What happened to your Christmas Tree?

smallxmastreeWhen I arrive to visit my Mom, I ask her if she finished decorating her Christmas tree. She gives me a puzzled look and asks “What Christmas tree?”

On a recent visit, my son and I helped “put up” a baby potted Christmas tree for her apartment. We added a string of lights that are battery-operated and got out the “jingle bells” to hang on the tree. My Mom asked if she could finish decorating the tree, so we moved on.

For the first few nights, I called my Mom to ask how the tree looked. I usually had to remind her how to turn on the lights and she would say the tree looked wonderful in her picture window.

Today, the tree can’t be found in her two room apartment. I take a tour of the community area’s to see if I can find it. I run into the woman who is the head nurse in Assisted Living. She tells me my Mom had a bad day yesterday. She said my Mom was bringing many of her things out into the community space and was agitated.

I start asking about other cues to my Mom’s health, and she shares that lately, my Mom is having more conflict with people in the community. Almost every time she leaves Assisted Living she creates a conflict. The residents in Independent Living are starting to move events she used to attend because she is making it unpleasant for the other residents.

When I return to the apartment, we do one final sweep and we find the Christmas tree in her bedroom behind a chair. She suggests we just leave it there. However, it’s a real tree and I’m surprised my Mom with a very green thumb doesn’t recognize it. We get it out and set it up on a plant stand. I just not sure how long it will last. Perplexed.

While I try to find reason to why my Mom hid the Christmas tree then didn’t want to pull it out from behind the chair, I remind myself that this disease makes no sense. Was my Mom hoping to leave it there so stuffing the tree behind a chair wouldn’t seem like a really odd thing to do? Probably. Should I feel guilty because I didn’t call her every night and ask about the tree? No! But I will. Deep inside you wonder if some shard of loneliness drove her to hide the tree. However, I continue to remind myself of all things I am doing to love her, support her and make her life as pleasant as I can … without loosing sight of my family and needs. Chanted. 

11 thoughts on “What happened to your Christmas Tree?

  1. My wife’s mother had all her favourite clothes delivered to her nursing home, into which my sister-in-law had carefully swen nametags so they didn’t get lost or stolen. She gave them all away to charity or threw them in a dumpster, because “she didn’t need her name written into her clothes like a child”. Thousands of dollars worth of clothes. Nothing to be done but grin and bear it.

  2. I has the opposite problem with my mom (non-dementia). She was given a poinsettia plant for Xmas last year and didn’t dispose of it until this summer! She just couldn’t bear to let it go, despite just a few leaves hanging on for dear life. 🙂

    But yes, I fell into the same trap with my dad repeatedly, trying to make sense of the impossible. Perhaps your mother has good days where the tree makes her happy and bad days where it makes her sad. I understand the guilt factor all too well. Find joy where you can and try to let the rest wash off of you.

  3. Kind of like Elf on the Shelf, but with her Christmas tree. Sorry I couldn’t resist. I found a set of tennis balls in my mom’s chest of drawers last night along with someone else’s pastel purple bra. There is one woman who yells in French every time my Mom walks by her because my Mom likes to go in people’s rooms and move things around and sleep on their beds, like Goldilocks. .I wish I could remember my high school French curse words. Hang in there.

    1. Oh my! My Mom did have a neighbor who would always come to her room to use the toilet. So many things resist explanation — but sure do make good stories. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I’ve found living in the moment works because you can’t reason with dementia. Remember how nice it was that day – your mother with you and your son “putting up” the tree.

    1. Terrific reminder. I have fallen into this habit but will usually jot the things down when they happen and wonder about them later. Otherwise — I will be distracted on the visit. Thank you.

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