I’m failing at the “goodwill to men” part of Christmas.
In fact, I’m failing Christmas full stop, and can’t raise the energy to care.
Usually our cards go out the day after Thanksgiving. This year, I’ve sent exactly two.
Forget decking the halls. The decorations are still packed in their boxes.
The Engineer and I did get them out of the loft, and bought our living tree, temporarily stationed in the garage where it makes me absurdly happy to see it every time I pull in. This is some progress, I suppose.
But, this is the time of year I’m normally busy delivering plates of baked goods, and the oven has been stone-cold all month.
By now, maybe you’re wondering how a Christmas-loving elf becomes a Scrooge, a Grinch, a fill-the-stockings-with-coal holiday drop-out.
Well, my mom fell on November 1. She went out with her cane, rather than her walker, and did a face-plant at the Verizon store. It’s a struggle for me to not to assign blame, so I will only say after she broke her forearm (both bones) in March, I have refused to take her anywhere without her walker.
This is because I noticed her doing what I call a dipsy-doodle — losing her balance briefly and recovering with a little side-step. She’s too heavy for me to pick up if she falls, so when she goes with me, she takes the walker.
She wasn’t with me. Furthermore, she’s an adult, certainly capable of making her own decisions, even if that choice results in a bruised face and broken (the orthopedic surgeon called it “crumbled”) elbow.
Do you know what happens when you are eighty-eight, live alone, with arthritis in your left shoulder and atrial fibrillation, and you break your right elbow (after breaking the same arm seven months earlier)?
They send you home from the emergency room with a note to see the orthopedic surgeon the following week.
Chance would be a fine thing. The earliest appointment available was November 26 — twenty-six days after the fall — although ultimately, she got in earlier due to a cancellation.
The ER report also recommended following up with her GP, but they always say that. As far as I know, no one told my brother the GP was the one who might help us coordinate care for our mother.
Here are some of the things Mom could not do unassisted:
- Feed herself anything that required cutting.
- Use the bathroom.
- Write anything.
- Walk, even with a walker (it takes two hands to steer).
- Put in her hearing aids.
- Clean her false teeth.
- Feed her cat.
- Clean the cat box.
- Do dishes.
- Sweep the kitchen or bathroom.
- Pour a glass of water.
Yet, they sent her home. And for various reasons, after about a week, the bulk of her care ended up falling to me, which meant going over each morning to help her dress and get set up for the day, and going back in the evening to get her to bed.
In between, I was terrified she would fall again, until finally she suggested checking herself into a nursing home for a few weeks until we could sort out some help.
There, at least, they had nurses on duty, aides to help her shower and dress, and a doctor to keep an eye on her progress.
The downside was, she mostly sat in her room. And then she caught a cold, which turned into a respiratory infection.
Still, it gave me time to organize some non-medical help for her. To my surprise, the doctor at the nursing home also wrote orders for a nurse, a physical therapist, and an occupational therapist.
Meanwhile, on the day before I took Mom home (and several days before all the help kicked in), I got the flu, followed by a sinus infection and bronchitis.
The last time I felt that bad, I had pleurisy (which was way more painful, but a lot shorter lived). I could hardly raise the energy to get off the couch, but the thought of Mom sitting there waiting, unfed, unwashed, undressed, forced me to go. Because if I didn’t, I wasn’t sure who would.
I should mention that I have several friends, as well as a cousin, who expressed a willingness to help, but, well, you can’t exactly expect a friend to clean your mother’s false teeth, can you?
To complicate things, I couldn’t bring myself to go to the doctor, even when I knew I needed antibiotics, because the last few times I saw a doctor, I was charged not only for the doctor and prescription, but also a “facility fee.” The Engineer calls this a charge for “the pleasure of walking on their tiles,” and since it was over $200 to essentially pay their electricity bills, I just couldn’t do it. (See my previous blog on the subject.)
Finally, I remembered some drug stores have clinics with nurse-practitioners and/or physician assistants. I went to one of them for a total cost of $109, plus about $5 for the prescription.
I know this post sounds whiny. Be thankful I didn’t have the energy to write it earlier when I was really feeling peevish. (And can I just say here what a brilliant word that is? Peeeee-vish. Somehow it sounds exactly like what it’s saying.)
Things are finally getting better. Mom has a helper three mornings a week, which means I’m only “on duty” for the remaining four, and she can get herself to bed. After she sent the aide home early one day, I’ve also signed off laundry as a task for the aides, instead of dragging it to my house and back.
This has freed me to do things like buy Mom a lift chair and one with arms for her kitchen table (to better enable her to get up on her own), take her to the doctor, buy groceries, and all the rest. Thankfully, I’m feeling well enough now so these no longer seem like insurmountable jobs.
I even got out for a walk today (walking, Yoga, and Pound class having been distant dreams for the last six weeks).
The “walkers” have been trimming the trees of our beautiful park as they do every year. The sight always makes me smile, and I’m sharing these pictures in the hope they’ll do the same for you.
Also, if you feel the need to hear the song that’s been rolling around in my head for the last week and a half, visit here to see a Youtube video of “We Need a Little Christmas” as sung by Johnny Mathis.
Eventually, I expect to feel energetic enough to put up a few decorations, wrap presents, and bake. It may not be Christmas as usual, but it will have to do. As John Lennon supposedly said, “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” (I just looked it up, and Lennon may not have been the first to say this.)
To sum up the Christmas part of this post, I encourage you to read some of the “Christmas Notes” on my original “Reading, Writing, Ranting, and Raving” blog. Just search “Christmas,” and see what you get. If this is too much work, go here to see the best Christmas carol ever, performed by Bing Crosby and David Bowie. I realize this is only an opinion, but I am a Christmas song aficionado, so feel my thoughts on the subject should bear some weight.
As always, I am grateful for your readership, and I promise not to make a habit of writing posts when I’m feeling cranky.
Wishing you a very merry Christmas.
We winterized the hives a few days after Thanksgiving. First we pushed them together as close as we could, fit foam insulation between to keep in the warmth, and wrapped them together. We also put in shims, fit sugar patties in the open space, and put more foam insulation under the outer cover. The Engineer built a little shelter for them, which I’ve mentally dubbed “La Hacienda de la Apis Mellifera,” which if I’m translating correctly means “The House of the Honey Bee.”
On sunny days like today, a few crazy girls come out for little flights, even when it’s only in the thirties. Inevitably, a few end up in the snow. One of the (many) reasons I love my husband is because he always goes out, scoops them up, brings them inside to warm up, and then returns the survivors to the hive.
Have a honey of a New Year.
9 thoughts on “I Need a Little Christmas Now!”
Good grief…. I prescribe a large dose of ‘Quit beating yourself up’ chased down by a slug of ‘I have too much on my plate to worry about Christmas baking’, with a side order of ‘taking care of the ones I love comes before sending cards’. This isn’t whiney, it’s explanatory, in case anyone out there was feeling the urge to wag a finger because you hadn’t put up and decorated the tree, baked endlessly and sent out your cards. As if…. It’s the season of goodwill, not social pressure, and you’re exerting more than the average goodwill, so I hope you’ll be showing some to yourself, too. I think the Girls would agree: time to show *yourself* a little sweetness. Happy Christmas, may your problems decrease in size and your joys forever increase. xx
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Thanks, Kate. Things are improving, but I’m not sure Mom will ever again be as independent as she was. I’ve kinda reached the same conclusion. We will have Christmas. It just may be a little different. And that’s fine because, you know, priorities.
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What your friend Kate said! Oh, dear, Kym. Sending lotsa love and wishes for strength, courage and health. And sometimes expressions of peevishness are warranted. Best Wishes for the holiday season❣️
(See ya soon in the New Year? When it’s good for you. No pressure!)
Thanks, Joyce. Things are improving. Just very limited time and motivation for all Christmas stuff.
Oh Kym, I’m so sorry to hear about your mom’s fall and the subsequent care-giving responsibilities that you’ve had to assume. It is just so difficult when our parents reach that stage in life and they become our children. I went through the walker rejection with my mom too—until she fell and broke her hip. (But by that time she was in assisted living where she and my dad had to go after he had fallen and broken HIS second hip!) You just have to do what you can and not feel guilty when you can’t do everything. I’m glad you were able to find some help for her. As Alexander would say, “Some Christmases are like this, even in Australia.”
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So true, Betsy. I’m just very glad she has some help. I’d much rather she spend what she’s saves to remain independent as long as possible than continuing to save to leave us a bit, though I completely understand that saving mindset. Very hard to go from saving all your life to spending what you know you’ll never be able to replace. It was just a bit of a perfect storm with getting sick when she most needed help. So much better now. Thanks for writing. Hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday season. 🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄
I think that it is funny that Dave goes out and saves the bees that have hypothermia…very heartwarming (or beewarming ?) ……. Helen is very blessed to have a daughter that gets over there so often and takes care of her… that’s what Christmas is all about, showing the love…
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Thanks, Flo. It warms my heart every time he does it. As for Mom, well, she’s my mom. And she needs my help. So, that’s that. ❤️❤️❤️
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