I received many unexpected gifts along this journey.
- A couple of very good years when mom and I could do things together, like can jelly and run errands.
- Stories mom would tell even though she was beginning to struggle with her words.
- Unannounced visits when she would show up with flowers, dinner, ice cream, or sometimes nothing. “I just came to wash your dishes.”
Say Yes to Unexpected Gifts
Our hearts hurt, and sometimes the gifts of those days were lost on us because we were so focused on mom’s collapse.
Wherever you are on the Alzheimer’s journey, remember there are gifts along the way. Stay open to receive the unexpected gifts. Say yes. The ice cream for breakfast might soothe your aching heart.
©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2023
If she brings it, eat the ice cream.
This morning mom comes over with ice cream and a chocolate.
Ice cream on a stick. She smiles.
I can think of so many reasons why not, but I don’t speak them.
I place the ice cream in my little beverage refrigerator (I don’t have a proper refrigerator/freezer at the moment, but that’s another post).
It will melt in there.
I know, but I need to finish my coffee first, I say, sorting out in my head whether I’ll really eat the ice cream or simply toss it after she leaves.
And, here’s a chocolate.
Ice cream and chocolate, two things I rarely eat, especially not for breakfast, but that’s what she brings me. This isn’t a remembering thing. She knows these aren’t proper breakfast choices. But she loves them. Especially the ice cream. Ice cream on a stick. If you tarry at her house long enough, she’ll offer you one.
Mom leaves. I stare at the ice cream on a stick through the glass door of my little fridge as I sip my coffee.
I don’t want ice cream for breakfast.
Then I remember that a week ago, my son had stayed over after bringing me from the airport. Mom came by in the morning hoping to visit with him a bit. She had ice cream.
What’s that for?
It’s for Sam.
He’s still sleeping.
Oh, she looked disappointed.
But you can wake him up. I’m not sure he’ll want ice cream this early though.
She knocked on his door. I sat back down at my desk, sipping coffee. I could hear them talking.
Thanks, Mama Nick! Hug from pillow.
After she left, Samir sauntered into the room where I was working.
So, how was ice cream for breakfast? I asked, expecting at least a partially snide answer.
It was great!
I don’t know how to help.
This journey is unbalanced. I’m sure I’m learning more from my mom than she’s getting from me.
I make little spaces in my day for mom, but I don’t really know how to help. We visit her sister, stop for lunch. Sometimes we shop for groceries together. I look for activities she loves to do. We’ve lined up some furniture to refinish, and at least once a week, when I’m here, I invite her over to make jelly with me.
I don’t have to remind her to come over to make jelly. She remembers. Most times, she shows up with dinner. While I eat, she washes all the dishes that have collected in my sink to make room for jelly making.
Tonight we made jelly. She scrubbed the ginger I brought in from the garden, stirred the blueberry juice and sugar, poured the jelly into the jars. Like I said, it’s unbalanced. I’m the lucky one.
I don’t know how to help mom, so I make space in my head. My first notion this morning is to tell her, Thanks, but I don’t want ice cream. Just take it with you and put it back in the freezer when you go home. I stifle that notion and put the ice cream in the little refrigerator.
For after I finish my coffee, I explain.
After she leaves, I have the toss-the-ice-cream-on-a-stick option. Then I remember Samir.
It was great.
I eat the ice cream. Samir was right. It is great. I eat the chocolate too.
I’m not boasting about my choice to eat the ice cream nor about the small spaces I make in my days for my mom. I want to give these things voice because I mostly fail when faced with these choices.
Can I call you later?
I have a meeting.
Mom didn’t teach me a lesson exclusively for Alzheimer’s caregivers when she brought me ice cream and chocolate. The lesson is universal.
- Be kind at encounters.
- Be grateful for gifts.
- Be thoughtful in response.
- Mostly, make space on your calendar and in your head for your people.
Sit down with the child and make the marble maze together. Fix some coffee and put your good-listening ears on for your friend. Show up with lunch to visit with your aunt. Take a day off to help your dad or your daughter.
Eat the ice cream your mom brings for breakfast.
It will be great!
©Copyright Pennie Nichols 2018. All Rights Reserved.