Saturday, December 26, 2009

Birthmas Parties

Every year, my Holiday Season is more about birthdays than Christmas, which makes sense when you consider that Christmas is itself a birthday celebration.

The evening of December 24th found me at my aunt's house for my grandmother's 89th birthday party. As my rickety old grandparents finished stamping the snow off their shoes and made their way into the living room, my aunt called me into the kitchen.

"I've been drinking," she told me conspiratorially, as she sauteed a panful of sliced mushrooms. "I've had a few glasses of white wine."

"Good!" I told her. "That's an excellent idea."

My aunt is one of the most wound up, anxious people you could meet even at the best of times. When she's hosting a family dinner, she's off the charts. Imagine a squirrel who's been nibbling espresso beans.

"Why aren't these mushrooms browning!?" my aunt yelled, in a slightly-drunky voice. "They're just sitting here in the pan!"

"Don't worry," I told her. "Just give them time to release all their water. They'll brown."

"I've had a few glasses of wine," whispered my aunt.

Believe it or not, it was the best dinner she has ever cooked. By a long shot. I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that my youngest aunt's dinners are usually inedible. There's always something that's still frozen in the middle, or carbonized on the bottom. Her sauces turn to slime, her cakes fall, and she always forgets who's allergic to what so there's usually someone at the table (often me) who makes do with a tossed salad while everyone else has a hot entree. Given my aunt's track record with cooking, it's usually a mercy to be excused from the entree.

But on Christmas Eve, my aunt outdid herself. She made salmon filets which were cooked and seasoned to absolute perfection. The mushrooms did brown. The green beans were good. And everyone was able to eat everything.

I sat next to my Buby, the birthday girl. After dinner, she pulled out a plastic baggie full of little envelopes. Each envelope had a name on it, written in my Buby's award-winning calligraphy, in shiny gold ink. Around the names were little flower-blossom stickers.

"Hannukah gelt for everyone!" she said, passing them out. "Gelt" is Yiddish for money. Usually just kids get Hannukah gelt, but I guess when you're turning 89, everyone's a kid. Inside each envelope was a 20-dollar bill.

Then we gave Buby her birthday presents. After she unwrapped the first parcel, she leaned down and dug in her purse. Turning to me with worry in her face, she asked

"Have you seen a baggie of envelopes? I can't find my envelopes."

"Buby, you gave them to us already."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, I'm sure."

She unwrapped the second gift. Then she went digging in her purse again.

"Where did I put those envelopes?"

She went searching for those envelopes three times after she'd already passed them out. She's also been asking more than one of her daughters to fetch her the same items from her shopping list, so that my mother will arrive with milk, bread, and fresh chicken, only to find that one of her sisters has just stocked up the fridge with those same items half an hour ago. They really shouldn't be living on their own anymore. They are seriously losing their marbles.

My youngest aunt (who hosted the party) told me that she has to go over every few days now to set out my Zaidy's medications. My Buby almost killed him by forgetting which pills he'd taken and which he hadn't, a few weeks ago.

They refuse to get live-in help. They refuse to move to a supervised facility. They are living alone in a house with stairs, doing their own cooking. It's only a matter of time before there's some kind of terrible accident. The three daughters don't know what to do. God knows, when it's time for me to take care of my own parents, I'm going to be a bully if I have to, to keep them safe. I say as much as I can in this situation, but in the end it's up to my mum and her sisters. I just hope that they don't end up with long-lasting regrets.

Worrying won't help, so I don't worry.


As for my Christmas Miracle Dinner, it was lovely. My father, step-mum and sister made a fabulous meal. The house was cozy and festive; the tree in one corner festooned with lights, sheltering a litter of gifts. It was both surreal and completely natural to have everyone sitting around the table together, chatting and enjoying themselves. I couldn't have asked for more.


Warped Mind of Ron said...

Glad you had a good time!!

darcknyt said...

When it comes time to care for your parents, you'll do what you must with all the strength you need. You can do all things through Him who strengthens you. :)

I'm glad you had such a wonderful holiday. :)

powdergirl said...

Poor old Grandparents. You gotta be tough to get old, man.

I'm so happy for you, that dinner with the family was nice : )

DarcsFalcon said...

Sounds like your celebrations turned out awesome. :) Yay!

I imagine it's hard watching your grandparents grow old and trying to care for themselves. Hopefully the family will be able to find a solution that suits everyone.

Jameil said...

I'm so happy about your Christmas miracle dinner! I can only imagine what it will be like if my grandma ever needs more assistance than she currently gets. Her sons are unable to stand up to her so it'd be all on my mom... and me, the outspoken bully. I'm all for keeping her safe, too!!

LL Cool Joe said...

It's hard to watch anyone we love grow old. Even harder not to worry.

I'm glad you had such a good Christmas!

NicoleB said...

You guys are just awesome.
I can't even imagine having a family that 'big' :)
Sorry to hear that your grandparents are loosing it a bit :(

Jenski, PhD said...

Definitely sounds like your aunt should unwind a little more once in a while! Glad your celebrations were so wonderful and I hope your mom and aunts can work something out with your grandparents.