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Christmas and elderly parents

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
It's already Christmas here - Merry Christmas! We spent the late afternoon/early evening with my husband's parents (80 and 78), and somehow ended up discussing not putting either one of them in a nursing home should the worst come to the worst, what to do about certain co-owned real estate once they die, and the pros and cons of cremation. I figure that at their age, they think every Christmas will be their last, but the topics really didn't seem too appropriate for Christmas. When we got home, I called my mom (73, widowed for the past two years), to wish her a Merry Christmas, and she started talking about how I absolutely have to take the family Christmas ornaments and a few other things before she dies, because otherwise my sister and I might have to pay too much inheritance tax.
The domestic violence/homicide and suicide statistics are frighteningly high for the holiday season every year. My boss was in tears on Wednesday because I sneaked a 2005 Labrador Retriever calendar into her office (the pictures reminded me of a dog she had for 14 years)- she has survived all her family, so Christmas is a melancholy time for her. She does something very practical and helpful over Christmas - she volunteers at a hospital for the mentally ill.
Do you know people who actually dread Christmas? What do you do to ease them through it? Is it possible? I found myself dreadfully missing my older brother (he died in 1991) this afternoon, simply because I was wrapping presents. That's something I'm not good at, and he always managed to find the "perfect" present and turn it into a work of art with a little bit of wrapping paper and some ribbon.
So what's the best approach? Be all "Ho, ho, ho, Merry Christmas", or accept that Christmas is a difficult time for many people?
post #2 of 9
Wow tough question. I say cover the difficult time with Ho ho ho if someone seems down. Just because you accept the fact it is difficult, doesn't mean you shouldn't try to bring a little laughter into their life.
post #3 of 9
I guess it really depends upon the person, Tricia. I know it doesn't feel too appropriate to you for the parents to be discussing dying on a holiday, but I think you hit the nail on the head. It's a time when all the family is together, and the parents feel a need to have their affairs in order. I think it is comforting to them to feel as though things have been talked about and taken care of. So, by listening to it, you have provided a bit of love to them for the holidays.

As to others, people like me mostly ignore the holiday. I try to be semi-seasonal for the people who seem to need everyone to be in the spirit, but mostly anymore, it's just another day to me.
post #4 of 9
I'm not sure actually. I've always always hated the holidays, since I was a little kid. I remember always being in trouble on thanksgiving. I remember always crying on thanksgiving, and christmas. I never actually thought about it until this year, I was starting to go down in the dumps, when my hubby said to me "it's just the holiday season, it gets you down every year.

It does. This year though, Since he said that to me, I have done my best NOT to be sad or unhappy. The feelings hit me, and I've been able to push most of them away. I so miss my mom. I almost cry when ever I think about her durring this season. I miss her sooooooo much.

We are getting ready to go celebrate with my dad(step), and his new girlfriend tonight. I love her. She is the greatest. She's been like a second mama to me for 6 years now. Way before my mom passed. The transition of them being together was easy for us, since we all loved them both to begin with. I am rather excited. I feel a little guilty. I feel like I shouldn't love her like I do. She's a wonderful woman though. Very giving, loving, and has a heart as big as my mom's.

Well, to those who have a problem with the holidays, I feel for you.
For those who know people that have a problem with them, just try your best to be supportive, adn loving durring the season.
post #5 of 9
A tough question indeed. And I don't think there are any stock answers. The conversation about end of life matters would have given me trouble, too, but I think Deb is right about it being a loving thing to let it happen -- to let them take the opportunity to have a conversation that felt important to them, even if it did feel somehow inappropriate to the day for you.

My Dad is 92. He doesn't do the end of life conversation anymore, because he's in Extended Care now and knows it's his last stop. But he's got lots of life in him, despite his physical challenges, and barring the unforeseen, could easily be with us for a few more years at least. We just go with the flow, these days. Sometimes it means gritting one's teeth, when it's clear that he needs to talk about something that one would rather not hear about, but...

Rob's Mum is 84. She won't do end of life conversations with us. She may -- possibly -- with Rob's sisters -- maybe. She's such a private person, that most of what's on her heart never comes out. That which does, Marlyn or Rani hears, but no male would, save her husband, who is gone.

In the end, I think it's about being sensitive to their needs in their last years, despite our need not to be consumed by the inevitable before it happens. As for people in general, I think that applies to them too. Sometimes HOHOHO can get someone out of a funk -- then it's appropriate. But sometimes, it just belittles their pain. Better to be with them in their pain, if that's what they really need. No stock answers.

Listening to your in-laws and taking them seriously on these subjects may have felt weird on Christmas, but to do otherwise would have been hurtful, I suspect. Your instincts were trustworthy. Merry Christmas.
post #6 of 9
Well, I follow the "ho, ho, it's Christmas approach". My parents talk openly about their "short time on earth". My mom has breast cancer and my dad just found he has a suspicious mass in his lung. I've passed Christmas without a sister for 12 years. Early this month my favorite aunt died of a heart attack. These things happen. Christmas is a time of joy, a celebration of life. Let's put aside the sadness for 24 hours.
post #7 of 9
My dad is 88, my mother is 82. Their friends are dying now, and I think that brings up the realization that life is really short. It is good to have the details ironed out, and if they choose to do this when the family is together, then more power to them. Trust me, I have been involved in a relative death where nothing was discussed and no will was ever found. The vultures came out in droves to pick up anything that was valuable. It was disgusting.

I know my Dad who went through three major wars, has now befriended an 11 year old boy of one of his old shipmates (from the Navy) My dad has sent this grandson most of his war ribbons and campaign badges along with stories of how he and the boy's grandfather weathered the war. It makes me a bit sad, but maybe because we are all girls, my father doesn't think sharing such stories and stuff are important to us. My parents have their affairs all in order. I am dreading the day that i get the call, but I am realistic to know that death is a very much a part of life, especially after this scare I just had with Mike.
post #8 of 9
my grandmother is turning 80 this week and over christmas she said something like 'i didn't get that many cards this year, and i started thinking about why, and it's because all of my friends are dead.' So me and bf just kinda did that thing where you don't know if you are supposed to laugh or be sad, but then g'ma's bf made a death joke so we all laughed out of relief.

But she has transferred everything to my father and all arrangements are made, and my parents who are in their 50s want to start transferring things to me and my brother soon too, just incase I guess. I think it's wonderful that they plan ahead and that they trust us so much.
post #9 of 9
I don't go the HO HO HO its Christmas approach. I accept the fact that my parents are no longer my age. Esp this year. Mom has been in and out of the hospital since July. In October she underwent back fusion and then emergancy surgery 4 days later for internal bleeding. She came home the day before Thanksgiving and is still having a hard time.

I give Mom and Dad an opportunity to be involved in the planning and activities. For example, Mom was crying the other day cause this is the first year we didn't have our annual bake-a-thon. So I brought all the makings of a few cookies with me, sat her at the kitchen table over her protests, and started her making cookies. By the middle of the night, she was laughing and joking again. An amazing sight! She's been depressed since August. Dad was called to my sister's house to take his nephews shopping while Mom and I baked cookies. Which got the boys out of the house so my sister could wrap gifts.

Mom and Dad did want to talk about their estate on Christmas Day. We just suggested they wait till all the guests go home, then we sat down as a family to discuss it.


ps...we need an emoticon for "crying with joy'
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