I haven't had a very merry Christmas in about 5 years. I blame my father.
In 2015, Dad suffered cluster strokes and went into the hospital and then a rehab center down in Tucson, Arizona. Because of his Alzheimer's, he had no idea what was going on but it was clear he needed more full time help once he got released. Brother Bruce had taken a leave of absence from his job to help Dad with his recovery and was overseeing his care, even staying with him in the rehab place.
After a lot of discussion, it was decided to move Mom and Dad up here to Montana to a place in Helena with a memory care unit and to live in proximity to one of their kids. Me. What followed was a miracle in logistics. Brother Bruce and Sister Tracey (who is not a nun) organized the packing up and moving company to get all their stuff up here. I met the the moving van to get things set up and moved into their new homes. Dad would be in the memory care unit and Mom would go into an Independent Living apartment in the same building.
The problem was, it was the middle of a very snowy December and the moving van couldn't make it up to the retirement facility. So, I hired a UHaul truck and a helper and we unloaded the van into the truck in the Walmart parking lot. Then we drove up to the facility and unloaded the truck into either Mom's place or Dad's. I got both places set up and ready for their arrival on December 26th.
Brother Bruce drove them up to Montana from Arizona, drastic changes in both temperatures and living conditions. They arrived at my house on December 22nd. I had begun to decorate the place for Christmas but it was half-hearted at best. I was exhausted, mentally and physically. Upon their arrival, we settled in for the holiday with the knowledge that the day after Christmas, Dad would be moved into this care facility. It felt like a betrayal.
We did the best we could on Christmas day to stay upbeat and cheery. We watched a ton of football on TV and Dad asked who was playing about 4,000 times. He also asked who's house we were in at least 9,000 times. He was constantly hungry and shuffling to the kitchen to find food and when he got there, he didn't know where he was or why he was there.
Alzheimer's sucks. It tests every fiber of patience you have while you grieve the loss of someone you love who is still alive. It's a lot.
I didn't know it at the time but the whole thing took the life out of Christmas for me for 4 years. I just couldn't get in the spirit no matter how hard I tried. I got a tree every year but didn't decorate it. I put up garland and lights around the living room but it was not enough to pull me out of my Christmas funk.
This year, 2020, year of the COVID and struggling with all it brought, I decided to go back east and see my grandkids. I bought the tickets and daughter Megan and I prepared to get away for some much needed different scenery and family time. Sister Tracey (who is not a nun) and her husband , Matt, were coming up from Utah to stay at my house and take care of the animals and see our Little Mother while we were gone.
As the time grew closer to departure, my stomach and brain said I was crazy and I actually listened. Why jeopardize myself, my family, and people I don't even know by getting on a plane and being exposed to lots of holiday travelers? It just didn't feel right and so I cancelled the tickets, got a voucher for a future trip and stayed home.
The dogs and I went out and cut down a couple little Christmas trees (2 feet tall) and I decorated them and the house. It looked fabulous. I got food for Christmas dinner, invited a neighbor and got ready for Tracey and Matt who were still coming up. I bought presents and wrapped them. I was in the spirit for the first time since 2015. It felt good. I felt good. Yay!
The day before Christmas, Tracey and I went up to Touchmark, the retirement community Mom still lives in. She's 90 and feisty. We got our COVID tests right there, passed and went up to Mom's apartment. We stayed for 6 hours talking to each other and Zooming the rest of the family. It was fun and festive. Time well spent.
Until our Little Mother gets her vaccine, she has to stay at her place. It's been hard these last 8 months having to keep my distance from her. I could see her but no hugs. But, I got to see her. It was enough. It had to be.
Christmas day was relaxing and fun. Matt, Tracey, Megan and I opened presents and then I threw the turkey on the smoker. Everyone had a cooking job and it all came together beautifully. My neighbor and her son came over with pies and we all sat down to eat. I started a new tradition. I got those little paper cups that are in the bathroom and filled each one with an eggnog shot. We toasted, drank, and dug into the food. Everything tasted so good. Cleanup went quickly and we sat down to reflect on the day. The consensus was many thumbs up.
So, I got my Christmas spirit back. I had been worried and dreading the season again. Sometimes things just fall into place at just the right time. I couldn't be more grateful. I'm even looking forward to next Christmas when....the magic happens again. Note to self- never give up.