I am curled up on the couch with Marley this Christmas Eve, Dan in his chair next to the fireplace. We’ve turned off the television and are enjoying the festive lights and relative quiet here in our Southside, Birmingham, neighborhood (other than the occasional fireworks). The comforting hiss of the gas fireplace accompanying the blessed almost silence. So many things are swirling through my mind as I look around our home filled with such holiday cheer; memories both joyful and heartbreaking, worries about the future, worries about dear friends…life is just not easy right now for so many of us. I’m trying to sort through it all and instead keep getting entangled in memories with every step I take. Such a deep and turbulent well of emotions.
This has been a more somber holiday than most- understandably with Covid, but it’s more than that, more than just sorting through all of the madness that is life right now. Yes, the existential questions are there, but so are those questions that hit closer to home. My husband is beginning to see the signs of increasing memory issues, possibly made worse by long haul Covid. He is still very much himself, he functions as he always has, is on top of things, but he is getting more and more forgetful, directions are leaving his memory, and he is becoming more withdrawn. The hardest part is that he recognizes what is happening in real time and it scares him, understandably so. All of it breaks my heart, terrifies me, makes me angry. This man is my heart, my soulmate; I finally found him and have enjoyed such a happy and fulfilling life with him. I would do anything to keep him safe, but this is a battle with a shadowy villain and neither of us is sure how or if we can defeat it. One day at a time, keeping the faith and holding on tight to each other- it’s all we can do right now.
Dan went in and out of a dark place over the holiday, feeling nostalgic and feeling sadness over those missing from our celebrations. He said he is also mourning the loss of himself as he faces increasing memory loss. His missing pieces. I understand and told him to feel what he needed to feel. It’s tough; Dan is usually such a jovial person and I am always determined to be happy and to carry on with our holiday traditions. We made it work, though, and ended up having a truly lovely day of togetherness and celebration, accepting that we had to make room for those feelings of grief and loss. Life is never just one thing, is it?
I sat in the quiet staring our our beautiful Christmas tree, my mind seeing the Christmas trees from my childhood and remembering the pure unadulterated joy that I felt in those early morning hours, even before the chaotic unwrapping of gifts. Mom loved Christmas more than any person that I’ve ever known, embracing her inner child even into her nineties. I never had children, but if I had, I would have wanted to capture what Mom created for me year after year, gifting me with a love of the holiday that really has nothing to do with presents. It is the spirit of childlike joy, the beauty of the lights, the tree, the ornaments filled with little stories of our lives. I love the way that people are nicer to each other during the holidays and wish we could somehow bottle that hold onto it.
I knew I’d feel the Christmas spirit when I started my annual tradition of baking cookies for friends, neighbors, and Mom’s friends at Princeton Towers (aka, The Home for Wayward Seniors). I put my earbuds in and cranked up Christmas tunes on Pandora, dancing and singing as I baked, Marley standing guard just in case anything should drop to the floor. I delivered cookies to friends and neighbors and then made the eight-minute drive that I know so well to Princeton Towers. Mom’s best buddy Linda was hurting a lot this year, but we still had a nice visit and I enjoyed seeing their decorations and handing baggies of cookies and candies out to so many smiling people. Everyone was wearing masks, of course, but their eyes told me what I needed to know. I felt my mother with me, could see her smile and hear her infectious giggles. It is a gift I give myself each year, needing to have that connection with my mom and our own holiday traditions.
I don’t know what the future will bring; I can only do my best to live in the moment and not take anything for granted. I’m trying to wrap my head around it all and gather my strength for whatever may lie ahead and will be here for Dan in whatever way he needs me. I’m grateful that we were able to have our own intimate celebration where we could both be what we needed to be, enjoying the peace and beauty of our wonderfully funky 101 year-old home. There are missing pieces, but we will continue to work on stitching together all of the pieces that remain with determination, understanding, and -as always- great love.
14 thoughts on “Missing Pieces”
Merry Christmas Denise! Life is messy for me too – my mother passed the day after Thanksgiving so this Christmas is bitter sweet. I’m hoping that the new year will bring hope and peace to all!
I am so very sorry for your loss! There is nothing like the loss of a mother. I am thinking of you and sending love. ❤️
Dearest Denise, So often, it is hard to come to grips with all the events and happenings in our lives. Our Family, our Friends and ourSelves. Life’s Journeys are not always easy and the paths are not always paved with clearly marked lanes! Follow your Heart and Soul. Please do not forget to take care of Yourself. Sending you Blessings and surrounding you with Light. I just watched a movie that played all the right notes for me at this moment: “Frozen 2”. Mega message: “Do the next right thing.”
Treasure Dan and the special bond you share. Savor Life. My Soulmate of 57 years turned 82 today. His own journey from strong, Renaissance Man to winding down with all manner of health issues has been difficult for him. The road decays and crumbles. We will travel it together. We comfort each other and love each other even more every day. I am here for him as he would be here for me. Love is Forever
Thank you for sharing this, Audrey. My man is 75, and we see so many changes steadily marching through. It’s a real process of life, isn’t it?
Audrey, thank you for your kind and encouraging words. I’m sorry that you all are facing your own issues- just so tough. But, love will always pave the way. ❤️
Denise, Merry Christmas to you and Dan and the critters—this sounds hard. You have a huge heart and I draw inspiration from that, all the time. Please take care of yourself with the same generosity you show others, and know I am thinking of you, lots. Raising my coffee cup to you and Dan this early morning and wishing you only the best wishes for 2022. Big, big hugs and much love. ~Deb
Thank you, my friend- I appreciate you. Sending hugs back to you and hopes that life is happy in your new home. ❤️
So much emotional intelligence in this post. Thank you for sharing your gift with us.
I hope you have a crew of support or can slowly begin to line one up… A neurologist, and maybe a handyman and house cleaners, for when you need a break or have other priorities than fixing and cleaning, and maybe home care help, not for now, but lined up so you know who to call if you ever need it because it’s important that you get some breaks, too. And the deep love and emotional wisdom you share as you are growing it bestows meaning to even these hardest challenges. Wishing you the joy in moments.
I really appreciate this, Cathy. Thank you. ❤️
Denise… such a wonderfully written, heartfelt post…. I thought of you and Dan all night…. you are quite brave, imo. My New Year’s wish is for what you’re going thru to be, if not resolved at least handled easily. Might “post-COVID-long haul” make this a more treatable thing? I’m sure no one knows the answer to that, but my fingers are crossed and prayers being sent that it be so. I see you and Paige (another wonderful cookie baker — your picture had my mouth watering!!) are “Friends”…. she may be a good source of support and information for you, given that both she and Steve have walked this road. Not my place to offer her help, and maybe she already has, just another thought I had in the night. I know you have much support and many friends in your lives… I wanted you to know I’m thinking about both of you and wishing you the best for 2022. Hugz, Anne
Thank you so much, Anne- I really appreciate that. ❤️