As a Caregiver, the greatest gift is always the simplest, yet often the most complicated to give – TIME.
November is winding down and December is peeking around the corner. I wanted to share this post, one that I wrote back in 2008, the first year my family celebrated Christmas and the Christmas Season without our beloved Flo… my husband’s Mom.
Barry and I moved this past May, and we’ve found that getting organized in our new home is a bit more difficult in our 60’s (go figure!), but on this chilly New England morning, we both headed out to our still-loaded-with-stuff garage to find a great Christmas treasure. Here’s why…
The Christmas TIME “FLYER” and its Christmas Lesson
We have a little artificial Christmas Tree, with its tiny white lights, sitting on a little end table in our family room. The base of the tree is what appears to be a sector of a log – very sturdy and very protective. There are remnants of crinkly, white tinsel on the branches of this tree. Tiny pine cones are scattered about on the tips of many of the branches. A little red sled ornament, with the lone word FLYER written across the front, hangs delicately, but resolutely, from one of the branches. During the day, the sun pours into this room and makes the tiny white lights sparkle. At night, the twinkling lights from this little Christmas Tree are visible from the front and side windows of our home… beckoning everyone with its warmth. From the inside, this little tree warms our very hearts…
This may seem as ordinary a tree as any little artificial Christmas Tree. But this tree carries a great Christmas Lesson.
This little tree belonged to my late mother-in-law, Flo. I don’t know where she got it, but I remember her having it year after year. As Flo got older, this little manageable Christmas Tree replaced her much bigger tree, and she loved setting it up each Christmas season.
Flo loved buying gifts, wrapping gifts, placing gifts under and around her tree and giving her gifts. The last few years of her life, Flo gave her things away as gifts; her Christmas ornaments, her costume jewelry, her special tablecloths and cookbooks and teapots. Most especially, though, Flo loved having people come to her apartment to see and enjoy her Christmas Tree with its lights and crinkly white tinsel and pine cones and meaningful ornaments and gifts. This was her joy.
Barry and I would often take Flo out to dinner or bring her to our home for special events and occasions with her grandchildren and then great-grandchildren. When we would arrive back at her apartment, Flo would inevitably say, “Come on up.” Or, “Come on in.” At Christmas time, Flo would be especially insistent. “Come see my tree,” she’d say… “and have a cup of tea!”
Sometimes we would. But most times we would be rushing. Rushing to get home. Rushing to get ready for the next day. Rushing. Rushing. No time. Not enough time. Thinking, I suppose, that time would stand still. But time has its own way of tick-tock-ticking.
Time has a way of rushing around us. Time has a miraculous way of giving. Time has a way of taking. Time has a way of taking people from us. When Flo passed away, Barry and I gathered up all of her boxes of Christmas things. She had lights and handmade ornaments, little figurines and garland, big fluffy mounds of tinsel. And she had the little Christmas Tree… the Christmas Tree that we could have spent a little more time admiring. A little more time complimenting. A little more time. Just a little.
But it’s the balance of time that the little Christmas Tree has taught us. Flo already knew that the lunches we were heading home to make for the kids were important to us at the time. She already knew that we didn’t know. Yet. As we drove away, we would see the little tree from her window…
But we didn’t know. Yet. We didn’t know the lesson that perhaps our own children and grandchildren don’t know. And can’t know. Yet.
There will always be lunches to be made. There will always be laundry to fold. There will always be homework to check. But time takes care of these little things. It’s US who takes care of people.
I don’t write this post with a heavy heart, but rather with a feeling of Christmas. Flo has given us this lesson from her new place as the FLYER – the FLYER Angel! Now I know that the little ornament was left on the tree for a purpose. Flo is here. She is happy. She is like a little kid again, but this time passing along all the wisdom and lessons of the ages through that treasured little Christmas Tree of hers.
Give TIME. It’s the simplest of gifts. But it’s truly the greatest gift of all.
I am a Caregiver to my Mom. I know the challenges of Caregiving. I know the TIME it takes. I know.
But Flo’s Christmas Tree with its little “Flyer” ornament always gives me pause, especially at this festive, busy time of year, to stop and give the gift of TIME… an afternoon of Christmas shopping with my Mom, an unannounced lunch, an ice-cream Sundae, a surprise visit with my grandchildren, hanging a wreath on my Mom’s door, a cup o’ tea.
I am proud to be part of AARP’s Kitchen Cabinet Blogger Advisory Group and I spend lots of time navigating the AARP Caregiving Resource Center for all kinds of valuable help and advice on elderly housing, legal matters, medical questions, etc. that relate to caring for my Mom. I share this information with my Mom; information and help that gives both of us comfort in knowing that we are not alone with some of our concerns and questions.
But my TIME? My TIME is mine to share. My TIME is mine to fit and squeeze and maneuver and stretch and bend. TIME is a complicated thing to give; but it’s the simplest gift. By far.
If you are a caregiver or know a caregiver, please visit/refer to aarp.com/caregiving for caregiving resources.
I am a member of AARP’s Kitchen Cabinet on Caregiving and Caresupport. All of my opinions/views are my own. November is NATIONAL FAMILY CAREGIVERS MONTH and I am helping to get the word out about elder care issues.