December 20, 2019 © by Judith Allen Shone
The local Santa Claus Parade always shifts my mind from the brown, yellow and red leaves of autumn to the snow white covered red holly berries and green mistletoe of Christmas.
I have lived in Canada thirty-six years and no longer associate turkeys and football games with the Santa procession. For me, the parade launches the winter holidays.
From our apartment balcony, we can see the lake, releasing its tension or calm like glass, reflecting sparkles of sunshine or patches of dark clouds. Early in a morning we see the ducks and Canadian geese crowded together at the mouth of the river, even in winter when the river is frozen. For one who is a 24/7 caregiver, the view is a refreshing gift every day. I am ever grateful.
On one particular day near the end of November, we watch our community come together for the town’s winter festive Santa Claus Parade, announcing the coming of…slush, blizzards, ❄ bitter winds, ice pellets, 🌨 slippery streets, and icy rain of Canadian winter…oh, and yes, the warm family fireside gatherings, 🔥 days of wintertime sports, 🥅 🏒 ⛸ 🎿 and hours of busy holiday shopping 🎁 that Canada also has! 😊
We watch families bundled in toques, scarves, and boots, waving at the participants atop brightly colored holiday-themed floats, local residents particpating with the local businesses.
We sense the excitement as the productions built and decorated by members of the boat clubs and the gyms, restaurants, and car companies, and many more we cannot identify from our distant observation tower, roll across the bridge. My Love does not spend so much time watching as he used to, but he gets up to see what is going on.
If weather permits, we step outside to listen to the sounds of holiday songs. We see the bands in uniform and hear their drumsticks keeping the beat on the edges of the drums while footsteps click on the wet pavement as the parade moves through the town. Choirs, spaced throughout the featured displays, sing carols while bands play. All are there to announce the incoming season of hustle, bustle.
When we hear cheers and the sounds of “Here Comes Santa Claus,” we know the star of the parade has arrived. Santa has officially opened one more winter season, one more Christmas holiday!
For some, putting up a Christmas tree, with heirloom ornaments from years before, each with a story, adds to the memories of their traditional family Christmas.
It has been a few years since My Love and I set up a tree or even decorated a room. This year I never got around to replacing the wreath for our ‘front’ door. There are two Christmas balls My Love made during the Alzheimer Society Creative Expressions class last year. They have been hanging all year from the lamp next to where he sits. I can find no motivation to do more when it is only me who wants to dress up our home.
I turn on the holiday music; the carols we have sung for years, are now sung by Nana Mouskouri, Nat King Cole, Michael Bublé and Sarah McLachlan, singers we have long enjoyed.
There is a sense of the season. Even without the bright lights and ribbons of holiday festivities, we still anticipate Christmas.
I think of my children and grandchildren, who once again are celebrating with their friends and family. I know I will not be with them. During the first years of our dementia journey, I felt sad, almost guilty, that I was not spending the holidays with one of them. I wanted to experience the fun of having those special days together. I still have that wish that one day again, I will spend Christmas with each one.
My Love’s brother is out of the country. My Love’s adult daughters will celebrate with him sometime this holiday season. I am not sure he distinguishes this holiday from any other day. I see emotions so seldom at this point in My Love’s eyes. I guess it is his stage of Alzheimer’s. He has lost much of his ability to use words and to understand words. In the best of times, he found it hard to share emotions. Now it is that much more difficult.
I know when he likes my choice of music because he smiles. I see his head shake approvingly when he enjoys the singer or the song. It is a good day when we see the blue sky and sun sparkling on the new-fallen snow and listen to music.
Over time, I have accepted that our routine is smoother when we do not make drastic changes. I know Christmas is meaningful to most of those who celebrate it. But for me, it is one more day when I must watch for the anxiety attacks or listen carefully to the increasing intensity of the coughing, and count the pills that go into his mouth. We rarely go anywhere because of his random anxiety attacks. I am not sure what the triggers are. I just know a walk to the elevator is sometimes too much and that bit of exertion seems to bring on an attack. We stay at home many days.
Our government health coordinator was here this morning. She noted My Love’s changing status and suggested I put the rolling-walker in my car so I have it ready as a little seat…more than the walking aid. That way, I would have it nearby if, for some reason, My Love’s ability to walk changed, or his ability to breathe was shortened. That certainly made more sense rather than keeping it covered up behind the couch.
While our coordinator was sitting here, I actually felt a wee bit uncomfortable that we had no decorations up for the holidays. I felt how depressing our little apartment has become because, among other things, we have not decorated. But at the same time, I know that ‘we’ is me, that I am the one who adds any decorations and then I am the one who puts them away.
Because I am tired, I scratched decorations off the priority list.
Although I find a way to have music, I could live another year without Christmas. I could live another year without the bright lights and the smell of sugar cookies and fruit cake. I could live another year without pretty papers and sparkling ribbons on wrapped presents under a tree covered in tinsel…someone recently told me no one does tinsel anymore, anyway.
It crosses my mind…I am wondering …am I depressed?
After all, it is creeping up on eight years in this role of caregiver…ahhh, but caregivers do not have time to become depressed!
As I probe my thoughts, I sit and tell myself that everything will work out. After all, the coordinator had just reminded me that a steaming pot boils up but eventually levels back out to a simmer, even if caregivers are always on simmer.
That’s my exhaustion point…aways on simmer, always turned to ‘ready,’ never turned off! Caregivers know this, but it does not make it any different.
A bamboo sound broke into my thoughts, telling me an email had just arrived.
Among those that scrolled onto the screen was a note from my sister in the U.S. She will be coming with her daughter to visit the day after Christmas. My personal angels offered to bring dinner. And bring their musical instruments so we can play music together.
That’s my sister on the right end…I recognized her right off! 🥰
Even if I prefer to opt for us to go out to eat, I am excited for someone to be coming to see us! It is times like this when I realize how isolated I have become! How much I miss the laughter and storytelling that socializing adds to life. Caregiving is not always fun, but there is joy around every corner if we just let it appear.
Their visit is going to be a pleasant ‘respite’ for me, a gift of support, I will honestly appreciate.
It was so amazing how quickly I felt refreshed…her email motivated me to put up a decoration or two, inspired me to get the vacuum out before she arrives.
At first, I did not want anyone to come here. I can not clean the place by myself anymore. But I know I can do a little. I do not want to disrupt My Love’s routine. But this one time it will be OK. I know it. If I am feeling good, he will pick up on that good energy and feel good too.
I just know it is going to be a beautiful Christmas!
Merry Christmas Happy Holidays
Joyeux Noël Frohe Weinachten
Feliz Navidad Buon Natale
Feliz Natal Wesołych świąt Bożego Narodzenia
Vrolijk kerstfeest God Jul
Each day do something to make others smile and your heart sing.
“Beautiful Christmas” Copyright (C) 2019 Judith Allen Shone
Thank you …to book readers, book sellers, libraries, followers and friends, for supporting spouse-caregivers, and to all who supported me and Is There Any Ice Cream? published for those who want to learn about the world of caregiving!
And especially to:
A Different Drummer Books, Burlington, Ontario
Access Abilities, Oakville and Mississauga, Ontario
Acclaim Health, Oakville, Ontario
Alzheimer Society Halton
Maria’s Bookshop, Durango, Colorado
Oakville Animal Clinic, Oakville, Ontario
ReikimasterinOakville Greater GTA, Ontario
SENACA Oakville, Ontario (now part of Acclaim Health)
The Bookworm, Omaha, Nebraska
December 18, 2019