Sunday, December 6, 2009

Holiday Times

The holidays mean family right? time to get together, to reminisce, build new memories. create new traditions, act on old ones. Christmas, Hanukkah, tress lights, wreaths, Best Buy, Airports, travel, winter, December.
In the Western World, we sometimes feel a pressure to make everything perfect, make sure everyone bonds and has a good time, that new happy memories are built. Sometimes it does not go that way despite the pretense. There is major letdown, hence people get depressed, because they think they are supposed to be happy and merry, (as opposed to other times of the year. So then we think of the true meaning of the Holidays or at least try to, to rationalize and divert from the letdown. We think of the less fortunate, and send gifts and volunteer for those less fortunate, (as opposed to other times of the year).
Sometimes when families get together, old dynamics come up. We psychologically regress to the role and place we fell into things in the old days. It is insidious, and most people are not aware of it or only slightly aware of it. It can lead to resentment, when we are thirty or forty years old and cast into the realm of the six year old.
If you are fortunate enough to have an intact family, relatively healthy then you are quite blessed.
If you have lost a family member, a close relative, then you know all to well things are never the same at holiday time, no matter how many years it has been. If this is the first year without a loved one at the holidays then things may seem more than a bit off.
If you are elderly or have early dementia, you may crave and be excited for the holidays, and those family members, "the kids" to come home. To see the grandchildren. If you are a son or a daughter, and a parent has dementia you may be ambivalent or even fear spending the holidays together, as things are never quite the same.
Don't forget about the blended families and divorces. Will you have the kids this year? will the holidays be "split"? Will you be putting a son(s) or daughter(s) on a plane across the country as an accompanied or unaccompanied minor?
Dementia and the Holidays are not exactly the best mix, but we do try to make the best of it.
If your parents or grandparents are deceased like mine, you may long for the very old days of the original intact family of origin. The holidays force us to revisit the past and often our grief.
You may try to make it nice for the kids, caught up and lost between the materialism and trying to teach the omnipresent "long lost meaning".
Do you live down the street from where you grew up? Do you see your relatives throughout the year? (A common phenomenon up where I reside,-many people leave home and make it all the way down to "the cities") are the holidays a hassle or a time to be thankful?
Whether you had a happy childhood or one filled with chaos and drama, or too much alcohol for example, now maybe things are "better" or some level, more seemingly cohesiveness, having lived through the "war", whatever way you look at it, the holidays are an emotional time, for better or worse, an emotional time.
If things are "perfect" do you await your son or daughter to come back from Yale, or Pitt, or Penn or "The U"- whichever "U" you want, there are lots, or law school, or medical school. Is there a pressure to make everything perfect?
For those Alzheimer's families, it is one more holiday. Remember the holidays are embedded in our long term memories, like music for example. They were such an exception to normal everyday life, we put them in our long term memory banks In a special way. Make the best of it, it can bring moments of joy in the preserved longer term memories of you loved one. Remember long term memories last the longest.
If you have lost your home, and a parent or parents are in a nursing home or assisted living, the time spent together, even if it is not home, is what the holiday and every day of the year should be about. No price tag for that one.

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Talking about the book with the Lake Superior wind....... a calm day