Last Christmas card from Mom

As part of preparing my Christmas card list, I was sorting through cards from years past that I had collected in this crafty little card holder I received as a gift awhile back. I enjoy re-reading annual letters and looking at photos of children and families. I was feeling rather peppy, like I’m getting an early start on the cards this year. Don’t laugh. Getting started on Dec. 13 is early for me.

And I came across this card:

I think it was one of those musical cards, but nothing happens now when I push the Press Here button.

Very nice words. And yet, she thought I was her mother.

I wish I had dated this. I am thinking that it is from 2007, when Mom was in assisted living and still hoping to manage to send some cards and gifts, at least to her grandchildren. And, apparently, to me. We went to Big Lots to shop, if I recall correctly. I’m pretty sure I facilitated the purchase of this card. I imagine she liked the picture of the roses. She could still read then, for sure. That she thought I was her mother wasn’t necessarily new – she has been confused about our relationship for many years. But still, it was startling to come across it now.

I’m glad I saved it. But it oddly doesn’t represent a good memory. When Mom still tried to be engaged with the world, she leaned on me for so much help. I really disliked the holidays for a few years – especially those years when I had to assist Mom with gift ideas, and shopping, and shipping. It was extra work, for one, but it also was just so depressing for me to help Mom go through these holiday motions knowing that she’d likely forget everything that was done. She also was already confused about what gifts were by this time. During the opening of presents, she would set something aside and later discover it, forgetting that she had recently unwrapped it. Last year, my brother and sister still wanted to get her gifts, and they did. They haven’t asked for ideas this year, and I am a little relieved. She has everything she needs at the Alz center, and these days, most new things seem to get lost (ie shoes). And though she might still remember the words to some holiday songs out of habit, she is completely clueless about what Christmas is. She will have no idea that she received no gifts.

Even now, with her so very settled, I remain a little numb to some of the pleasures of the season. I am relieved that I get enjoyment from looking at our Christmas tree and the blue lights outside that Patrick bought especially for me this year after I made a passing comment about how much I liked blue lights. But Patrick initiated every move we’ve made, and did most of the tree decorating and took care of all the decorations placed anywhere else in the house. I like Christmas music, but so far I haven’t listened to it as much as I used to. I think each year, it gets a little better. But I guess I am one of those types, for the time being, who finds the holiday season a little bit depressing rather than overwhelmingly joyous.

11 comments so far

  1. Jennifer Jayhawk on


    You are an amazing cyber friend!!!

    I so get the whole Christmas thing. My Dad started a tradition of the six of us going out for Christmas Eve dinner every year. It grew to where my brothers were inviting girlfriends and eventually spouses. My boyfriend/husband joined in during our college years. My dad died almost 30 years ago

    This has become overwhelming for my Mom. This will be the last year of this tradition. The obsession begins months before Christmas Eve. My family no longer lives in KC or travels to KC so I’m a bit bummed that this is the last year for this tradition for many reasons.

    My Mom, brothers, wives, kids, grandkids and great-grand kids will be there this year but not my family.

    We made this decision as a family for many reasons. It is incredibly expensive to travel during the holiday’s and our two son’s are currently interning for Elevation Church. They will be working through Christmas Eve and Christmas. It will be a unusual Christmas needless to say.

    Take care my cyber friend 🙂

  2. Jennifer Jayhawk on

    One more thing!

    I have purchased my Mom’s Christmas cards for several years now and include the stamps she needs.

    She has not been able to send them this year.

  3. Karin S. on

    Be good to yourself, Emily. It’s OK to not really enjoy Christmas! I know you enjoy the love Patrick shows you, and that is what matters.

  4. Nancy Ahrens on

    I so appreciate your sharing in this blog………….Thank you, Emily

  5. Sherri on

    It’s hard sometimes, isn’t it? Missing what used to be this season? Patrick is so nice. And, this is odd, but just last night, I was thinking how much I like blue lights – in fact, I’m all about the blue this year. Hope you and Patrick have a nice time this year. You are so attentive to your mom.

  6. momsbrain on

    Jennifer: That is a tough family tradition to maintain; I am impressed at how long you all have been able to do it. And I completely understand why it can’t happen this year, and how that is distressing and a relief at the same time. Families change so much as it is, and then this dementia thing just forces us to accept more change, all the time. It can be exhausting! Thank you for your kind words. I am glad we “know” each other via our blogs!

    Karin: It’s true that Patrick’s love does so much for me. And I do enjoy getting him gifts, and receiving the gifts he finds for me. He is good at the gift thing, for everyone.

    Nancy: Hello! This blog does a lot for me – it’s a type of therapy. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    Sherri: I’ve gotten glimpses of your blog and how chaotic things are right now. I think that if I had children, I would have a completely different feeling about the holiday. Though the work involved would kill me! The absence of a Mom at this time of year is hard, even at age 45. Though I must say, my stepmother and mother-in-law are very good to me, and have been very positive forces in my life, and that helps quite a bit.

  7. Jenni on

    Emily, I appreciate your perspective so much. I work at an assisted living community which has memory care. Because I am so close to the community, it is sometimes hard for me to step away and really witness and understand what is going on with the families of our residents. Your candor and clarity help me to get a glimpse at least. I will be thoughtful of the faces I see coming and going, particularly this time of year.

  8. margaret massey on

    I can relate to many parts of what you wrote. My mother has been calling me “Mom” for a few months now. Sometimes she corrects herself, but when she’s emotional she doesn’t realize it at all.

    In an awkward-feeling way, it does make sense, since we as caregivers start to take on that kind of role in their lives.

    I imagine it’ll be a hard Christmas for us too, though I hope to be surprised otherwise. My only sibling and her son (Mom’s only grandchild) may or may not drive up from the south to see her last minute. They don’t like to plan or commit. If not, Mom’s heart will be broken, and she won’t want to do anything else but worry about why they didn’t come.

    If they do come, she’ll have a lot of anxiety about how to entertain them, and how to deal with their desire to get out and do things, when she’s mostly home bound. She’s spent the last month worrying about whether she’ll get that visit or not, and wondering what she did to scare them away. 😦

    So very much appreciate you and the commenters above sharing similar stories.

    Take care,

  9. momsbrain on

    Jenni: Thanks for reading and commenting. I’m glad you are close to the community – the more people who care about patients with dementia, the better. But yes, for families, all times of year can be hard. But Christmas can be downright complicated.

    Meg: May I just be bold and say dang it, I hope your sibling comes to see her. And to check in on you. Why would they break her heart while it can still be broken? Of course, I don’t know the whole story. But if it is important to her, I hope she gets what she wants. As long as my mom cared about anything, I tried to help her out with whatever that might mean. Now that she has stopped caring about Christmas and really, virtually everything, it is both a relief on some level that her feelings can’t be hurt, but also a total bummer. If you know what I mean.

  10. Tom on

    For several years after I lost my parents, Christmas had a very different feel for me and just the sight of Christmas decorations made me uneasy. Over the years, that has passed and I’m now able to really enjoy it again. I hope that will be the case with you as well. Have a wonderful holiday.

  11. momsbrain on

    Hi, Tom. I imagine it is a very familiar thing for lots of people who have lost parents…or are in the process of losing them, maybe because it’s such a child-oriented holiday and our parents are so central to it as we are growing up. I’m glad you are enjoying it again. Hope the season is treating you well, despite all your work days! I imagine the Rock is kind of a fun place to be at this time of year.

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