The best holidays are a marriage of tradition and new tradition. A traditional holiday can cause unnecessary grief and stress when a loved one has dementia. The family get-together that used to the highlight of the year can become the most depressing day of the year.
Our holidays were always split between Jim’s family and mine. Thanksgiving was the time my family gathered at the old home place for turkey, dressing, gravy, pumpkin pie, and all the side dishes and trimmings. After dinner, the kids (big and small) would go outside to mill around and maybe play a game of touch football. One year, Jim videotaped the game. Ever the showoff with his video skills, he brought it inside and played it on my mom and dad’s TV. We were all laughing at the game until my dad yelled, “Oh, my god! That’s my new tree,” when a couple of kids scuffled over the ball taking the spindly sapling to the ground.
The old home place groaned when filled with eight of us “kids” and our families, Mom and Dad, and the invitees that didn’t have a family dinner of their own. We felt sorry for those folks and thought that with the size of our family, it would never happen to us. Even the most distant cousin was a welcome guest at our traditional dinner
The first time I went to the dinner alone was when the reality set in that Thanksgiving dinner would never be the same. Jim was in the nursing home, and I knew the more than hour drive and crowd of rowdy family would no longer be a pleasant experience for him. It was a long lonely drive but once I arrived, the family time was worth the change in tradition
Eventually, my family decided to rotate homes for the annual get-together and changed the time to September. We were on our own for Thanksgiving for the first time in decades. After my mother-in-law passed, my other home for the holidays was gone. My kids, in the meantime, had both developed their own traditions.
The past few years, I’ve enjoyed a traditional thanksgiving with my friend who was on his own after his mom passed away. The holiday has been different, but with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, some of it seemed the same. It was still Turkey Day—for days on end. More like Turkey Week. How much turkey can two people eat?
Isn’t it time for a new tradition? You bet. This year we are grilling steak. Sometimes, a nontraditional holiday can take on a life of its own and possibly become a new tradition. We can enjoy the meal without the aftermath of enough food to feed an army. Cleanup will be easy and we will have more time to be thankful for all the blessings life has brought our way.
A little non-tradition may be the pumpkin pie spice of life you need to bring joy back into your holidays. Maybe a little less reflection on what used to be and more hopeful thought to new possibilities. I hope you find peace and happiness during the holidays regardless of how you celebrate.