My name is Jane and my husband of 36 years was diagnosed with Dementia/Alzheimer’s about three and half years ago. This blog is a tale of our lives after “Al” (the name I’ve given Joe’s disease) moved in. In the two years since I began this blog, it's been read in over 25 countries. It really is "AL" over the world. Thanks for coming along with us down a path of uncertainty. Joe passed on November 19, 2016.
Sunday, December 13, 2015
ALZHEIMER'S: SANTA MEETS AL THE GRINCH
Joe as Santa Claus in 2004
always loved Santa, ever since the first time I met him.
Christmas Eve, 1952. We were with our
extended family, celebrating and feasting much like the generations before us. (Well, mostly my sister and I were jumping up
and down, way too excited to eat.) Then
there was a knock at the door.
up, “Now who could that be?” He headed
for the door but stopped.
you two get the door?” He was looking at my sister and me.
Now, I was
the youngest person in the house and never allowed to get the door but he nudged me forward. “Go on, you get it.”
The room grew
quiet. We looked at Mother who smiled, nodding her approval. My sister and I
opened the door and there he was, Santa.
I can still picture the scene; the beard, the red suit, the bag, a big
hug, and just like the stories said, this jolly old man (who I now strongly
suspect was my Uncle Cleo) instantly mesmerized me.
years later, I recreated the same scene for some of our grandchildren. Only this time Santa was Grandpa Joe, fully
decked out in a suit I’d spent weeks creating. That year Joe donned Santa’s gay
apparel for several holiday events. He
really rocked it with his deep baritone version of Ho, Ho, Ho.
Joe still tells
the story of a little blonde girl who spotted Santa from across the room, came
running for him at full tilt, jumped onto his lap and hugged him. He calls her little Janie when he recounts
the tale, imagining me looking like her at that age.
The years have
passed and now of course we spend Christmases with Al, “The Grinch”. He isn’t into holiday festivities and doesn’t
see the point of all the exuberance most of us exhibit. His apathy and shrinking enthusiasm is like a
virus, infecting our spirit and robbing us of the kind of joy we experienced in
Christmases past. Gone is the pleasure
Joe once took in sneaking away to shop for the special gifts, those quirky,
interesting and unconventional things that delighted us.
This lack of
spirit isn’t just the normal fading of wonderment that sometimes comes with
aging, the kind that can easily be cured with a little mistletoe, eggnog and the
right company. It’s deeper, down to the
core. Al has replaced jubilation with
confusion, apprehension, and anxiety. He’s
made everything harder, more complicated.
mean one, Mr. Grinch!”
year, I’m fighting back. We aren’t leaving
anything up to Al. We have a plan. It
starts with the tree and a few outdoor lights (we don’t see many of those in
our senior community.) Next, Joe and I
will go shopping together and try to find unique and distinctive gifts that
express the joy and thankfulness we feel for those we love.
cookies and Joe will help. Then we’ll deliver them to the neighbors. I’ll break out the Christmas music and play
all of our old favorites. Even the
Grinch should know the words to Bing Crosby’s White Christmas. We’ll move
at a slower pace and maybe spread things out a bit but, this year there will be
joy, even if we have to tie Al (that Grinch!) to the Christmas tree.
especially, we’ll be thinking of all the other Alzheimer’s families struggling
to hang on to Christmas and the ones they love.
daughter and family joined us a few weeks ago for the Thanksgiving
holiday. While they were with us our
son-in-law, the electrician, helped with a couple of small home improvement projects.
This of course meant a trip to the local big-box hardware store.
entered the store, just inside the door stood Santa, the greeter. Having never lost my love of Santa, I gave him
a big hug, welcoming him back and telling him that we had missed him. I think my son-in-law thought I had lost my
mind. But as I said before, I’ve always
been crazy about Santa.