Merry Christmas

It’s Christmas morning, and I am thinking about all the households with young children who have been up for hours and eagerly unwrapping packages. Those are great moments to treasure. They don’t last forever. The children often sleep a little later as they get older. Life changes for all of us as we age. We don’t celebrate the season in the same way we did when we were younger.

One thing doesn’t change. We still have our memories of Christmas. I remember getting my Red Ryder BB Rifle when I was about nine or ten years old. It’s hard for me to believe that my parents allowed me to play with it around the neighborhood at that age. I also remember being excited over the Schwinn Black Phantom I received when I was twelve or thirteen. Those were among my most special Christmas gifts as a child.

The memories of the Christmas season that mean the most to me these days are the ones that Kate and I have shared. We had our first date on December 19, 1961. We went to a performance of Handel’s Messiah. December 19, 1962, we became engaged. On Christmas day six days later, we announced our engagement to Kate’s extended family at the family Christmas gathering at Kate’s home.

Over the years, we have enjoyed the season in different ways and in different places. We spent our first Christmas together with a trip to my home in West Palm Beach. That was Kate’s first time there. We spent our only Christmas alone in Madison, Wisconsin, during my first year in graduate school at the University of Wisconsin.

I have many treasured memories of Christmas Days we spent with each of our families. Until the children were around five or six, we rotated between our parents’ homes. After that, our parents came to us. As our children graduated from college and started their own families, we followed pretty much the same custom. We were introduced to the pleasure of watching grandchildren enjoy Christmas with the excitement that is unique to children.

Kate and I also started taking vacation trips during the first or second week of December. Three or four times we have enjoyed the Christmas season in New York City. That’s my favorite time of the year to be there. We have also enjoyed Christmas season travel to London, Paris, Vienna, and several places in Germany.

This Christmas we find ourselves in a very different place. Next year we won’t travel to be with our children and their families. There is no way for me to know exactly what Kate will be like next year, but she is likely to continue her decline.

Kate no longer has the memories of Christmas that have been so special to us. I tell her about them, and she experiences momentary pleasure in being reminded. She can’t, however, retain and reflect on them. I am sad about this. I’m sad for her, and I’m sad for me; however, there is still good news. Even though her world is growing smaller, she continues to enjoy life. I know from other caregivers that moments of pleasure often continue for a long time. Whatever happens, I retain my memories of Christmas and the joy we have experienced during this season, and I am grateful.

My wish for you is that you continue to create your own Christmas memories to treasure now and for the days to come. Merry Christmas.

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