Last year was my elderly mother’s first Easter in her new digs at the assisted living facility. She and I attended services in the chapel and I joined her for lunch in the dining room. While it was different from the previous year when she was still living independently and came to my house for the holiday, we had a nice time. And it worked.
However, this year I knew I would have to change it up a bit. Because for a person suffering from dementia as my mother does, a lot can change in a year. A lot can change in a few months. Oh, who am I kidding? A lot can change in the course of a few short weeks.
As this Easter Sunday approached, I realized I was not looking forward to this holiday. I recognized the familiar sense of dread I have been feeling at the approach of every holiday for quite a while now. I become afflicted with a nasty case of the Holiday Heebie-Jeebies. Because I never know which “Mom” will be “in the house” that day. Will it be the happy gal who chatters away repeating the same stories, but with whom you can still have a pleasant visit? Or will it be the nervous twittery gal who is anxious and confused due to a change in her daily routine, which makes for a very unpleasant visit?
After giving it some thought, I opted to visit her at the assisted living facility again this year, rather than inviting her to my house for Easter brunch. But we did not attend services in the chapel. We did not share a lunch in the dining room. We did not go to one of the lounges on her floor.
We stayed in her room. I brought her flowers, arranged them in a vase and placed them on the table by her window where she could see them. I put away the personal care items I had brought her, took stock of her current inventory and made a list of items she would need on my next visit. Outside of that bouquet of spring flowers, it turned out to be pretty much of a routine visit.
We did have a nice conversation, since I kept it to topics which I knew would be easy to chat about, as has been my habit lately. And we enjoyed a laugh or two. I did extend my visit longer than has been our routine. Which raised my mother’s anxiety level since lunch was being served earlier that day because of the holiday. And as our visit was coming to its close, she kept her eyes on the clock, announcing the time every two to three minutes.
Hey, I get it. I’m not a total idiot. I understand that being on time for meals and activities is important to her. Which is why I schedule my visits with her to coordinate with her daily timeline and not what is convenient or easier for me. And holidays are no different.
What has become different for me is that I have finally had my holiday epiphany. I have made the conscious decision that while I will ensure my mother will have a pleasant holiday experience, it is as important that I have the opportunity to do so as well. And my personal holiday celebration will not always be shared with my mother.
Sometimes my holiday celebration will be shared only with my husband and my puppies. An early morning walk in the park. An afternoon sitting together outside in our backyard, with my puppies napping in the sun, while I finish the book I have been reading and my husband snoops through our garden books for seasonal inspiration. Or perhaps an evening of watching old movies in the peace and quiet of our family room.
I can honestly say I now feel cured of those nasty Holiday Heebie-Jeebies. I have been self-vaccinated with the realization that my holiday experiences are just as important as my mother’s. And I am not being a selfish person. Or cruel one. But I am learning how to be a survivor.