Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Changing Christmases


Such fond memories always.  

My birthday is Christmas Eve and I remember each year on my birthday we would travel down to my Polish relatives in a suburb of Detroit.  We'd sing on the way and admire all of the lights.  We'd celebrate my birthday with my small (but huge-hearted) family.  My brother, cousin and I would "tap-dance" on my Uncle Joe's linoleum bedroom floor and run throughout the small upstairs apartment that overlooked the world.  

I'd get (what felt like) mountains of birthday presents (perhaps compensating because I had a birthday where all the other children would too be showered with gifts).  Auntie would roll dollar bills for each birthday I had~ when I turned ten she didn't cheat by giving me a ten.  She rolled up ten brand new crisp dollar bills.
They'd sing Sto Lat to me and we'd cut into a flowered cake from the bakery and then it would be "Christmas."

There's something about childhood Christmases.  
They are so wrapped up in magic and warmth and family.
At least mine always were.

But so many years have passed since my early Christmas celebrations.
New traditions have started.
Christmases change.
Most of the regular faces we saw each year are gone.
My Busia, My Great Uncle Joe, Great Auntie, Grandpa Jonasen~

But my Nana is still here.

What a survivor she has been!
Lived through the Great-Depression, her son's death in a car accident, the death of her first Great-Grandson and the death of her true love.

She doesn't know it, but I've watched her for so long.  Admired everything about her!  Her beautiful grace but mostly her ready smile and amazing laugh.  Where most people my age are starting to see lines in the mirror and cringe, I remember from a young age smiling on purpose to get those lines like my Nana had... They showed she was happy.  She laughed.  They showed she walked with a big heart.

My Nan has dementia.  Anyone who knows someone with that knows that it can be incredibly annoying, and sad, and at times... scary.  Through that, she has kept that sense of humor, often telling us with a laugh, "I have a great memory... It's just short!"

Although her dementia at times has left me in tears like it did when I made THIS video, it seems the next day that smile is back and I find myself whispering 'thank you's' to heaven.

It's not her dementia that is changing this Christmas.  It's her heart.
The big, beautiful heart.

My Nana has always been in amazing shape- though she's had heart problems before.  We first figured this out when she was complaining of air quality on her walks and switching parks (I think she was in her 80s).  A doctor's apt & major emergency surgery later... it was her heart.

Because of the marvels of modern medicine, that ticker of hers did not slow her down!  She continued to walk and, for many years, even crawled on the floor with her Great-Grandchildren.  We even shot nine holes of golf on her 90th birthday!

But 'running' down to the lake one day she landed awkwardly on a step and broke her hip- And while just a bone, something else seemed to break- though we didn't know it then.  I feel like since that day, I've watched that strong, amazing woman change. Weaken.
But her heart was always so big.  So strong.

Tonight she is spending her 8th consecutive night in the hospital.
It's her heart again.
She's sleeping a lot but has woken up to crack the occasional joke- and even answered my mom's cell phone when she was out of the room (I didn't know my Nan knew how to answer a cell phone- we both had a good laugh about that).  But the last two days she's been really tired.  Sleeping a lot.  
Her big heart is working too hard. 

It's my birthday tomorrow &
I just want her home.

Isn't that what we all want.
Those we love- those we miss-

As I sit here with my own heavy heart, I think of other friends who have lost children, parents, friends this year.  Friends for whom, Christmas won't be like those Christmases past.  Friends who would give anything to have them Home.  

Barb's Dad.

Thinking of you all this Christmas season and saying a little prayer.  I know your Christmas is Changing.  I pray that you find peace in it.  That you find comfort that although they are not with you... perhaps they are~