Well, it’s often easier said than done, isn’t it? I was my husband’s caregiver for the ten years he suffered from multiple sclerosis, and when the holidays came around, stress wasn’t far behind. Stress for me involved trying to make the time as festive as possible, and stress for my husband, Michael, involved trying to rise to the occasion when wanting nothing more than to stay in bed.
Michael never really enjoyed Christmas, so it was always up to me to carry the ball. When we were raising his three daughters, we went all out. Presents from Toys Are Us were big on our shopping list, and the girls and I had fun working together to bring some holiday cheer into our house. This always included decorating the tree and setting up a little village scene, complete with “snow,” atop our fireplace mantel. The little village houses went back to my childhood when my mother would put them out each Christmas. The angel that topped the tree and most of the lights and ornaments were also part of my youth. New were the three big Christmas stockings that my mother knitted for the three girls – one white, one green, one red. Santa always filled them with goodies, stuffing the traditional orange in the bottom.
One Christmas we got more than we bargained for. When Michael and his youngest daughter went to the tree lot to select a tree, a little dog followed them around. Deciding that this pup had been abandoned, they brough him home. As my fortieth birthday was in December, we named him Forty. He had a short run as the family pouch, however. Being a terrier, he started chewing up everything, including the stucco that covered the outside of our house. Forty soon went to a new home, one better equipped to enjoy him and his antics.
But all that was before MS. With MS as our uninvited holiday guest, one that overextended its stay and grew more intrusive each year, Christmas cheer became harder to achieve. The girls were grown, so they understood the situation and were most understanding. Presents were exchanged, but extended family gatherings became a thing of the past. As our holidays became smaller, our celebrations became more intimate, and we grew even closer. In some ways, it was a relief.
So how we observe the holidays may require accommodations, enjoying what’s possible rather than what used to be. Hopefully, as things change, we will treasure the time we have together and honor the memories of holidays past. Most importantly, love and understanding will help us discover the most appropriate and enjoyable ways to celebrate the holidays, whatever our traditions may be. How do you celebrate the holidays? Do you make accommodations for changing conditions? If you do, what are they? I’d love to hear your thoughts.