinsel-festooned dining room, the trees, apparently without question. Just like a tiny child. 

So if Mum doesn’t need to make sense of Christmas, perhaps I should just accept that I can’t make sense of “it”, of any of it, and just celebrate that Mum is safe, warm and content this Christmas. So many people aren’t. Mum is one of the lucky ones.

Happy Christmas and a very happy new year. 

 

 

Dad was always the life and soul and very consistent – the one-liners never changed from year-to-year. And Mum took great pride in playing the hostess.  

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2 Responses to Making sense of Christmas and “it”

  1. Hi Duncan and belated season’s greetings. Another beautifully written blog– I could identify some of those observations of dementia through my experiences with Dad. His Alzheimer’s has taken quite a grip, though he’s still in his own home with his partner. We always– Dad, my sister and I– would play the fool singing a 3 part ‘We wish you a merry Christmas’… Giggling through the ‘won’t go …. got some’ urgency of the figgy pudding verse. This year, when I called, was the first time ever that he didn’t have a clue what I was doing or singing.’ You know dad …. figgy pudding!’ . Nothing. Which brought a tear or two. It’s a long journey. But always some flashes of light .

    • Thanks Jane. Season’s greeting to you and Colin too. Your words mean a lot. My answer to the “figgy pudding issue” (I think we all have something similar) is just to sing all the louder (through the tears) to make up for the absent voice.

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