Archive for December 15th, 2009|Daily archive page

Christmas party

Today, the Alz center hosted a Christmas party for residents and their families. I took the afternoon off to attend the whole thing, which ran from 2 to 4. When I arrived, I found Mom (with an activity aide’s help) sitting on a couch in the far end of the program area, talking with a gentleman resident. The party was just getting started, and I urged her to come with me to sit in the circle in the program area to hear the entertainment, a man with a guitar, wearing a Hawaiian shirt with poinsettias all over it and singing Christmas songs. We left the resident behind on the couch, but I don’t think he really minded. I invited him to join us, but he didn’t seem to be interested. The entertainer sang “Jingle Bells” first, and many residents, including Mom, could sing along. He sang some older tunes, which were familiar to me but that I didn’t really know, and the residents could sing along with many of those, as well.

The activities director encouraged everyone to get food, so I went down the hall to fix a plate for me and Mom. I got us each a meatball, a chicken finger, two pieces of cheese and a frosted cookie. And a cup of punch. I handed her her punch, put the cookie plate on my lap and held the food plate between us, and gave Mom a fork. She put the fork down, picked up a meatball and tossed it into her punch. I try not to act mortified when things like this happen. I told her it might taste better if she ate it plain, and she picked the meatball out and took a bite. She sipped the punch and said it didn’t taste very good. I put it on the floor and gave her my punch. We got through the rest of the snacks without much trouble, though Mom did get lots of crumbs on her lap. She liked the cookie best. I probably should have just given her a cookie and she would have been satisfied. Later, when I was brushing crumbs off of her, I noticed one up near the collar of her shirt. I brushed at it and brushed at it and it stuck. I realized it was a booger. Once again, I tried not to show my dismay. It really wasn’t that big a deal. It just took me by surprise.

Santa and Mrs. Claus came around to each resident for a visit, and staff members took pictures of residents and families with the Claus couple. Eventually, a staff member handed Mom a wrapped gift with her name on it. Mom asked if she should open it now and I said absolutely, she should. She studied it, then started tearing at it. “I’m really going to have to rip it up,” she said. I told her that’s a fun part about Christmas – you get to tear the wrapping paper off of your gifts. I was tickled with the gift – six pairs of socks. I had been considering getting Mom some socks. Now I don’t have to.

Mom gives me a little smile at the beginning of the party. You can see in the background that the Christmas tree is tied to a pole with twine.

After some encouragement, Mom tears the wrapping paper off of her package.

Mom isn't sure that these are socks until I tell her. I put them in a drawer in her room and hope staff members put them to use.

An hour into the party, the entertainment changed. An Elvis impersonator, who had been in the lobby when I arrived singing to the residents in the skilled nursing area, was coming to sing with us, and the guitar player was moving to the lobby. Elvis started with “White Christmas,” and then sang some songs I didn’t really know. He then sang “Peace in the Valley,” a song I know because I am a Johnny Cash and June Carter fan rather than because of its Elvis connection. A lot of residents knew that song, too. I really like that song, so I was warming up to Elvis. He walked around to shake hands and he shook Mom’s hand and put his hand on my back, and I just loved the whole thing. He was a good entertainer, not over the top, had a nice voice, really worked the room. During one song, a resident stood right in front of him and started touching the beads on his outfit. She just stayed there, and he held hands with her and let her admire him.

Our good-natured Elvis impersonator. He said that after he was finished, he had to go score his son's basketball game in Groveport. I just found that funny.

The activities director started dancing with some residents, and I asked Mom if she wanted to dance, and she sort of sheepishly said yes. So we danced together, doing a little twisting. It was fun. She eventually said she was tired and we stopped. I alternately laughed and also wanted to cry. There are so many residents there who cannot dance, let along walk, whose faces didn’t register that they might be enjoying the music. Who didn’t recognize Santa and didn’t realize there was a party going on. One activity aide went around to many residents in wheelchairs and held their hands and danced around their chairs. She seems to be a favorite of Mom’s. Every time Mom spotted her, she’d say, “I like her.”

When Elvis finally wrapped it up with “Silent Night,” I was exhausted. I think Mom was, too. I helped put away a few chairs and Mom seemed a little restless. “I don’t want to be left here alone,” she said. She often says something like this when I show signs of leaving. “I don’t know what I’ll do,” she says. I always tell her she’ll be busy, she’ll be eating soon, she’ll have stuff to do and be surrounded by her friends and she won’t even know I’m gone. I hope that is true. Though a staff member did come up to Mom at the beginning of the party and said, “See, Emily did make it.” Apparently, Mom wasn’t sure I had been informed about the party. I asked her if she had been worried that I wouldn’t be there and she said, “I don’t know. I don’t have a very good memory.” I was just glad she wasn’t feeling upset the way she had been at the Thanksgiving party.

We took a little walk, and the activities director passed by and wished me a Merry Christmas and admired my Christmas sweater. I told her Mom has a couple of sweaters, too. That made me want to go back to Mom’s room and prominently place her Christmas sweaters in front of the closet so they’re seen by whoever it is who helps Mom get dressed. While I was going through her closet, Mom stretched out on her roommate’s bed and covered herself with a jacket she had taken out of the closet. I asked her if she wanted to stay there and she said yes. I asked her if I should turn off the light and she said no. I arranged some of her clothes – including some of her nicer shirts in addition to her Christmas sweaters – in the closet in a way that I thought made them more visible. I don’t know why that matters to me, but Mom does have some nice clothes. And I want her to wear them sometimes.

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