By 10:30 this morning I needed Christmas like I needed an enema. My mother rang me in a panic, as she did at the same time yesterday. Where was everyone? she cried. Why was she on her own on Christmas Day? And why, when she rang my number, was she getting through to her best friend and old neighbour?
My mother isn’t well. It seems that the moment she turned 70 (last October), her mind went walkabout. An MRI ruled out a tumour, which left us with the likelihood of dementia. Her mobile phone and TV remote are now sources of frustration for her. We have written lists of her important numbers and set both her mobile and landline with identical speed-dial settings. But she still calls the wrong people. Not always, just sometimes.Old age will happen (hopefully) to us all. Most of us will enjoy our twilight years with the full benefits of our mental capacities. Some of us (and hopefully not you) won’t. It may take a long time to creep up on us. Or, in the case of my mother, it may suddenly appear. Who knows what each day may bring?
It could also be her medication. My mother has emphysema too, and is on a shed-load of pills and inhalers to help with her condition. She takes sleeping tablets as well, and there is currently some debate about the severity and dosage of these pills. It may be that her medication is causing some sort of imbalance, but we won’t know for sure until we get a report from her doctor.
Most times, my mother is well and alert enough to hold a conversation, know what’s what and who’s who, and is able to go out for a drink with her sister once or twice a week. But with weather being the way it is, she finds herself housebound. As she lives on her own and can’t get out and about as much as she used to, there is the danger of her brain going idle. It can happen to anyone of us if we’re denied mental stimulation. But we’ll get through this Christmas without any incident, hopefully. We’ll be together as a family and look out for her and each other.
So, as you can imagine, I’ve not been in the festive spirit, particularly after the phone calls from the last two mornings. But a friend of mine had invited me to a screening of Frank Capra’s classic James Stewart movie It’s A Wonderful Life at the Irish Film Institute (IFI) on Eustace Street, off Dublin’s Temple Bar. I’ve never seen this movie before, although I know it well enough as a staple of Christmas TV schedule. I debated whether to see the movie or call down to my mother. My friend suggested that three hours wouldn’t make too much of a difference and I could always call down afterwards. So I agreed to go.
And I’m glad I did. I’m sure most of you reading this have seen the movie, so I won’t bother with an in-depth review. It is enough to say that I was taken away from what was going on in my life and brought instead to a Capraesque fantasy world that gave truth to the statement, “they don’t make them like this anymore.”
When the movie finished, I rang my mother and let her know I was on my way down. My brother was already there and she seemed to be fine. My friend and I left the IFI and were greeted by a snow shower. Walking through Temple Bar, all of a sudden I realised it was Christmas. People walked hand-in-hand; Christmas lights shone though the snow; music played from shop windows. It was starting to look a lot like Christmas. (The only disadvantage to this was the bus journey to my mother’s house – it took ages to get there.)
My mother was waiting for me, and she was a lot better than she was this morning. When I left, my sister was on her way down to see her. Like I said, we’ll get through this Christmas. What happens next year is anyone’s guess.
I’d like to take this moment to wish each of you a peaceful and blessed Christmas. Be safe, love and take care of each other, okay?
Until the next time.