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How was your weekend? I hope everything went as planned, but knowing this disease as I do, it rarely does. I am painfully aware we plan for the best and ride out the treacherous waves of the worst. It may seem ludicrous for me to post ideas for alternative celebrations the day after a major holiday. Sometimes we have to experience the reality of challenges before we are accepting of suggestions.
This certainly has been the case for me. Dad was not present at our family cookout this weekend. Instead we spent quiet, precious moments with him absent of a grand production. This picture captures a treasured memory - "Pop" enjoying a laughter-filled walk with one of his granddaughters after lunch. Although his presence is painfully missed at our gatherings, we have learned this is not about us. These lessons did not come easily, as I shared last Easter.
Eventually the long and loud celebrations will be too much for even our most adventurous loved ones. You will know when that time comes, even if you accept the painful truth while kicking and screaming, as I did. This is when you will find the resolve to lay down the traditions and expectations of the past and forge into new creative horizons.
One of my friends moved her mother in with her and serves as her primary caregiver. She recently planned a beautiful birthday celebration for her mom. A ham was prepared in the slow cooker, and sides which could easily be rewarmed were assembled. Bread, drinks, and desserts were also on hand. My friend notified her extended family of her plan to host a weekend long birthday party for her mother and they all were welcome - two or three at a time.
Each small group was to let her know when they would be coming so she could prepare her mother for the next guests arriving. In this way her mom had individual time to visit with each guest. My friend's mom was delighted with the steady stream of company, absent of a houseful of chaos and confusion, while having time to rest in-between
Smaller gatherings will be increasingly essential as the disease progresses.
I stumbled on one of my most rewarding ideas early on in my mom's disease. My parent's 50th wedding anniversary was that particular summer. I wanted to facilitate a grand celebration but knew Mom was becoming increasingly uncomfortable in social settings. She was already struggling conversationally and would certainly have difficulty remembering a litany of faces. I could think of nothing more cruel than to subject her to this on my parents' special day.
A couple of months before their anniversary, I sent the invitations out for a grand "party by mail". The invitations included a photograph of Mom and Dad with their grandchildren, along with a stamped envelope addressed to my parents. I asked each "guest" to share a special memory in their note, and include a photograph, as well, if they could. The party was kept a complete surprise from my parents.
We will have to get creative - especially when it comes to celebrations.
Cards, letters, and memories began to arrive shortly thereafter and continued throughout the summer. My parents were elated! Not only did this afford them the opportunity to soak in memories leisurely; they felt grandly celebrated. I gathered the wishes in a large album which my parents enjoyed for years to come. Among the well-wishers were family and friends worldwide - as well as The President of the United States!
Any U.S. citizen may request a greeting from The President. Couples celebrating a 50th, 60th, 70th or later anniversary are eligible. Birthday greetings are also available for those turning 80 or older, as well as veterans turning 70 or older. Governors in individual states also have a similar policy. It's important to plan ahead because requests can take up to several months.
To order a Presidential greeting for your loved one: http://abt.cm/175HI8n
Look for things which make your loved one feel special and celebrated. The days of finding enjoyment in grand parties or dozens of family and friends gathered around the dinner table have long passed for my dad. He feels most celebrated when a loving individual takes the time to sit quietly with him, look him in the eye, and share a smile, a laugh, a whistle, or perhaps simply the music of sweet silence.
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