Guest post by my sister Cathy
The pies were in the pie basket. Apple and pumpkin, and custard for my mum. The cinnamon rolls were tucked in beside the pies. The odor was bringing back wonderful memories of past Thanksgiving dinners. I stopped to pick up Mum and then it was on to the feast at my friend Jane’s house. There would be 19 of us at the Thanksgiving table. Family and dear friends were gathering to enjoy each other’s company and eat good food.
I was happy, but apprehensive that my mum had agreed to join us. Would she back out at the last minute as she did several years ago when I invited her to this Thanksgiving gathering? Would she get there and decide after an hour that she wanted to go home? Would she tell all the guests detailed stories about my past as she is prone to do?
I was half way through the 90-minute ride to her house when I got a text. I pulled over to read it. It was from my nephew Mike. “Happy Turkey day, would you want to call Grammy?” Here it comes, I thought. I dialed her number. “Hi, Mum, I am so excited that you are going to join us for dinner today. I’m almost there, are you dressed and ready?” Her reply was expected. “I’m tired. I don’t think I want to go out today.”
I took a deep breathe before answering. “Well, you know Sam (my son) is going to be there and he is so excited to see you, and besides Jane has a comfortable chair you can sit in. Might as well sit in a chair there as at home!” I tried to convey cheer and a not backing down approach. Amazingly it worked. “Ok, I’ll be ready when you get here.”
One of the things we have discovered with Mum is that the idea of getting ready to go somewhere is overwhelming to her. If we give in too easily she would never go anywhere. She would just stay home and sit in her chair watching TV. Once we get her motivated and out the door she has a blast. Now if I could just get there before she switched back to stay home mode.
I opened her front door and hollered out, “Hello, Happy Thanksgiving Mum, you ready to party?” She was all dressed and ready to go. In less than half an hour we were in the car and off. I could hear her apprehension rising on the drive. “Who’s going to be there? How long will we stay? Now, where is it we are going?” I tried to stay cheery and upbeat. “It will be so much fun and everyone, including me, is so excited to have you with us this year. Remember my dear friend, Jane? It’s at her house.” She remembered Jane and also remembered that she had been to her house before. That seemed to reassure her.
We pulled into Jane’s driveway and her face broke into a smile. “I’ve been here before. I remember her barn.” We were one of the first guests to arrive so it made it easy to get her settled into a comfy chair right in front of the woodstove. She immediately commented on how artistic Jane’s house was and how inviting. She was right, Jane has an uncluttered and warm approach to her decorating and it has a very calming effect.
She rested a bit and then I took her out to the barn to see Jane’s horses. I didn’t have to ask her twice if she wanted to go. She was very animated on the walk out. Sadie, my granddaughter and Mum’s great granddaughter, was bringing a pony out of the barn. She stopped and Mum immediately raised her hand to pet the pony’s mane. There was a big smile on her face. We walked into the barn and she beamed as she spotted another horse in the stall in front of us. Very gently she reached out her hand and stroked the mare’s neck. In that moment she seemed so fully present. I imagined her as a teenager the summer she rented a horse and took it to her aunt’s farm.
We went back inside and she got settled once again in her comfy spot. By then the house was getting pretty crowed. Mum was in her element, chatting away with everyone. Some she remembered right away and with others she needed to be reminded. In all fairness, she had no trouble remembering the people she was closest to. At one point when I looked in on her she had a wiggly Jack Russell puppy in her lap and was giggling like a delighted little girl. It was so good to see her enjoying herself.
Soon we were called to the dinner table. There was a lot of noise and activity but it didn’t seem to faze her a bit. I heard a lot of the old stories about Thanksgiving on the farm when she was a little girl. One of the highlights was when she started talking to Jane’s father, who is her age. They started talking about the old days, and soon she was telling him about joining my dad in Germany after World War II. Come to find out, he had been there at the same time. They started comparing stories about what it was like in Germany right after the war. Mom is still very good at remembering the most incredible details of life from long ago and I heard some amazing stories that I had not heard before.
We headed home as the sun was going down. We had been there 6 hours and I think we were all starting to wind down. She was ready. Sam helped her into the car and we headed home. It had been such a busy day, I thought for sure she would conk out as soon as she was back in her own chair. But she was full of life and chatted away about the day for over an hour. It had been a successful trip.
The next morning as I was getting ready to leave I overheard Mum telling her caregiver lots of details about our Thanksgiving day. We had created some good memories that I hope will stay with her for a very long time. As I put my coat on I heard her say, “And that’s Cathy, my number three baby.” She started telling one of the many stories she has about something I had done as a teenager. That’s my Mum, the keeper of my stories. Thank goodness I was such an angel!