Today was the day; I’d promised myself that I’d go to Princeton Towers- aka ‘The Home for Wayward Seniors’- the place where my mother so happily spent the last two years of her life. Each Christmas, Mom’s favorite holiday, I make a point of visiting her friends and bringing them some cookies and a bit of Christmas cheer. I can never repay them for their kindness to my mother.
So many memories swirled through my mind of other Sundays visiting Princeton Towers as I pulled into the parking lot, Sundays coming to see my mom, to bring her clean laundry and groceries, her favorite McDonald’s breakfast, and to sit and visit and laugh and cry with her. She loved this place, loved the independence it gave her as a woman in her early nineties to be able to live life on her own terms.
My mother’s ferocity for life was evident to everyone who interacted with her. She was determined to be happy, determined to keep going, even after a life of so much heartache and so many challenges. Her philosophy was to keep laughing, and she often would say, “My sense of humor is what has always gotten me through.” She had a dark side that grew as she aged, making her worry that the worst would happen, but she fought it tooth and nail. Her body gave out on her, but she used a walker and shuffled her way to Bingo, honking her walker horn to make people laugh, getting so excited when she’d win Pine-Sol or peanut butter or paper towels. She baked pies for her friends at Princeton, her generosity of spirit and infectious giggle making everyone love her. Mom loved snowmen so much that she kept them out all year- and insisted on having her flannel snowmen sheets on all year round. Bingo!
Linda met me outside and we went in to sit and catch up by the tall Christmas tree. I saw several familiar faces and they lit up when they recognized me- and especially when they saw I had cookies for them. My seniors are serious about their treats.
Mom’s best buddy, Linda.
After visiting for a while, Linda walked with me to hand out cookies, finding folks sitting in the common room watching tv and catching them coming down the hall. Seeing their faces light up at the small act of kindness made me feel my mom close to me. Visiting Princeton is now a huge part of what Christmas means to me. There is always a twinge of sadness when I walk through the doors knowing that some of my favorite seniors have passed away, but mostly I feel gratitude that this wonderfully diverse place gave my mother the gift of acceptance and joy at the end of her life.
Christmas is many things to many people. Now for me it has nothing to do with shopping or presents; it’s about presence, giving of myself in some small way to share the Christmas spirit with others. A lesson from my mom, sweet ‘Heavy D’, that has taken firm root in my heart. Merry Christmas, Momma.