Wednesday, December 21, 2016

That Darn Grinch

I’ve been working on conjuring up some “Christmas spirit” this year, but it hasn’t been easy.

It’s not like I’m intentionally practicing my mean ol’ Mister Grinch impersonation or anything. Mostly because, well, let’s face it, green is not my color. And I’ve done the whole decorating and shopping and card-sending and baking thing in an effort to dispel any comparison to the Grinch, but sometimes it all feels a little hollow.

Cindy Lou Who, I’m not.

It’s hard to feel festive when we’re missing family members this year.  This will be the first Christmas without my dad and it’s amazing how big a hole that man left in my life. I miss him so much.

And, even though she’s not sure how long ago she lost him, my mom misses him even more. He was such a reassuring, loving and caring presence in her life – and without him, my mom is even more mired in her confusion. 

Vince and I brought mom over here the other afternoon for our Christmas celebration and, even though on the surface we had a wonderful time together – underneath it all, my mom was agitated and muddled. She wasn’t sure what was expected of her or what was to happen next. And, after dinner, when I told her we were getting ready to take her back home, she couldn’t remember where “home” was.

When we arrived back in her apartment at the memory care unit, she wasn’t sure what was expected of her and what was to happen next even then. Was she supposed to stay there? Was I staying there with her? When was I coming back?

Someone recently made a comment that resonated with Vince – and with me, too. She said, “Watching someone with dementia is like {experiencing} thousands of little deaths.”

And it’s true. One minute we have a positive experience or interaction, and the next minute, mom isn’t sure whose house she’s in or what day it is. So every day we try to learn how to make life easier for mom as she struggles with this ugly disease. We love the woman she is now and help her as best we can, but we mourn the woman we have loved and lost.

It has also been a sad year with other close losses as well. One of my dearest friends lost her husband only two short months ago. My mother-in-law lost her brother. And my brother-in-law lost his father. I know people who are dealing with life-threatening illnesses and others who are watching their elderly parents decline - and there is nothing they can do to make things better.

And just last week, my brother John lost his wife, Oneida. She had been in ill health for quite some time, but we assumed she would get better and continue on as they had been. But her heart stopped and she never regained consciousness – and she passed away in hospice on Thursday. So John is reeling with yet another major loss this year – and we don’t know what to do to help him.

So I’m just so darn sad right now. And tired of being sad.

I think I’m waiting for Cindy Lou Who and the people of Whoville to clasp my hands and sway around the gaily decorated tree and sing, “Welcome Christmas” so my heart can grow three sizes again.

For years, one of my favorite things to do to get in the holiday spirit (usually as I was facing the challenge of bringing all those heavy boxes of decorations down from the attic), was to listen to B.E. Taylor’s Christmas albums.

B.E. Taylor was from the Pittsburgh area and when I lived in Steubenville in the late 90s, I went to his concerts every Christmas season with my friends. He had such an amazing presence and spirit – and he put his own spin on many Christmas hymns and classics. 

We always left those concerts in a joyful and festive mood – and it has been my “go-to” album of choice at the beginning of every Christmas season ever since.

Except for this Christmas. Even playing B.E. Taylor’s music made me sad this year. Why? 

Because I really AM the Grinch?

No…it’s because B.E. Taylor himself passed away in August of this year. Another sad and – to me – an unexpected loss.

I think it’s just about time for the little black cloud that seems to be hovering overhead this year to mosey on along.

Ah well. Loss is just as much a part of life as is love and light and laughter.

And I’ll have to practice that whole “fake it 'til you make it” thing until I can truly find my smile again.

Fortunately, getting together with family and friends helps – and we’ve have several gatherings recently that lifted my spirits.

The place where mom lives sent me a card the other day. In it, they enclosed a photo of mom with Santa. That picture made me laugh out loud in delight.

And tonight I’m meeting another friend for happy hour, so I have something fun on the agenda.

So I’ll continue to function every day as if I have nothing more taxing than a hangnail to contend with. In that way, we’ll muddle along this Christmas season and trust that things will get better.  

Fake it – right?

Since I am pretty sure this will be the last blog I write before the 25th, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all a joyful holiday and a Happy New Year. If you have a house filled with family and friends to celebrate with count yourself extraordinarily blessed.

But I’ve also learned that even if there is only one other person you love – but you get to spend time with that person – then you should also consider yourself extraordinarily blessed. I know I have that – and that alone is enough to make my little ol’ heart grow three sizes.

See you in 2017!

PS. Sorry if used too many Grinch references! 

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