Vignettes

Joy and Sorrow Twinkling Together

If you look closely you can see the steam on his glasses. I pour the taste of morning. He pours gratitude. “Thank you. Thank you Baby. Thank you Tootsie.” Behind his head hanging on the refrigerator are some of the only holiday decorations I have been able to bear this year – the ones he created with his own hands at his day program. Momma used to cover the house with Santas and snowmen but now they sit in bins on the dining room floor. The spirit of Christmas or maybe it’s her spirit of Christmas closed off from me. I lift the lids to peek in but a grief-stricken vertigo topples me back. Sincerely, it’s as if a wind howls through those cracks, enters my eyes and ears, floods me with memories. I can’t keep up with the sounds and visions. Bing Crosby’s voice crooning White Christmas. My mother all merry pressing the buttons on the Hallmark snowmen over and over making them sing and dance. “Have a holly jolly Christmas, it’s the best time of the year.” The carolers. Our proud tree filled with a lifetime of ornaments – so many of them crafted by Momma herself. Candles in the windows. Stacks of cookie tins. Chocolate chip. Snickerdoodle. Snowball. Even into my twenties my siblings and I made our annual trip to the mall for a picture with Santa because it made her happy. She and Dad used to stand at the bottom of the steps with a video camera waiting to capture our amazement Christmas morning. Momma loved Christmastime beyond what I am able to fathom. All of that love builds in my chest now and I ache for her. I play music from the Christmas station. I sing to her. I kiss her cheeks in time to the rhythm. Pa rum pa pum pum. I lift her hands and dance them. I whisper: “I believe.” I try to believe. I wear my trying like a string of gaudy lights. But I cannot bring back my mother. Who is here and yet gone from me. I crawl into the chair against her. She laughs while I cry. Our heaving bodies make the same movement. Joy and sorrow twinkling together. Separate strands on a Christmas tree quivering in the wind.

#alliwantforchristmasisyou #endalz#fightwithyourheart #iamacaregiver #joyandsorrow

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4 Comments

  • Reply Brian Willinsky December 16, 2016 at 1:42 pm

    I can relate to some of this from my experience. my thoughts are with your family. the memories much come flowing over you (being in that house and with the new version of your parents) so much so that you cannot process them or control when or how they hit. you do the best you can for as long as you can.

  • Reply Myakka hutchins December 16, 2016 at 4:47 pm

    Thank u for being brave enough to share these amazing & difficult moments w others like myself who are experiencing the same difficult journey w our parents. Your blog always makes me laugh & cry! Merry Christmas to your momma!

  • Reply Doug December 16, 2016 at 7:37 pm

    Hello Ms. Wolf, Some time ago I had contacted you about your struggle to care for both your Mom and Dad and your amazing outlook on their lives as well, as your own. In my message I had explained that my Mom had gotten this unbelievably cruel and unforgiving disease and had passed away from it in 2008. I understand that most people feel that their Mom or Dad are the best in the world and I guess I’m not any different. Not knowing exactly what caregiving entails and just how much work is involved, my sisters and I mistakenly felt that it couldn’t be that hard and so we were thankful that my Dad, because of his unbelievable love for my Mom, said that he would take care of Mom by himself and that she would never leave their house and be put into an assisted care facility. It wasn’t long before my sisters and I saw just how much work and stress went into care giving by watching my Dad. He was in his mid to late seventies at the time and he was lifting my Mom in and out of bed a couple of times a day which wasn’t an easy feat for a man half his age. My sisters and I all live in different states and it was a ten an a half hour drive to their house for us so we couldn’t help out very much. My Dad and I were never really that close, but watching him care for my Mom, and the love that he had for her, did help to bring us a little closer. My Dad did an amazing job in his role as my Mom’s sole caregiver. Two years after my Mom passed away, my Dad also was diagnosed with this disease. I had made several attempts to move down and stay with him so that I could hopefully be his sole caregiver, but at the times of my attempts, he was at the stage of the disease where he was extremely argumentative and hostile and kicked me out of the house whenever I would try to move in with him. One time I had driven the ten and half hour trip down to the house and was there for no more than twenty minutes before he screamed at me to get out before he called the cops. No hotels in the area had any vacancies so I had no choice but to make the long trip back home again. It’s very difficult at times to remember that his actions and words are a result of this terrible disease and not his. Have you experienced any of that with your Mom and Dad and if so how do you handle it? I’m not sure if I had said in my last message to you that I was very worried that because of both my Mom and Dad having this disease how high would the chances be that I or my sister’s would be diagnosed with it. Although the doctor’s have said that the odds of me being diagnosed with it aren’t that high, I decided to get tested and keep my finger’s crossed that the results would be favorable. Unfortunately they weren’t and I have been told that I have early onset Alzheimer’s which is most prevalent in those 65 or younger and I’m 62. I understand that there’s a good chance that any real symptom’s could be years away, but it’s still a little hard to take. I’m sorry for taking up so much of your time with this longer than really necessary message, but I would like to ask you another question about whether or not you’ve been tested for the disease? Thank you for all that you share and although some of the things that are happening to your Mom and Dad as well as yourself, do bring tears to my eyes. Take care and God Bless

  • Reply Gretchen Staebler December 18, 2016 at 9:23 am

    Beautiful, Elizabeth. Holidays bring up loss so keenly, don’t they? But because they evoke such strong memory— both good ones that we wouldn’t want not to have; and for some, not so good ones that we wish could be left behind. Thank you for sharing your happy ones. Gretchen

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