Christmas Books

Few things have such legendary status in our family as the Christmas books my brother and I made in elementary school. They were handled with the care associated with great historical artifacts. Every Christmas they would be carefully unpacked out of a box, dusted off, and put prominently on the coffee table opposite the tree. All other coffee table books and magazines would be put away so as to focus all attention on these books. Over the years we have laughed till we cried at how ridiculous and wonderful they are. Over the last decade I thought they had been lost. I found the books a couple of months ago while going through some boxes of my mom’s things. She’d put them away for safe keeping. And now here they are…for everyone to laugh at and enjoy. Merry Christmas!

Simple Song

Saturday was a really off day for mom. I mean I guess it was an off day. I see things as regular days and off days. Then…I second guess the off days because they could be a new normal. Is it that mom’s unsteady today because she’s sleepy, or is she unsteady because it’s finally happening that she’s permanently losing balance.

I’ve learned to not let the second guessing churn inside my head and consume me like it did early days. I’ve learned to see things as off days until there is a pattern of behavior to suggest otherwise. But the nagging that this could be the new normal never goes away completely.

When we arrived at the home, mom was sitting in the activities room reading a Good Housekeeping magazine. She’s a reading machine now. You can sit her down, give her a book or magazine, and leave her to ready out loud and she will…cover to cover. Joey stopped me. “Shhhhhh! Listen.” Sure enough, “One cup shooogar. One tablespoon baking pow. One teaspooooo sal.” We arrived in the middle of a recipe.

Something was different though. Her speech was slushy sounding. She wasn’t hitting all the syllables. And she was hoarse. Probably from reading the magazine at her only volume, full blast. She was on about page 85. I’d be hoarse too after 85 pages.

And she was hard to get up and down. Usually I extend one hand and she you’ll use it for leverage to get up and down. Today, however, she grabbed my hand and said, “Ok, I’m getting up.” And just sat there. We tried that about ten times before Joey walked over and just lifted her out of the chair with his hands under her armpits. She was fine and walking after that.

She didn’t finish her milkshake. She slept in the car. Little things. An off day.

I tend to get too cerebral on the off days. I go into problem solving mode. I stare at mom like she’s a complex problem to figure out. I try to study the clues for meaning. I try to look for more evidence to help me know what’s happening. Being cerebral can be paralyzing. On Saturday it was paralyzing.

I was completely in my head when lunch arrived. I was no help at all. Mom was not eating. I’d ask her to take a bite, she’d say, “Ok, I’m eating my spinach,” then nothing. I’d ask her to to take a drink her juice, she’d say, “Ok, I’m drinking my juice,” then nothing.

My brother on the other hand, is amazing in these times. (Actually my brother is pretty amazing all the time.) Where I make the situation complex trying to analyze, my brother breaks it apart and makes it simple but his trial and error of little things that might work.

He made up a song about eating spinach. Then he got mom to sing the song. Then he got mom to sing the song and eat the spinach. Brilliant. Then he made up a call and repeat cheer for eating peaches. “Who’s going to eat those peaches?” “I’m going to eat those peaches.” And 5 minutes later the peaches are gone.

And in the end I guess it’s about the ability to see the signs, make sense of them, and analyze the problem. And it’s also about eating the peaches.