Keeping the Hall-Decking Simple...

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Posted on by Emily Gillespie Clement

About managing holiday confusion...

I’m not much of a natural when it comes to hosting holiday meals. Nor did I get much practice as we raised our kids since Jeff and I both had moms nearby who were quick to welcome any and all extended family on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

In a well-crafted narrative, this next paragraph would detail how, in the face of necessity, my previously untapped talent suddenly blossomed. But my life has failed to hew to any semblance of craftsmanship, so don’t expect it to start now. The truth: As a hostess I still stink. Nevertheless, while necessity may not in my case be the mother of invention, it’s still managed to breed a willing spirit. So here I go again. Christmas dinner at my house this year.

A big part of the necessity at play, as you’ve probably guessed, is Jeff’s changing needs. While Jeff’s mom died a few years ago, mine is still managing family crowds of 20+ with as much aplomb as ever, and Thanksgiving was at her house this year. These days though, those 20+ people are a little hard on Jeff.

It is a feature of Alzheimer’s in general, and Posterior Cortical Atrophy especially, that processing visual stimulation can be a major drain on the damaged brain’s battery pack, and 17 more people than usual, milling around and about while chatting and carrying cheese and crackers is plenty more visual stimulation than normal. Hence, on Thanksgiving, Jeff’s energy level plummeted like a cordless drill trying to tap cinderblocks. It's too bad I can't keep an extra battery on standby like I do with my Makita drill.

This kind of drained battery takes all night to recharge...

At about six p.m. I realized I had no choice but to take him home and put him to bed early.

Here at home he has less trouble escaping the chaos. There’s his downstairs room, there’s our upstairs room...and there’s his lifelong gift at tuning out the zany stimuli of our busy family. So for this Christmas, and for who knows how long into the future, it may be easiest for me to offer an open door, food and libations, and a come-when-you-can policy.

Will we wash dishes or be ecologically incorrect and have a stack of pretty holiday paper plates by the food? I don’t know. In whichever case, I will not serve Jeff’s food on anything bright and festive in gold, red, and green. He cannot, you see, distinguish his food from the plate pattern. More likely than not, I’ll hand him his Yuletide fare in a plain-colored bowl, and he’ll mix it into a goulash before it gets to his mouth. He will not get his Christmas Chardonnay in a stemmed goblet, he’ll get it in an easy to grasp IKEA juice glass that won’t befuddle his fingers.

Presentation, you see, comes in a distant second to simplifying caregiving. Because if there’s one thing I’m not, it’s Martha Stewart. And if there’s one thing Jeff’s not, it’s a guest of Martha. And if there’s one thing I’m okay with, it’s all of the above.

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2 Responses to Keeping the Hall-Decking Simple

  1. Mary says:

    Emily, one thing you have on Martha – you adapt beautifully – something tells me she may not be so flexible :)

    I carry the title “The Balance in the Universe for Martha Stewart” so we are kindred spirits.

    Have a Merry Christmas, and remember it’s the company, not the conveyances that matter – enjoy!

  2. Emily Clement says:

    I think Martha needs more than a single person to provide karmic balance, and I’m glad to help you!

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