I haven’t seen the Coca Cola advert yet, but I am going to a Christmas light switch on today, I’ve had my crazed picture taken with two separate huge Christmas trees, and I’m starting to hoard tins of Quality Street like I’m expecting some weird foil-wrapper-saturated apocalypse.
Long story short, I can now openly talk about Christmas, and presents, and wrapping, and Baileys (mm, Baileys).
I love the run up to Christmas, with all the traditions, crafts, Baileys, family gatherings, hiding presents, Amaretto, Christmas carols, Home Alone, smell of pine, convincing my mum that December is not too early to put the tree up…there’s even a special creeped out place in my heart for that psychotic Elf on the Shelf. Maybe.
But, this year the run up will be tinged with sadness, as it will be a year since my Ima passed away. I wasn’t here when it happened, I had seen her the month before when she was in hospital after having a fall that she couldn’t remember and vehemently denied ever happening. Same goes for the subsequent surgery. I hadn’t seen her for a while as I was living outside the UK at that point, and she’d long since stopped being able to play my favourite game – Skype Bingo (for anyone who doesn’t know, this is when my Ima would open up Skype and hammer the pictures on the screen until someone answered. There was actually a crack in the iPad screen. True story).
She was upset, and disorientated. She wanted to see her dog Jess, but couldn’t understand why Jess couldn’t come into the hospital. She was convinced that if she left the ward, her living room was next door. She knew she lived in a ground floor flat, and couldn’t understand why she was so high off the ground.
That’s a small snapshot of what it was like in the hospital. It doesn’t even touch on the days (and nights) she would ring my Mum in distress, when she would berate her for being left alone for days on end (although my Mum had left her only hours previously). The time spent trying to coax her into taking medication she needed. Clearly labelled in one of those fabulous pill boxes with the days of the week on, the only problem being convincing her that today actually was Saturday. Seeing my mum trying to navigate the line between letting things go so as not to distress her, and needing her to understand certain things so she could be safe. There were times when she was open and loving, times when she shared photos and stories from when she was younger. Times when I put a smile on over my sadness and explained to her who I was, and times when we all bowed down in the face of her anger, and agreed with whatever she was saying. That last one wasn’t so different before she got ill, but it certainly didn’t get any easier!
I feel lucky to have seen the softer side of my cantankerous Ima. The side I could more easily say, ‘I love you’ to, the Ima that was more receptive to hugs and hand holding. For me it was the one bit of light in this terrible illness, but it certainly didn’t make up for seeing her lost, angry and bewildered, and if I could have had back the forthright, scary Ima who knew exactly when The Chase was on, and would never have let her car keys going ‘missing’ (because she wasn’t safe to drive) slip past her, I would.
So. This is a bit of a plea…a plea for you to be a little bit lazy, and a little bit charitable, two of the essentials of this wonderful sparkly season!
Quite simply, if you have presents you don’t want to wrap yourself (and I know there are some of you weird people out there), let me wrap them for you. All I ask is that you make a donation to Alzheimer’s Research. No set amount, just a small donation, whatever you can spare. Or, if it’s on your ‘to do’ list for the season to make a charitable donation, or buy your Christmas cards from a charity, rather than Tesco* (*other supermarkets are available), consider making that charity Alzheimer’s Research. It’s only something small, and I know there are many deserving charities out there.
I also know there are so many families battling this illness every day. A small donation will hopefully help other families in the future and ensure less and less people have to endure this disease absorbing their lives and their loved ones.
Thank you x