The first day of Autumn has come and gone. Years of experience tells me that it is a downhill slide into the holiday season. The time of hustle and bustle has arrived.
The streets, malls and restaurants will all be filled to capacity. It is the season of memories and family traditions and for some, a season of loss.
This is the time of year when I long for my childhood. The holidays were easy and carefree back then. My biggest concern was whether or not Santa Claus would remember exactly which doll or bicycle I wanted. I knew I would be with my family for every single holiday.
Adulthood can take away much of the innocence and joy of the season. Family dynamics enter the picture and all of a sudden time with family has to be scheduled carefully as not to hurt feelings. There are also work schedules to be considered that remove the freedom of travel or long visits out of state. What used to be an exciting time of year becomes the season of scheduling nightmares.
For many years my tradition has been to spend Thanksgiving with my “Granny” and Christmas with my mom, Step-dad, aunt, cousins and step-family in Nevada.
This worked well up until a few years ago when my work schedule and the cost of boarding two dogs interfered with Christmas travel plans. We again have had to make scheduling adjustments. Christmas is now celebrated earlier in December and typically with just my mom and Step-dad. Fortunately, I have wonderful friends who include me in their holiday traditions so I am not alone at Christmas.
This year it is my Thanksgiving plans that will look much different. My grandmother has lived at The Wellington, an assisted living community, for the last thirteen years. She has lived independently in her own apartment, taken care of herself and walked with only the aide of a cane. We have enjoyed many delicious Thanksgiving meals at The Wellington sitting with the same group of ladies and their families each year. It has become our tradition.
On September 19, 2012, I received the type of call I have always been dreading. My grandmother had fallen in her bathroom and was being taken by ambulance to Mission Hospital. The four hours in the emergency room were an emotional roller coaster. I have never seen my grandmother sick and now I was hearing her yell out in pain. First I was told she would need surgery for a hip fracture. You can imagine how frightening the thought of a ninety-eight year old, ninety-four pound woman undergoing surgery was to me.
Once given the “good” news that she had pelvic fractures that would not require surgery, I thought this would not be too bad. The next day they got her up and sitting in a chair and she was nicknamed “Wonder Woman” by the physical therapy team. It runs in my grandmother’s family to bounce back from illness or injury so my mindset was extremely positive. I thought after a few weeks in The Covington’s Rehabilitation Facility she would be ready to return to her apartment with a caregiver.
I’ve spent countless hours with my “Granny” over the last two weeks since her fall. It is horrifying to see how much a traumatic fall can change an elderly individual. I have seen her in a heightened state of confusion. I have seen her angry. I have seen a more loving side towards me than I have in years. I have seen her grow very tired. I never know what I am going to walk in and find.
And so I enter this holiday season with much bigger concerns than scheduling. I am prepared for whatever God has planned for my grandmother.
I trust Him with her healing and will make the necessary arrangements for the full-time caregivers she will now be unable to live without.
Though it brings tears just writing it, I trust Him if his decision is to take her home to heaven. It is selfish of me to want to hold on to her longer if she can live out eternity with her mind and body restored.
Many of my dearest friends have lost loved ones around the holidays and I know that these feelings of pain and sentimentality are by no means unique to my situation.
Perhaps you’ve walked in these shoes, if you have you can probably relate to the list below.
These are just a few of the emotions that have hit me at any given moment over the last couple of weeks.
FEAR– This fear is mostly of the unknown. Will Granny get to go back to her apartment? What will her quality of life be?
ANGER– I have had days where anger comes out towards my father for choosing to take his life when I was a child. These decisions pertaining to my grandmother should be ours to share.
LOSS OF IDENTITY– I have cared for my grandmother since I was old enough to drive. She has been such a major part of my life during good times and bad. I thought I would be relieved when this day came, but it is quite the opposite.
GUILT– Why didn’t I spend this much time with her before she was hurt? All she wanted was time and I was busy with work and living my life.
SADNESS– That she is only able to tell me how much she loves me through the staff. I hear how much she brags about me when I am not there. She tells the nurses how much I love her but these are not conversations that she will have with me directly.
As I mentioned in my post on Depression, I am not seeking sympathy by sharing my life experiences. I know many people have gone through or are currently going through what I am. My goal is to create a forum where we can share our stories and support others.
Have you lost an important family member during the holiday season?
How did that loss change your holiday traditions?
How do you continue to honor that person each year?