This Christmas was my first by myself, with Ma in care.
Since Dad died, Ma and I have planned the menu and prepared it together. We would go ham and pork shopping. Turkey was off the list and chicken was in… only because I pleaded. The Christmas cake would be made and wrapped in foil until the right moment came to ‘open’ it. The massive Christmas pudding was no longer an option and we resorted to a recipe that made individual microwave puddings that we froze and ate during the year. We’d cook and prepare way to much food but it never went to waste.
Christmas Eve would find us sitting around the kitchen table preparing the different foods and listening to Christmas music. Christmas Day would find us doing the finishing touches, with more Christmas music, while having coffee and Kahlua. We then unwrapped presents together while sipping on sparkling wine and nibbling on chocolate coated peanuts and smoked almonds. Last year Ma attended Christmas Day services with me and my sister which was special… even though she dozed off during the sermon.
Last year I had to show her how to cut things up and how to construct the Trifle. For years, Ma’s Trifle has been the piece de resistance. Christmas was held at our house and my siblings with their families would all descend for lunch. After my Dad passed, everyone went their separate ways but the family didn’t miss out on their Trifle fix. Ma would construct individual Trifles for all the men in the family. For some reason men love Trifle. This fact belongs with, men don’t know how to hang washing.
This Christmas, everything changed. I woke to an empty house, except for hungry kitties. It all felt wrong. I decided to get out and go to the gym and then took myself to Maccas to pick up some breakfast. I felt I had to change everything. I came home, showered and went to church where I cried on the way in; during the service; and when I came out. Everything felt wrong and I felt very ‘off-quilter’. My sister and her family visited Ma and I arrived around 12 to go to the dining room for lunch with her.
Unfortunately they were still dressing the bad pressure sores on her bottom and I walked in to her crying and struggling, as she’s always convinced she’ll fall off the bed. Staff then couldn’t work out how to get her out of the bed into her wheelchair. Asking me whether they should use the lifter or whether she could stand. The more they discussed, the more agitated Ma became until I told the staff to leave her and I would sit with Ma in her room. They organised a tray for her which was beautifully decorated, unfortunately I didn’t get anything. She only ate a few bites and gave up.
My sister had left four 200ml bottles of pink ‘champagne’ and Ma sat up like the queen enjoying her treat, with morphine attached, sipping her sparkling while watching David Attenborough DVDs. My man arrived around 4pm and after visiting with Ma we tried to leave. Ma started to cry and couldn’t understand why I was going. She wanted to come with us. We sat some more and I kept saying how hungry I was… She settled down some and we left her watching Carols by Candlelight.
My last Christmas with Ma? I don’t know. I treasure the times we had and found this Christmas to be very difficult, the time spent with her was bittersweet. I’m glad I changed the way I do things. I’m glad I got up and left the house. If you can’t have what’s familiar, do something different. I know that got me through.