No, I don't mean the Jagged Little Pill girl, I was thinking about how my Christmas went. My mom - 93 now - lives mostly on her own in her Toronto apartment. She's managing OK, but we think needs more social interactions. There are many seniors in the building, and many gather downstairs for lunch and coffee, but she doesn't mix as well with them anymore. Partly because there are little cliques that form and gossip about each other - like we did in grade 9. And partly because of her, she always had a sharp tongue, and a habit of manipulating to keep the focus on her, and those things haven't mellowed with age. Add to that failing hearing, and bad memory, and she's now no longer one of the cool kids. Too bad, she has lead an interesting life, with many stories to share. We think she needs to move on to a long term home, with organized activities and new people to meet, but that's still under discussion with her. It's always a challenge when our parents get older, and we need to help them stay active and alert - and safe. In the meantime, she's lonely, so I asked her to fly up for a few days at Christmas. She can be a demanding guest, but I figured I could manage a few days.
She then announced to all that she was extending that visit to a week, because I was so lonely up here. My siblings thought that was amusing. Of course it's because she was lonely, but she's afraid to admit that - to herself as a fact, and to us in case we whisk her into a home. Anyways, the visit did go OK, but there's that loss of hearing, she doesn't understand all she hears, she doesn't remember what was said earlier, and anyways is more interested in using any new topic as an immediate segue into something about her. Likely as a repeat story. All to say we didn't talk that much. We used to occasionally, but that's a thing of the past, so there's more distance to the visit. We also had tons of snow here, so since she's not very mobile we stayed in, and I gave up my usual haunts and visits to friends. We did have family over a bit, and got out for a dinner.
She did seem to have a good time, content to just be sitting with me in the same room. But it was sort of a lonely Christmas for me - that's the ironic bit. Plus guilt that I wasn't more delighted, with twinges of annoyance and a sprinkle of compassion. It's a complicated time of year, when we get together with family - some we love, some we wouldn't choose as friends, some we see weekly, some once a year. We have expectations and baggage - most not talked about of course, and the stresses of organizing big gatherings that are sure to be judged a failure by at least one of the "guests". We fall reluctantly back into the roles of parents and children. No matter that the children might be 50 now, and managing fine on their own, they are again a child that needs to learn to like cauliflower, has a curfew, and could somehow be more of a success in life. No matter that the parents are retired and doing fine in Arizona, they are frustrated that we won't listen to them anymore and don't need them, and maybe boss them around, assuming that they are in their dotage. But if we avoid these get togethers, we then only get together at funerals - and bemoan the fact that we only get together at funerals.
So, holiday greetings, get ready and gird your loins, the next biggie for many of us will be Easter.