I finally had a day to focus on baking in preparation for my visit to see my favorite seniors at Princeton Towers, the senior facility where my mother lived so happily the last two years of her life. Like my mom, I absolutely love the holidays, but this year I have felt a strong melancholy along with the Christmas Spirit. The music of the season is making me tear up as in my mind I hear my mother’s sweet voice singing her favorite carols. Maybe Mom’s absence is felt even more keenly now as my best friend is dealing with her mother in the throes of Alzheimer’s, another friend lost her mother a few days ago, and two other friends are living through the decline of their parents. We are at that age where the losses of those dear to us seem to happen painfully close together, and the joy of the holidays can bring so many memories and emotions bubbling to the surface. ‘Tis the season for joy and for pain.
Once I had my errands run and everything together for my visit, I gathered my gifts and big bag of cookies and candies and piled into my car. As I did, my purse spilled over on the front seat and one solitary item fell out…Mom’s button that I found in the middle of her completely cleaned out bedroom at Princeton Towers after she died. I had thought it was zipped into my wallet, but it somehow made it’s way out. Heavy D has class A mad angel skills.
Goosebumps washed over my body, and I smiled. It looked like my Heavy D was going to go on this visit to see her friends with me.
Traveling with my trusty sidekick, Sophie.
As always when I drive up to the twin towers at Princeton, a flood of memories washed over me. So many visits, so much life; grocery and laundry runs, Sunday mornings with McDonald’s breakfast in hand, doctor’s visits, trips to TJ Max, racing over in the dark of night to help after a fall, trips to the ER, and always the most precious of all- seeing my mother’s beautiful smile, hearing her stories, feeling her all-encompassing love. How fortunate I was to have her for ninety-two years.
I baked for hours last night, making what I’d thought would be plenty of Toll House, peanut butter, and oatmeal cookies for our neighbors and for the usual group of seniors that I typically see out and about at Princeton. Believe me- you don’t want to run out of cookies when you visit the Wayward Seniors- they don’t handle that well. Just to be safe, along with the individual baggies of cookies, I had bought a bunch of Christmas Kisses and other chocolate candy and made bags of those, too. When I called Mom’s best buddy, Linda, she was so excited that I was coming, telling me she’d be downstairs for the ‘Food Bank’….not sure what that was, but I headed in.
One of two Christmas trees for the residents…
I soon found out what the Food Bank was; Princeton Towers was decked to the nines and the front hall was lined with people on walkers and in wheelchairs, all waiting for the free food that had been donated by a local grocery store. I immediately reached into my snowman bag and began handing out cookies, giving hugs and gripping hands and giving holiday wishes as I passed down the line. My heart melted at their smiles and sincere appreciation for a little bit of attention at the holiday. I felt my mother with me as I talked to each person, beautiful lined black and white faces, some shy and some beaming with joy, some that I knew and some that were new to me.
Dominos! Mom’s friend, Sylvester, right, who kept the horn on her walker in good working order.
I saw Mom’s best buddy Linda beaming at me across the room, and I headed over for a big hug and a lot of catching up, still handing out cookies and candy along the way until I was out. I promised that I would be back soon with more cookies, and that seemed to appease those to whom I could only give hugs or handshakes. As Linda filled me in on the latest goings on at Princeton Towers, I heard a woman say, “She sure do favor her momma,” and my heart smiled. So many people remembered Mom and spoke of what a sweet woman she was.
Linda’s Christmas tree, filled with ornaments made by her children.
Linda and Sophie…
I can’t really explain what visiting the Home for Wayward Seniors does to me and for me. I do it out of respect for my mother’s memory, out of an appreciation for the place and the people who were so good to my mom, and out of a genuine affection for the residents that I have come to know and love. I have always enjoyed being around older people (Mom said you can never say “old people”), and, being the surprise baby daughter of older parents, I am grateful to find that they seem to enjoy my company, too. So much wisdom and perspective can be gained from sitting down and really listening to these people and the story of their lives.
I will head back to Princeton soon…I’m already feeling the pressure to get baking as I have to get those cookies to folks as soon as possible. I hope that my friends know that I get as much or more out of my visits to them as they do from me. I also hope that each of their families will see fit to come and give the gift of time with them over the next couple of weeks…I worry that that won’t be the case for many of them.
I left the Princeton Towers feeling so much lighter when I drove away compared to when I got there. I made some sweet old people smile on what can be such a lonely time of year, and they made me so happy during a time when I am missing Mom so much. As I drove away, my Julie Andrews Christmas cd filling the car with joyous carols, I felt my mother smile.
Merry Christmas, Momma.