Christmas with Mom and Jane

Let me start by saying Christmas was great. We spent time with half of our kids, their BF and husband, the grandson, the BF’s daughter and mom, and my mom and Jane. Dinner was amazing, Gift exchange was fun, particularly watching the kids, and the gathering wasn’t at my house. 😜 Bless my daughter’s BF a 1000 times) My DH and I spent the first half of the day quietly at home, and after transporting mamas to and from the dinner festivities, we returned home to the cat, who is sure he’s never once been fed in his entire life.


I drove Jane to the gathering as her AL community is less than a mile from our home, and there’s a degree of separation between us, when compared to my mom. On the 24th Jane was in a state off and on. When the care staff got through to me on my cell phone, Jane was sure it was Christmas and I had forgotten all about her, as well as being in tears over needing to find a new place to live. I talked her down, and pinky swore I’d pick her up at 3:30 on Christmas for our family dinner. After a lot of reassurance, we got off the phone. At our much smaller Christmas-Eve dinner, she called me (I let it go to voicemail), and then my daughter, who reported her Nana as being pissed-off, confused, and distraught.

When I walked into the community at 3:28, Jane was amazed to see me. She was clutching a laminated phone list my eldest daughter made for her. She exclaimed over and over what a sight for sore eyes I was, how she was about to jump off a bridge, that she was just about to return to her room for the evening because there was nothing to do, fill in the blank…

  • How did you know where to find me?
  • It’s a long way to the airport.
  • This town is so much bigger than when I lived here (she’s never lived in any of the towns we drove through).
  • How will I get back?

Initially, Jane did well at the gathering. She found a comfy spot on the couch and was able to take in her surroundings, and all the greetings. She met my son-in-law for the first time, and seemed entertained watching the kids zoom around.

She is at a place in her dementia where she can’t track general information at all. She thought my daughter’s BF’s house was our house, his cat’s ours etc… No amount of gentle reminding changed this perception, while there, or on the ride back, at which point I stopped trying to dissuade her of the notion. And it doesn’t matter. Her state makes it more difficult to meet her where she is, because it’s more difficult to figure out than, say, where my mom is. Sometimes Jane has just come from northern CA, and sometimes from where she actually is. One moment she’s thankful you’re taking her somewhere, the next she’s desperate to go back, the next she wants to live in a house, and the next morning (today) she needs to come to my house by taxi because everything is a mess. I think the best way to describe her state of mind is ‘tenuous,’ making it slippery for, at least me, to hold on to where she ‘is.’

As happy as she was to attend the gathering, right after dinner she approached me and said she had to get back, ‘right away.’ I said we were about to open gifts and could go back afterwards. She insisted saying she had an appointment. I got (gently) real with her and said, “It’s Christmas, and there’re no appointments to be had. We’ll leave right after gifts are opened.” She replied she didn’t have any idea the evening would go on for so long. We’d been there for less than 2-hours by this point, and I’d explained the gathering to her 2-times over the previous 2-days.. Yeah, I know, expectations need adjusting.

On our way back, Joan thanked me for including her in the evening about 10-times. She also asked if I was going to take her all the way back. I replied, “Of course!” She said, “Oh thank goodness. I don’t have to worry about bus fare or anything.” After getting her settled in her apartment, I stuck around long enough to make sure she took her medication, which she had refused the night before. The med-tech and I talked a little strategy, and then a care-giver introduced herself. She and I had talked on the phone on Christmas Eve. We talked for about 20 minutes. People who go into elder care are simply incredible.


My DH arrived to pick mom up from her AL community, and called her, rather than go up to her apartment. Mom said she’d be right down, but took 20 minutes to show up. As mom got into the car, she said she hadn’t had the opportunity to do any Christmas shopping because none of the catalogs she used to get ‘showed-up.’ It’s a fact that I recycle the one catalog (Lands End) she still gets. However, last year she managed to pull together gifts for most of the family. My daughter was also working in her community a year ago, and was no doubt instrumental in helping/reminding mom to do a little shopping on her weekly outings. And, no, it doesn’t matter whether she brings presents to Christmas. It’s a litmus of sorts… A view into how she’s doing. My guess is the same thing would have happened last year without my kiddo’s intervention.

Within 5-minutes of their drive north, mom was on my DH about:

  • Selling the Mainland house.
  • Getting back to the Island.
  • I’ve broken a tooth.
  • What are we doing tomorrow;
  • What are you doing over the next few days?

Mom wanted to know what bank held the mortgage on the mainland house. My DH, thought he was pretty sure which one it was, said he had no idea. She told him, “The only reason I agreed to buy that place is because I thought we’d need it longer!” This is a perfect example of a confabulation. My folks bought the mainland house because they knew dad would pre-decease my mom. The idea was to sell the Island property, and move to the mainland house, leaving mom near us when dad passed. While they got a long way toward this goal (the moving part), they never sold the Island property. The recession brought medium-tract sales on the Island to a halt. So, they went back and forth between the houses between dad’s treatments. Mom only remembers certain pieces of this, and makes up the missing parts: Confabulation. Mom asked my DH if we could ‘take care of the selling part’ of the mainland house. She said she’d share part of the proceeds with us. My DH waved off her comment, saying ‘Don’t be ridiculous.’
On the drive up and during the gathering mom told my DH three or four times that she’d broken a tooth. She’d called the dentist only to find them closed until after the New Year. She explained she couldn’t wait that long and asked if he’d take her to the Island to get to a dentist. My DH politely said he was unable to accommodate her request. I’ll call the care staff today to find out what they know about a broken tooth. Mom was not in any pain at all.
Mom cycled on ‘what are we doing tomorrow,’ and ‘what are you doing over the next few days,’ at least seven times, mostly to my DH. I ducked the questions, essentially telling my mom that we had no formal plans for tomorrow (the 26th), and I wasn’t doing anything over the next few days, as in I was declining to participate in anything at all (a true fact). She was more pointed at my DH, a captive audience as he drove her to and from the gathering. She asked if he was available to get her back to the Island over the next few days. “Um, no. I’m on vacation, and I’m spending that time at home.” She accepted his answer, but cycled right back to the questions within a few minutes.
My DH is attending a lunch at his mother’s today, and did share this info with mom. Also in attendance at lunch will be friend from Canada that my DH’s parents, and my parents attended college with in the 50’s. This friend, and my daughter’s BF share the same first name. Mom did a sideways-segue as she peppered my DH with questions about who would at the Christmas gathering, and where it was… suddenly, out of some other ball park, mom asked if she needed her passport for  dinner. He couldn’t figure out if she meant for dinner, or lunch on the 26th, even though, in that moment, she had not yet been invited, which she has been subsequently.
My DH had Elvis playing for the ride to the gathering, and jazz for the ride back. While mom engaged with the music, and asked questions here and there (What’s the name of this song?), he was completely floored when she asked, “Who’s the singer?” He pointed at the car’s display: Elvis Presley, one of her all-time favorites.

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