She knew exactly what she wanted us to make for Christmas dinner.  I had no idea what she was thinking until that moment in the grocery store.  I had asked a number of times what she thought we should make for Christmas dinner when the family gathered.  Each time I asked there was no response.  I made suggestions encouraging a yes or no answer, but there were no answers, neither yes nor no.

At the grocery, she said something out of the blue about making a list.  Then I think she said the word “salad.”  The interaction caught me off guard, since she seemed to be saying that we needed to list ingredients for something for Christmas.  We were in the throes of shopping, dealing with the person in the deli department slicing cold meat for us.

That conversation ceased for the moment.  When we were passing by the meat counter, on the way to get something on the other side of it, she stopped and said something about ham.  The options I had been suggesting as options in those earlier attempts at deciding what to prepare included things we have had in the past, a spiral cut Honey Baked Ham, a brisket, turkey, even a take out Prime Rib special from a local restaurant I had just seen.  Through some asking and answering it became clear that she was talking about ham steaks.

We got two large ham steaks.  Then she said something about grapes.  Finally she said “Grape Salad.”  That is a very tasty salad that again had never been mentioned in the many times I asked about Christmas dinner.  I had gotten only complete silence in response.

What apparently was happening is what I remember Thomas Graboys talking about in his book, Life in the Balance.  Mary Ann seemed to have had conversations in her mind that never included any words coming out of her mouth.  There have been times that she seemed convinced that she had said something, or we had talked about something when there had never been any spoken words.

Occasionally, Mary Ann has seemed to blur the line between dreams and reality, convinced that there was an interaction, a conversation about something, providing information that sounded as if is was the matter of fact recounting of something someone had told her.  What complicates things is that sometimes she is remembering absolutely perfectly something that did happen, was said, something I either wasn’t around to hear, or simply forgot.

On the positive side, it forces me to listen to her without dismissing what she says immediately even if it sounds bizarre.  It may be true.  It may not be true.  On the negative side, I am always pretty unsure and often frustrated trying to figure out which is which.

Mary Ann has not been able to participate much in the shopping for Christmas gifts.  I have gotten lists or thought of or seen something in most cases.  There was one item she remembered for someone, something mentioned to her when I was not around.  We got it.  I am not sure if it is a memory of a converation in a dream or a real one.  In this case, I am fairly confident it is something she is remembering from a real conversation.  I will find out when the presents are opened this Sunday, when we celebrate an early Christmas.

I do have to admit that while sometimes pretty frustrating, it is not boring around here.  There are often surprises, sometimes pleasant ones, sometimes not.  I suppose a couple of days of boring might be okay, as long as there was a good night’s sleep included.

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Maybe this will be our new Thanksgiving tradition, barbequed ribs, pork and brisket with stuffing on the side.  The meal was tasty, lots of food, great desserts, both pumpkin pie and Baskin & Robbins Grasshopper Pie for Granddaughter Chloe’s birthday treat.

Mary Ann seemed pretty tired today, especially in the morning before the kids came.  She did not talk much during the day, but Son, Micah, got her to laugh a few times. He has a way of connecting with her that is fun to watch.

Chloe is, of course, a breath of fresh air.  She is warm and engaging always making clear to both her Grandma and her Grandpa that we are loved.  She is such a sweety.

Becky brings a brightness and positive energy with her that lifts us up.  She treats us with love and respect, always thoughtful of our unique circumstances.  She always provides relief from the cleanup task by insisting on doing it for us.  That gift does not come from some automatic domestic role expectation, it is an intentional and thoughtful act of generosity, offering me some respite from the task.

Chloe and I did a little bird-feeding together.  Micah helped with a clean up of some of the Cypress needles that had fallen into the lower area of the pondless waterfall installed last summer.  I described to them plans for a possible remodel to the back of the house that would provide additional indoor space with lots of glass so that we could enjoy the waterfall and the birds more than we can now, since there is no easily accessible view of the water fall from inside the house.  No decision is made on the project, but the decision-making process is in motion.

Later in the afternoon, Micah shared something he had been thinking about.  He has plenty of access to information on my side of the family in terms of health history.  My siblings are all living, and over the years he has had a fair amount of contact given the geography with cousins.

Micah noted that he has very little knowledge of his Mom’s side of the family.  Only Mary Ann’s Mother was still living when Lisa and Micah were born.  Two of her three brothers died, one of Lung Cancer and the other of Acute Leukemia, when Micah was almost too young to remember.  The third brother chose to alienate himself completely from the family at the death of their Mother.  It is pretty much too painful for Mary Ann even to talk about.

As a result, Micah did not have a chance to get to know her family other than her Mother.  The same is so for Lisa, although, since she is three and a half years older than Micah, she probably has a few more memories of her Mom’s brothers.

What developed from the conversation was the idea of our traveling back to Northern Illinois to visit with Mary Ann’s two deceased brothers’ families to hear stories about them that will help fill in that void of knowledge.  The email has gone out to see if there is a possibility of having a family gathering to reminisce and share stories.

After a nice time on the phone with our Daughter Lisa, who shares her brother’s interest in connecting with their Mom’s family, Mary Ann has settled into bed, and I have been thinking about Mary Ann’s family connections.  She loves and is loved by her family.  The death of her Father, a few weeks after we were married, the deaths of her two brothers (each one at the age of 51), being hurt so deeply by her other brother as that relationship was severed, and finally the death of her Mother, left Mary Ann feeling very much alone.

Her Sisters-in-Law and her Nieces and Nephews seem to love and respect Aunt Mary very much.  She is not only separated from them by geography (a ten or twelve hour drive demanding two days of travel for us to get there).  She cannot talk audibly on the phone, or react quickly enough to maintain a conversation on the phone.  Sometimes she can’t get any words at all to come out.  She hasn’t been able to write legibly for the last few years.  She cannot negotiate a computer keyboard or control a computer mouse.  It is frustrating to her and to those who long to interact with her.

I hope something materializes that will allow our children a window into Mary Ann’s family, and a chance for Mary Ann to feel part of a family of her very own.

Tomorrow afternoon is the first meeting with our Cardiologist after the trip to the hospital for Congestive Heart Failure three weeks ago.  He was out of town at the time of the hospital stay.  I delivered to his office a letter and attachment requesting consideration of a change in meds that might help with the fainting while not raising her blood pressure when lying down.  I intend to report on that visit in tomorrow evening’s post.

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.