In-Between Christmas

Yesterday was the first Christmas morning I have awakened in my own bed in sixteen years. I had planned to sleep in my parents’ bed in the home they lived in for nearly forty years. No one is living in the house now. We’re working on clearing it out and doing cosmetic repairs before listing it for sale. Because Queen Sadie is feeling poorly, I didn’t want to leave her overnight. So I put off my trip until Christmas morning.

I explained this to my mom a few times throughout the week, and reminded her during the day on Christmas Eve that I’d be there the following day. She likes to stay on schedule, so I told her I’d arrive right after lunch, which is from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. Later that evening, in the midst of roasting Brussels sprouts, whipping up my famous from-scratch Caesar salad dressing, and wrapping my mother’s gifts, I noticed I’d missed four calls from her in a thirty-minute period, so I called her back. She doesn’t always answer the phone these days, and when she does, she just holds it, waiting for the person on the other end of the phone to speak first.

Hey, mom. What are you up to?

I’m waiting for you guys to come and get me!

Mom, I’m not coming until tomorrow. One of my kitties is sick so I don’t want to leave her.

But today is Christmas.

No, tomorrow is Christmas.

How do you figure that? It’s today.

I promise I wouldn’t forget you on Christmas, mom. I’ll be there tomorrow and we’ll go to Brenda’s for Christmas dinner, and drive around afterward and look at the lights.

It’s today.

OK, mom. I’ll pick you up tomorrow right after lunch and take you to Christmas dinner.

You’ll pick me up tomorrow?

Yes, right after lunch. I’ll call you in the morning.

After lunch?

After lunch.


On Christmas morning I called her at 11:45 and let her know I was on schedule to arrive just after lunch. She’s been skipping meals of late, and I had to convince her to leave her room and go downstairs for lunch. I arrived at her assisted living at 1:15 and knocked on her door. I could hear her tv, but she did not answer despite my repeated knocking and calling to her through the door, so I phoned her.

Mom, unlock the door.

Who’s at the door?

Me, Ella. I’m here.

OK, I’m coming.

Still, nothing. I called again and again she said she’d open the door. But the door remained closed so I went downstairs and asked a care assistant to let me in. When I finally got inside, she was on the phone with my sister.

I kept telling her to let you in.

It’s OK, a care assistant let me in. She’s having an off day.

Yes, she is.

I gave her a kiss hello and sat down on the sofa. Her kitty immediately jumped up and lay down beside me, begging for petting.

Who else is outside? Do we need to let anyone else in?

No, it’s just me, mom.

Who else is there?

No one else. Just me, mom.

Ella is going to be here any minute. We’ll need to let her in.

I’m Ella, mom. And I’m in. It’s OK.

Mom opened her gifts, one of which was a new sweater. She was wearing a rather ratty cotton jacket, and I suggested she might want to wear her new sweater out for Christmas dinner. She said she wanted to save it. Later, when we were leaving, she asked me to get her new sweater so she could wear it to dinner. I was glad she forgot she wanted to save it. If Christmas dinner isn’t a special enough occasion, what is? Her two favorite gifts were a calendar of the Lake Superior coastline with a dozen photos taken near the family cabin in Northern Ontario, and a piece of homemade banana nut bread. It was always her favorite, and so I put my mushy bananas to good use. I gave the cat two furry mice, one blue, one purple. I put them on the sofa next to him. He responded by giving me a swat.

We arrived for dinner forty-five minutes late. I should know by now that it always takes much longer to get mom out the door than anticipated. My nephew (not the free-loader) pushed his grandmother into the house, where we were greeted by my niece, my ex-sister-in-law, and her mother, whom I haven’t seen (they reminded me) in twenty-seven years. It was lovely to see Bertia and listen to her speak with her gorgeous Swedish accent. They had made a traditional Swedish Christmas dinner of Swedish meatballs, pea soup, and mashed potatoes, to which we added my Brussels sprouts and Caesar salad. It was delicious and a nice change from a hunk of meat. (My father always insisted on prime rib.) Dessert was a cake made of layers of crepes and whipped berry topping.

Brenda offered me a glass of wine.

Ella wants a glass of wine, I’m sure!

No, I quit almost a year ago.

What? You quit?

Yep. It started off as an experiment, and I was sleeping so much better, I decided if that was the only benefit, I’d keep going. (It seems I doth explain too much.)

Really? Maybe I should give it a try.

Brenda had divorced my brother because of his drinking many years before he died. She confessed to me after he died that she still loved him, and she wished things could have been different. When he died, in March 2013, he was a few days shy of ninety days sober. Brenda divorced her second husband recently. If my brother was sober and still alive, who knows? Renewing our friendship has been one of the good things to come out of his death.

Throughout the afternoon, I was acutely aware of everything. My mother’s red shirt with white polka dots. The way she kept tucking the bejeweled fox on the end of her new necklace into a fold in her shirt. (Keeping him safe in his foxhole, to be sure.) How she ate every bite of her mashed potatoes, soup, and salad, leaving the meatballs and Brussels sprouts. How she smiled when my brother’s dog licked her hand.

After dinner, Brenda took some sweet photos of my mom, my niece, my nephew, and my brother’s dog (she adopted him when my brother died) in front of the Christmas tree. Mom and I then headed back to her assisted living, taking lots of side-trips to look at the Christmas lights. I played a Christmas music radio station, and mom sang along to Baby It’s Cold Outside. She remembered the words.

Back at assisted living, I got her settled into her chair and put the tv on a channel she liked—an old black-and-white Shirley Temple movie.

Where’s my nut bread?

It’s right here on the table next to you. Whenever you’re ready for it, mom.


I gave her a kiss and the cat a pat, wished her Merry Christmas, and headed back to Austin to take care of the ailing kitty. Not bad for an in-between Christmas.


About UB Ella

UB Ella (f/k/a Unconfirmed Bachelorette) is a 50-something recovered lawyer who left the practice of law to embrace a full-time writing life. Never-married, child-free Ella resides in Austin, Texas and Ontario, Canada with her four bad cats.
This entry was posted in Alcoholism, Alzheimer's, Dementia, Elderly Parents, Sobriety and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to In-Between Christmas

  1. Mom says she can read your emotions through your words. It’s hard when parents get older and their minds seem to slip out of this world. It’s also hard when you’re worrying about your lovely kitty. We’re all sending you hugs, purrs and soft paw pats and we’re glad you do have some precious memories to keep in your heart. Thanks for sharing them with us!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. leggypeggy says:

    Hubby’s Aunt Esther lived with us for eight years until she moved in to demented aged care (she was quite demented her last three or four years with us). The conversations with your mum are so familiar. I think you’ve done very well for an in-between Christmas.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love Brussels sprouts. Not many people do. Very hard to find Brussels sprouts on my Mexican mountaintop. Próspero Año Nuevo. Send me some Brussels sprouts, will you?


  4. All in all, it sounds lovely. Merry Christmas to your family – especially to you and your mother, Ella.*


  5. me-fixing-me says:

    thanks for telling and it sounds like a memorable Xmas to me. lovely how you look after your mum. x


  6. It was a precious day! Happines is a little thing if it is not shared in these circumstances: obvious, and boring, you may say, but absolutely true!
    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays ❤


  7. josie416 says:

    A beautiful, sad, touching, loving, joyful story beautifully told.


  8. I loved this post and completely agree with Josie. Your writing is beautiful and the story was rich and moving. (I also love how you responded when Brenda offered you a glass of wine. Note to self… 🙂


  9. This is awesome, thank you for sharing it. My mom had Alzheimers and dementia for a loooong time. I hope you have a lot more good days with her:)


  10. This was a great piece of work, just great, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your christmas and your family. And your dear Mum. Have a great day.. c

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Very “patient” post. I noticed because I’m working on that.


  12. This was a great Christmas. You’ll see later on. (We had Brussels spouts, too this year. Growing up, my best friend across the street had meatballs for Christmas. The mom was Swedish.). The calendar was such a good idea for a present. The fox in the pocket gave me such a smile – reminds me of one of my totally dotty but cheerful elderly aunts.Bless those black and white movies.
    Such nice Christmas scenes. (Now off to read how Sadie is feeling)


  13. Leigh says:

    My mom’s second parent died within the last several years and it was so hard watching my mom go through what you are. The worst part though? Now she has started worrying constantly about when she will be there, in her mom’s position. I’m sorry you’re going through this with your mom. There are definitely pieces of this with my mom sometimes already and it’s hard. My dad, too. My mom was my age when her first parent died and that’s pretty freaky.

    “I see her slipping away, but it’s a lesson in living in the present.” –> This is so true. If I am to believe my parents, that they only have another ten good years left, how do I want to spend those years? These are hard questions to ask myself.


    • I sometimes worry about when I’ll be there. It’s hard not to do when it’s staring you in the face. My mom is only twenty-nine years older than me. If my health goes the same way hers has, I’ve got about twenty-five more decent years before I fall apart. That doesn’t sound like much! Then again, it’s also causing me to do my damnedest to avoid the health issues my mom’s dealing with. I feel like I’m in a race to stop working so I can enjoy the years I have left. I also think not working will lengthen my life! I cannot begin to imagine what you’re mom’s going through: what it will be like when my mom’s gone. To be a mid-life orphan, so to speak. Hopefully your mom can begin to put the worry aside, and enjoy the life she has now.


  14. nowletsgo1 says:

    I’m late reading and replying to your Christmas post but am enjoying going through some of your writings. You have a lovely way of talking about your mother and family, and of course, cats. I also lost a brother so we may, perhaps, have other things in common too. Very best to you 🙂


    • I’m so glad you left this comment. I’ve poked around over at your place, and can report that we do have other things in common. I feel a strong connection already and am looking forward to reading more of your posts.


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