“Top...Head Face Up…Bottom”

By Debra R. Thomas of livelifered.com

On January 2nd, I was rushing to take down all of the Christmas decorations. I frantically began to fumble through, attempting to put my mother-in-law’s porcelain Christmas figurines away. The one I held in my hand was a pale pink and dusty blue figurine of Father Christmas traveling through a winter storm as he pulled his charcoal-painted reindeer with him.

This came from a set of two figurines, the other being a small group of carolers dressed in shades of gray and blue with scarfs wrapped tightly around their necks, winter gloves upon their hands, top hats and bonnets upon their heads, and children nestled in blankets as they huddled close to their kin.

I had been the caretaker of my mother-in-law and all of her belongings for the final five years of her life. We had reduced an entire large walk-in closet filled to the ceiling with Christmas decorations, down to keeping the most special of the specialist of her beloved Christmas decorations. Claudia loved Christmas; she loved beautiful figurines, dishes, jewelry, and dolls.

She cared about the little things and respected each item for the message it brought and the memories she had tied to them. Because of her love of these unique porcelain figurines, I slowed down my pace of putting things away so that I would not accidentally drop something that had been special to her.

In my mind’s eye, I could envision her, before her time when she had Alzheimer’s and dementia, and how she would have reacted if I had dropped something special of hers and had broken it. She would not have yelled at me or disciplined me, but instead, she would have treated me with the same care that she showed for those figurines. I smiled at that thought.

I reached for the box to put the figurine away. I pulled out a styrofoam container. I fumbled around with the figure as I struggled with which way to place the figurine into the styrofoam. I thought to myself, “how could placing one figurine into a styrofoam container be so difficult?” I began to feel stupid as I made several attempts to get it right.

I set the box down for a moment as I went to grab one of the final leftover Christmas goodies to relieve my stress from this surprisingly challenging chore. As I walked back towards the styrofoam container, I saw the words “top,…head face up…bottom,” written on it with an arrow drawn in black marker to a specific indention that fit Santa’s head perfectly.

I smiled at the thought that my mother-in-law could help me and make my life easier, even without her presence. As I packed other figurines and snow globes, I found her familiar handwriting in black sharpie offering simple instructions on quite a few styrofoam containers. I don’t know that she ever meant those directions for anyone but herself, but I appreciate them now.

Caring for a person with Alzheimer’s can often make you forget the person they were before they were enveloped within the confines of such a destructive disease. I now am so grateful for what I have in my home that once belonged to her. I am incredibly thankful for her instructions that day, “top…head face up…bottom’’. Sometimes that is all we need, just a little empowering message from someone who cares about us, offering simple solutions to things that make our lives stressful.

In my mother-in-law’s determination to care lovingly for her Christmas decorations, she helped me to build resilience through a slightly frustrating moment by “staying calm and following instructions.”

-Debra R. Thomas-

Post from R.E.D. Notes Blog at livelifered.com

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Debra R. Thomas, author of “What Sparked The Change In Me?, R.E.D. Door Coaching in Resilience, Empowerment, and Determination of Livelifered.com.

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Debra R. Thomas

Debra R. Thomas

Debra R. Thomas, author of “What Sparked The Change In Me?, R.E.D. Door Coaching in Resilience, Empowerment, and Determination of Livelifered.com.

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