The hubs and I decided to go meet our new granddaughter, on a whim. And so we flew out of state, in time to join the millions of other travelers over the Thanksgiving Holiday here in the USA, for 7 days and 6 nights with our son and his expanded family. My son’s in-laws graciously set up their camper/trailer in our son’s backyard for us to sleep in. It was perfect. We shared some amazing moments with our grandchildren. Our older grand daughters wanted to camp out with us. It was heaven. We got to kiss them goodnight and tuck them in bed each night. And then we had morning cuddles in bed with them, giggling and chatting. It was every grandparent’s dream come true.
We had some incredible conversations with friends we had not seen in ages. We ate some wonderful food. We cuddled granddaughters, sang songs, decorated Christmas cookies, and watched fun movies together. It was just what we needed.
I am not sure how to explain this, but being free to just be me, it was pretty amazing. I did not have to worry about mom, not one moment. I was sent some photos and texts while I was away. She fell, wearing a pair of heels I thought I had gotten rid of. But she fell, and laid on the floor laughing about her clumsiness. She was not hurt, so that was good. And another photo of her after a day of bathing and washing her hair, and getting her hair styled. She looked so happy. She is, apparently, the darling of the assisted living home. And she is happy. And she is safe. And clean. And fed. And warm. All the things I wanted for her, she has.
I got to spend time being a grandma. I was able to sit and talk to my granddaughters. I was able to hug on them, and laugh with them, and enjoy being with my son and daughter-in-law (whom we miss horribly) without worrying about my mom. I was able to mother my son and daughter-in-law, just a little, without also having to mother my own mom. While we were there, I was sharing events we had experienced while living in Alaska, with friends who have never been there. It startled me because I realized that I had, indeed, had a life in Alaska before my mom. Before I was confined by the horrible disease of Alzheimer’s. Trust me, when your parent is diagnosed, you are diagnosed. You just don’t know it, yet. It affects every person who is in contact with an Alzheimer’s patient. Every single person. And you lose the life you had, along with the person who is losing their life to this horrible disease.
While we were away, I waited. Every day we were gone, I waited for that burden of guilt to descend upon my shoulders and start crushing me. I waited for my stomach to roil and burn, and completely disable me. And guess what? It didn’t happen. I did not feel 3 inches shorter anymore, ladened down with the guilt of going on a vacation without my mom, or the burden of caring for her, or the fact that I placed her in an assisted living home. I am not guilty anymore. Why? Because I was able to breathe in and out, without worrying. I was able to have a life apart from my mom. I was able to be present, truly present, to who I was with. My moments were totally mine. Mom was safely cared for. It was not by me, but I trust who has her. I know she is better off than she was with me. One of the reasons I know that is because all the reports tell me she is the life of the party and so much fun. My mom has always been known to be fun to be around. When my parents divorced when I was in my early 20s, their friends all stayed friends with my mom. Even my dad’s relatives stayed in contact with my mom (my dad’s aunt and uncle used to vacation with my mom and her second husband!!!). But not in the last few years, and especially not when she lived with me. Friends had all fallen away. She was so lost and confused, and always angry. I think she is happier now, so she can have fun again. What a gift that is!!!
And now it is Christmastime. The time when we bake, decorate, and celebrate the Birth of Christ. When families gather together and share the love of the season. This year will be different, without mom living here. I am not sure what exactly we will do for Christmas Day, yet. But it will require driving. We won’t ever have her stay with us overnight, because that would so confuse her. We have not removed her for a visit, from the assisted living home, yet. We are letting her get herself established there. But already I am more excited about sharing the season. There are no nagging worries hanging over me. Little concerns here and there, but we will be less burdened this year. And if that sounds callous, I apologize. But I have learned some nuggets of wisdom along the way. Sometimes we just are not capable of things we thought we were. Sometimes doing it all ourselves is just not in our best interests. Sometimes the Lord allows us to flounder just a little bit, so we can gain some perspective.
And now we are back, our spirits refreshed, and with a new blanket of snow around us. We came to see that we belong in the great north. We love the seasons, we love the smaller population, and we love the pace of life. We missed our peace and our place. But we also discovered lifelong friends are a treasure and we love them even more, the older we get. And we love our family ties, as stretched as they may be across the miles. We felt so very blessed. And that perspective is a good thing.