Last week was busy but warmer than normal for this time of year. Still there was a chance of snow on most days, and I don’t drive on snow. I stressed about being able to spend time with dad, and ended up visiting him on Tuesday as usual and again on Wednesday, Christmas Eve, because I was afraid I wouldn’t get there on Christmas Day.
I brought dad his presents on Christmas Eve and handed them to him in the lounge. I explained that it was Christmas Eve (because he used to prefer to open presents on Christmas Eve, an old family tradition from his youth). In actuality as we grew up he often had to work on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day and as kids we opened most gifts Christmas morning, but maybe one on Christmas Eve.
Dad set the presents aside. “I think I will save them for Christmas”, he said. I told him I wasn’t sure I would be there Christmas Day. He asked where I would be and I said I was having brunch with my daughter at her house. It depended on when we finished if I could get there as I don’t drive once the sun starts setting. It gives me limited driving time in the winter as we have such short days here in this northern state.
Dad asked where I would be eating dinner, and I said I wasn’t really having dinner – just a late lunch with my daughter and her family. OK. He still wanted to save his presents for Christmas Day. (I didn’t plan to take dad to visit the rest of the family because the commotion of all the children and other people around is too difficult for him to handle. He gets confused and generally prefers to just have a few visitors to his ALF.)
I left feeling like I was abandoning dad on Christmas even though I had been there Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday – more than in a usual week. Christmas Day I went to my daughter’s for a nice brunch with my daughter’s family. We finished shortly after noon and I was home by 1 PM. I decided I would visit dad right then and see him on the holiday.
I drove straight to his Assisted Living Facility. It was fairly quiet there and dad was asleep on the sofa. I woke him and wished him a Merry Christmas. He looked at me and said: “Is today Christmas?” Yes, I said, it was. I asked if he had opened his presents and he said no. I suggested we go back to his room and he could open his presents.
We went to his room and I handed him his presents. There were some food gifts and some clothing. He opened them and thanked me. Then I said “Merry Christmas, Dad!” He said Merry Christmas and I kissed him. Then as I sat down he started to cloud over. His eyes got watery and he looked like he was about to cry. He grabbed my hand and said “Hold my hand. I really miss your mother!” I held his hand and said: “I do too dad”. By then the tears were falling as they are right now.
As I left to go home, I wondered if I should have visited at all. He forgot it was even Christmas and was OK with that. I reminded him and then he was sad. I decided it was good anyway to be with him at Christmas even if we have to feel the loss of mom again. We are family together.
I felt like it was a bittersweet holiday. I was glad to be able to be with dad, and sad that he is sad and still missing mom after 4 years. We will always miss her, and Christmas will never be the same, but at least we can spend some time together.
I will add that my children and I also spent the day after Christmas together with more people as my other daughter and her family came to this part of the state after celebrating Christmas day at home. It was another busy noisy long day and again I didn’t bring dad. I saw him on Sunday and he was fine and back to normal. I reminded him that this week is New Year’s Eve and Day but that isn’t as important to him.
This is probably my last post of this year, and I want to wish all my readers a very Happy New Year. I will be posting intermittently for awhile, but hope to get back on a regular schedule sometime.