I can not believe it is already here! As I lie in bed thinking of the preparations that will need to be completed, I found myself wondering if my mom would even come to the table on Thanksgiving night.
Weird thought? I would agree. However, in the last three years that my mom has lived full time with us there have been several holidays and celebrations that she helped prepare. What was abundant excitement, changed. She retreats and will not join us for the meal. I first thought that she was wearing herself out helping with preparations. Mom generally lays down to rest when she is worn out. And this is what she did in these cases. I would go back and attempt to wake and dress her. She would just say that she was tired or that she couldn’t get up.
Initially, I was hurt by her actions. I wanted her to celebrate with us. I expected her to celebrate with us. This was suppose to be one of the benefits of having a multigenerational household. No one in the house understood. I did what I do, processed the situation for days. Following the celebration, I did ask my mom if she was aware of her behavior? Yes. Could she explain why? No. Ok…maybe it is all anxiety. The thought of interacting with other people was overwhelming? Too much to process? Ok. I can make adjustments for the next time.
- Do not allow mom to over exert during preparations.
- Schedule time for her to nap.
- Allow plenty of time for mom to relax, bath and dress before the celebration.
- If some guests are unfamiliar to her, accompany her to the buffet or food, then let her relax in her space with her meal.
- Allow close, familiar guests to visit her in her space, one on one. With her permission.
- Medication if absolutely necessary.
While that seemed to be ‘just what the doctor ordered’, another hurdle presented itself. She stopped coming to ‘family only’ celebrations. Not all of them. No pattern that I could figure out. But her same actions…going to bed and staying there. Imagine the scene, the hum of excitement buzzes through the day. Everyone gathers but there sits an empty seat in the middle of the table. A deep sigh is audible from most everyone. The meal continues. As the conversations carry on, it ends at the empty seat. During clean up, the questions start, “Is Granny ok?”, “Is she upset?”. “Why didn’t she come to dinner?”
Hurt aside, how can I fix this? Time to process, again.
- When it is just family, I set expectations for her all day…what time the celebration is and work backwards. It is written in her day planner.
- Plan her meals accordingly with hopes that she might be tempted by the smell of the food.
- I scaled back on the decorations and celebratory activities. (The people are more important than opening gifts anyway.)
Now back to Thanksgiving 2020… what to do? This will be a smaller celebration in light of the pandemic. Her absence at the meal would be felt by all. So all efforts to get her to participate…Cue all the comforts of years past!
The morning starts with my grandmother’s pecan rolls. My mom’s mom’s recipe. Growing up we got these once or twice a year, a labor of love. Then I married a man that can bake!! Now my mom gets to enjoy them without the efforts of making them. Bonus. The coffee and protein for all, I have covered.
The smells coming from the kitchen for the rest of the day should all be familiar to my mom. It is her stuffing recipe. The seasoning and fresh herbs for the turkey. Homemade cranberry sauce, my recipe but she prefers them over the can. (Weirdly I miss the ridges and the ‘plop’ from the can!) Sweet potatoes baked, simple and plain. Mashed potatoes, these are not hers! I could not stand mashed potatoes until well into adulthood. Now…I make killer mashed potatoes, my mom loves them. Don’t forget the gravy from pan drippings. A green veggie can be found on the table most years (always leftovers in this dish). I almost forgot the baker man’s homemade dinner rolls of his choice.
Why is this important? Besides it is DELICIOUS? It is all creature comforts and brings on an opportunity for those with mental decline (and others) to reminisce. This brings my mom joy. If I play my cards right and plan the leftovers properly, my mom will enjoy memories of Thanksgivings gone by for days.
As I see my mom slowly decline, I cling to every opportunity to share moments with my mom and our family. Take this time to share your love with the important people in your world. This year it may not be in the same manner as years gone by due to the pandemic. All the more reason to reach out.
Have a blessed Thanksgiving celebration.