It’s been more than two years since Mother passed away and this year we celebrated a quiet Christmas with friends. The entry below highlights the moment when we knew something was terribly wrong with Mother’s memory. Up until this point, Mother had been able to mask her memory problems.
Christmas Day 2007
We won’t be putting a wreath on the door or draping the evergreens with lights this year. There will be no Christmas music in the air or a tree in the living room or warm, familiar smells wafting from the oven because I won’t be baking Grandma’s famous pecan pie. I did all that last year when Mother came over for Christmas, but she won’t be joining us this year.
Mother was having trouble living alone the last few years and had finally agreed to move to a retirement home where she would still enjoy living in a spacious apartment among her cherished furnishings and memories, but have the support of a caring staff to help her. She would still be able to sleep as long as she wanted each morning, putter around in her red bathrobe over coffee, read the newspaper until noon, attend exercise classes, play cards, watch a movie if she felt like it, and join the other residents for cocktails and dinner each evening in one of two swanky dining rooms.
It had been four months since she’d moved from her house. After two months in her new residence she offered, “Why don’t you and Steve move into my house and look after it for me. It makes no sense for you to rent a house and for mine to sit empty.” So we did. Which is why we so looked forward to having her over for Christmas. She hadn’t been back to see her house since she’d moved out and we thought she’d really enjoy the homecoming.
I phoned her from work on December 24th and said I’d be over by 5 pm. At 4:30 I arrived and checked her apartment. She wasn’t there. So I walked up to the lobby and there she was, waiting for dinner to be announced. She seemed surprised to see me, but went with me to her rooms. I helped her pack and as we made the 25-minute drive to the house she commented on all the holiday lights.
She sat in the living room watching Christmas specials with Steve while I made our traditional Christmas Eve fare, chili. The next morning we opened presents under the tree. We exchanged the red slippers I had bought to go with our matching red bathrobes that she had purchased 20 years ago and which had become our mother-daughter hallmark. During her afternoon nap, I put the finishing touches on the turkey, dressing, green bean casserole, potatoes, and gravy. We ate at 5 pm and I took her “home” about 8:30.
Mother seemed to have had a nice time, though she’d been distant at times. She’d asked, “Is this my house?” When I said, “Yes, does it look familiar?” she’d replied, “Sort of.”
The next day at work I received a call from Mother. “Barbara, what time are you coming for me?”
“Oh, I didn’t realize I was coming over today.”
“Yes, to get me for Christmas!”
“But Mother, Christmas was yesterday.”
There was a pause on the other end of the line. “You mean I missed Christmas?”