A different kind of Christmas

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.

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Merry Christmas?

I hate this time of the year, although probably not as much as my birthday.  I decorate and bake my little heart out but it all feels hollow and somewhat desperate.  There’s always something missing.  Maybe it’s the innocence of youth and the awe that I had back then.  And the fact that the big family Christmas died out when my Dad died.  I have decorated ad nauseum and have got 8 sets of solar lights blinking their little hearts out.  I’ve even hung a set of lights outside my own window to cheer myself up.  Ma has two sets which she loves to watch out her window of a night.

I realise this could be my last Christmas with Ma at home (not that it’s home to her) or even her knowing who I am for that matter.  Who knows?  So, the race is on to make it a memorable one.  Unfortunately Ma started fixating on the ham back in November until I let her buy one, or let us say choose one, last week.  The sucker is 6kg (OMG, there is two of us) and was the first one she saw.  I just gave up and bought it…

Unfortunately with the ham out of the way she has moved on to the triffle. Luckily I could use the very real excuse of ingredients expiring before Christmas.  Not to mention the fact that she wants to make the triffle now!  I have to keep on pointing out that Christmas is still a ‘little’ way off.  I try and go through the different recipes with her to distract her.  Not sure how long I’ll get away with it though.  The thing that worries me is what she will move onto next…

I can sIMG_0470ee her short term memory moving further out of reach.  Appointments are repeated several times a day as are any other ‘important’ occurrences.  She is getting less bothered about ‘stuff’.  Getting opinions and ideas from her is hard work.  I sometimes wonder whether I should still bother… but I do.

So at the moment Christmas is high on her agenda.  Old recipes have slipped out of her memory but we have back-ups.  Things are harder for her now.  She is moving further away.  My patience is sometimes stretched to the limit and beyond.  We will continue and I will try to make sure that this is a Christmas to remember.  Albeit a bittersweet one.