Thoughts of the season

Note: I had already composed this post when we received word that my mother’s needs are greater than her assisted living home can handle, so she must move to a nursing home. My sister and brother are negotiating with the assisted living home to let her stay through Christmas so that we can observe Christmas in the apartment there. She will have only a small room in the nursing home, which allows only two visitors at a time. 

I’ve decided to go ahead and publish this post even though what it says about an unstressful Christmas is now inaccurate and ironic. I’ll have more information in a future post.

When I see an article about reducing the stress of the season, I think about how unstressful it is for me this year. My family members aren’t having our white elephant gift exchange because we won’t be at Mom’s together. Instead of the usual Christmas Eve and Christmas Day spreads, we’re talking about pizza or sandwiches. 

It’s going to be a strange Christmas, different from every previous one, but that’s how it goes when Mom is in a senior home and my brother’s and my sister’s families are coming at different times. 

Christmas Eve used to be the highlight for our family, sharing a meal prepared from Grandma’s Slovak recipes and then opening gifts. I wonder whether that tradition will resume after Mom’s gone. Perhaps we’ll assemble on another day for a nonethnic meal. As much as I enjoy the memories of Christmases past, the important thing is getting together.

A minimal Christmas also transpires at home, where the only decoration I brought out is a skinny three-foot tree.  

On a positive note, this year could be an opportunity to remember that Christmas isn’t really about gifts and decorations and food. Take away the busyness and the true meaning of Christmas may rise to the fore.

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Long year-in-review letters get panned, but such holiday missives don’t bother me much — they’re easy to skim. I’m more bothered by opening a card from an old acquaintance and finding a signature and nothing more.

I get an uninformative card every December from a woman with whom I worked decades ago. All it tells me is that she’s still alive and, from the envelope, where she now lives. 

Why does she want to stay in touch with someone who knows nothing about her last quarter of a century? Maybe she is Facebook friends with former coworkers who she thinks fill me in on her doings. 

Whatever she’s thinking, the behavior seems about as odd to me as phoning a long-ago acquaintance, saying Merry Christmas, and hanging up. But apparently it doesn’t seem odd to other people. This woman isn’t the only person from my distant past from whom I’ve received no-details cards. 

When sending greetings in any form becomes rarer, perhaps I ought not fault anyone who sends a card the old-fashioned way. Truth be told, I enjoy getting paper cards from people who enclose a brief update or take the time to write a heartfelt wish. 

It would be nice of me to send them cards through snail mail in return, but I take the easier email route, composing a greeting in my own email because ecards could go into junk mailboxes. Online clipart provides a holiday image to copy in. Beneath the image I write a brief update to anyone who hears from me just once a year. Friends and family members whom I see regularly get wishes that I try to personalize. I’m not fooling anyone that the image and some of the words weren’t copied from another message, but I try not to say the same thing to everyone.

Personalization, it would seem, is key to the best holiday messages. When receiving a holiday greeting in any format, I want to believe the sender was thinking of me and not about getting through the Christmas list. 

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For those of us who live alone and don’t expect to host any holiday get-togethers, how much to decorate for Christmas is always an interesting decision. In past years I’ve done more or less, but usually less.

I’m not a grinch, but for the actual observance of Christmas I’ve always been at my parents’ place, which I had decorated for them. 

I want to think I like the simplicity of minimal decorating. I don’t want to think that Christmas decorating indicates whether a single person thinks she’s worth the fuss.

*****

The second anniversary of my dad’s death is coming up December 22. I thought the timing of his passing would mar every Christmastime for us, but now, seeing my mother endure a lot of pain, I feel that we can celebrate how pain free the end of his life was. Mom’s legs don’t hold her up, and her mind deteriorates. It is hard to watch — and undoubtedly harder to suffer through.

Filed under: Life lessons, Uncategorized

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  • so sorry to hear about your mothers situation. wishing you peaceful
    thoughts this Christmas season. Take care.

  • In reply to schultz:

    Thanks so much, Sue. Merry Christmas to you, too.

  • Dear Marianne, Thank you for your courage in posting this for those who may be going through the same things. I am on my own, too, and I got out the decorations I wanted to see. I have things on my little Charlie Brown tree that my sister baked and painted; my dad carved and painted; my mom sewed (with no paint); and I re-painted. (I couldn't have a hockey-playing penguin ornament without putting it in a Hawks sweater. Those were the years.) So it's a gathering there. If I didn't feel like seeing something, it is staying in the box on the shelf until next year. Maybe I'll welcome seeing it then. I'm not exactly feeling merry, but "happy" means "blessed" -- so a happy Christmas to you and your family.

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    So sorry to hear about your mom. Glad you will be with family for the holidays, though. In the end, that is all that matters, even if it is more complicated. Happy holidays to you!

  • In reply to Cindy Cain:

    Thank you to all for your concern. Happy holidays to you.

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