Driving into the New Year

Christmas was coming and Harriet had an idea about using our fiftieth anniversary decorations to get the house ready for it. Using bows and ribbons as the focal point, Harriet decorated the Christmas tree. She also very artistically placed swags and glass trees all around the great room.

It was about a week before Christmas and Harriet was feeling a bit of panic. We had agreed to give the kids and grandkids money for Christmas. The plan was to give each person $30 in a money card. However, this wasn’t sitting well with Harriet and she was making a shopping list. I didn’t realize that She had already picked up a few things for our three youngest grandchildren and something for our daughter and two daughters-in-law. I, mistakenly, thought we were ready for Christmas, but out the door we went with her list in hand. It took two or three shopping trips to Hallmark, Wal Mart, Meijer, Sam’s Club, and a few other places, before we had gifts for everyone in the family.

Christmas plans were in place: Zach and Gina were going to celebrate Christmas in Toronto with Gina’s family and join us when Michelle and Mike came on the 28th. We were going to go over to Joshua’s house for dinner on Christmas day and they would in turn come to our house when everyone was here on the 28th. However, when you’re dealing with four separate families, and FTD, you learn to be flexible.

Harriet and I attended the 10:00 PM Christmas Eve Candlelight service at St. Mary. This is one of Harriet’s favorite services. She loves singing Silent Night with the only light, in the sanctuary, coming from the candles. The church was packed, which was great as the voices came together to sing the Christmas Carols. The homily was very meaningful and going up to receive the Eucharist seemed really special as we celebrated the birth of our Lord and Savior. One of the hymns, for Holy Communion, was What Child is This? Although we didn’t sing the verse, “Nails, spear shall pierce Him through, The cross be borne for me, for you; Hail, hail the Word made flesh, The babe, the son of Mary.” it was in my mind as we went up to receive the blessed sacrament. We celebrated Jesus’ birth never forgetting that He came to earth on a rescue mission: to save us from ourselves. The service ended just before Midnight and we went home, had some wine, crackers, and cheese, and went to bed.

The next morning, I got up early, went to the 9 o’clock Christmas Morning Service, and was home for breakfast by ten-fifteen. Harriet hadn’t slept well and wasn’t up yet. When she did get up, she wondered if it would bother Joshua and Michelle if we didn’t go to their house for Christmas. Those who have Frontotemporal Dementia can only do so much before a deep exhaustion sets in. With the shopping, wrapping gifts, decorating the house, and attending the Christmas Eve Service, Harriet needed some time to just rest. I didn’t know if she would need one day of rest or two or maybe even three before she would be ready to enter back into life.

We ate breakfast and then opened our gifts to each other. While Harriet was napping, I cleaned up the kitchen and got a couple of steaks out of the freezer for dinner. Josh and Michelle understood completely, and the rest of the day was spent lounging around and watching movies on television.

That afternoon Zach and Gina called to wish us a Merry Christmas. They also explained that they would be going to Florida the day after they returned from Toronto. They had found a package deal of four days and three nights on Daytona Beach that was too good to pass up. Their flight left at 8 o’clock in the morning and they wanted to take us to a Steak House in Canton, Michigan, when they got back to the States. Harriet was quite happy about this because she wanted to buy Michelle and Aidan a tea pot that she had seen at IKEA which was right across the road from the restaurant.

The next day Harriet was feeling better and we went to Josh and Michelle’s. Their five children range in age from 25 down to six years old. Christmas is so much fun with small children around. Their excitement at getting gifts and the pure enjoyment when they open them, is refreshing. When small children open the money card and see the thirty-dollars, they act like they just won the lottery.

On the Friday after Christmas we were on our way to Ikea and then the Black Rock Steak House in Canton for Dinner with Zach and Gina.  We were almost to Ikea when Zach called. They had just crossed into the United States but were going to be late because it had taken over two-hours to do so. The new plans included shopping at Ikea and then going to their house for dinner.  

Ikea is set up so that the shopper will have to proceed through every single display. Kind of like going through a maze. We bought the tea pot Christmas gifts, an oil descanter, and an oriental rug for the living room.  

Following our Ikea adventure, we were off to Zach and Gina’s in Ferndale. It was a thirty-minute drive in light-traffic and we had the Country Christmas Channel on the radio. You might wonder why we were listening to Christmas Carols when Christmas was over and done with? For Christian’s who attend churches that keep the liturgical calendar, the season of Advent was over, and Christmas had just started two days before. Some churches celebrate Christmas until Epiphany, which falls on January 6th.  Other Liturgical churches celebrate Christmas until the Baptism of Christ, which this year fell on Sunday, January 12th.  For some reason I  really didn’t get in the Christmas spirit until  we attended the Christmas Eve Service, so I enjoyed singing along.

Our time with Zach and Gina was great; they are such a wonderful, fun, caring couple. They made a meal of salmon, with a rice medley. For dessert they served some kind of Italian bread/cake that they brought back from Toronto.  After dinner we exchanged gifts. They both commented on how much better Harriet was doing. Making me wonder about Father Fain’s prayers for her at Lourdes.

Because of Michelle’s work obligations they weren’t able to leave Peoria before the 29th. Harriet and I decided to combine the Family Christmas dinner & the New Year’s Eve party.

New Year’s Eve turned out to be a lot of fun. We started with snacks: cheese, crackers, olives, pickles, bean dip, corn chips, a vegie tray and hot cider. There were hugs all around, and the usual friendly banter. Dinner was baked ham, salmon, mashed potatoes, broccoli, Cauliflower covered with melted cheese, and Hawaiian roles.

After dinner we set up a snack and dessert buffet. Some people sat on the couch and talked while others played games. Sometime around ten the television was turned on so we wouldn’t miss the countdown from Times Square. We got the party hats, Happy New Year tierras, and all kinds of noise makers. For the New Year’s toast, we had sparkling grape juice or various wines and beers for those old enough to enjoy them. We did the countdown: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! Enough noise to scare the dogs and delight the kids.

New Year’s Day we all rested and had a nice quiet day with Michelle, Mike, and the boys. Harriet was exhausted and kept dozing off in her recliner.

On January second, Harriet and I were up early because of the procedure she was going to have in Ypsilanti. They did the shots in her spine to help cut the pain. When we got home her pain was much worse, but it got better as the day progressed.

 Mike and Michelle had been busy packing their car for the eight-hour drive back to Peoria. We stood in the doorway, waving goodbye, as they pulled out of the drive.

With the death of my dad in September, our fiftieth Anniversary in November, and Christmas and New Year’s celebrations behind us, it felt like the end of something or the beginning of a new thing.

 The question keeps coming up, has the Lord healed Harriet? That is, would we see a miracle healing because of Father Fain’s intercessions at Lourdes and Fatima?

Some things have really improved: She is more steady on her feet, more assured when speaking, and more engaged when dealing with other people.

Some things have remained the same: she is still tired all the time and seems to sleep more in the day than at night. A year ago, she wanted to make the Christmas dinner, but couldn’t figure out how long you would cook an eight pound ham at 15 minutes a pound. While we were working on the New Year’s Eve dinner I asked her how long should I bake the eleven pound ham at fifteen minutes a pound. No idea. She gave me that blank look.

Some things seem worse: A few days ago, we were watching the movie, Yesterday. The premise is that something happened, and all the electricity, around the world, shut down. When the lights came back on almost everyone on the planet had forgotten that the Beatles had ever existed. In fact, every record, movie, song sheet, anything that had to do with the Beatles was gone. However, one man, a struggling, complete failure of a songwriter and musician, remembered the Beatles and most of their best songs. He begins playing Beatles music, claiming it as his own and becomes instantly famous.

The movie was fun to watch but it really confused Harriet. She asked me, “Did this really happen?” I assured her it was just a movie. Later she asked, “Is this movie based on a true story?” I felt like crying.

I do not think that we are seeing any kind of divine intervention that will heal Harriet of her Dementia. The improvements are from the changes in her medication and the Physical therapy she has been doing.

Because Harriet has been sick, we’ve been postponing her Driving Exam. Finally, we couldn’t put it off any longer. She has her follow up exam with the Neurologist on Monday, January 27. We drove up to Brighten on Wednesday and she took her driving exam. This was not a written test, she only had to drive the examiner around for twenty minutes or so. It turns out she will be driving into the New Year.  He said even though she was rough around the edges she still drove good enough to pass the test.

On Monday morning, Harriet returns to Ypsilanti for the second set of shots in her spine. Monday afternoon she returns for a follow-up visit with her Neurologist. I will let you know how things go next week.

Please continue to pray for us, and be sure we are praying for you.

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