In November, I thought about inviting our support group over for a get together during the holidays. A quick look at the calendar made me realize I didn’t want to tackle that in December with all of the other commitments, so I suggested to Steve that we invite the group over on the first day of the year we weren’t meeting. I decided to have people over so that they wouldn’t have to drive in the evening and so that we could do this while our son was at school. At that point, January 11th seemed far in the future.
I decided to wait until after Christmas to send out the evite. I toyed with how to word the invitation so that it was clear that this was an opportunity to get together and socialize, but wasn’t a luncheon. People started RSVPing right away, and whether they said they were coming or were not yet sure, they were equally enthusiastic.
Monday our son returned to school after the winter break and I realized January 11th was at the end of the week. I focused on cleaning our house downstairs after my work was interrupted by Steve needing my input while he was doing some work in the garage. I sent a reminder e-mail to everyone and let them know that we are very informal and in fact would be using mismatched disposable paper and plastic products. Some people had asked if they could bring anything so I let everyone know they didn’t have to but could if they wanted to and they were welcome to bring goodies leftover from the holidays.
I shopped for fruit and vegetables on Thursday and after going for a walk Friday morning, got started putting out the snacks. I knew exactly what I wanted to do and usually just do it myself. Years ago my mother-in-law told me that when Steve asked if I needed help I should tell him, “Yes” so I did. I asked Steve to do those things I would be doing such as cut up the bunch of grapes into smaller groups and put the food out on the tables. Steve’s assistance helped and we had everything out before the first couple arrived exactly on time.
Five couples came to our house and one brought their caregiver, so we had 13 people here. (Our cat is always sequestered in an upstairs bathroom when we have guests. He was later rewarded for his patience with the opportunity to play his favorite iPad game, Paint for Cats.) Have you ever been to a gathering where half of the guests have a memory impairment? It’s fascinating. It requires a lot of patience. You might hear the same story many times from one person, while another person really can’t tell you much so you carry both sides of the conversation to make them feel like they are participating.
One woman was telling us about a recent six-week long trip. More than once her husband asked her about the trip and where he was. She patiently explained that they were together 24/7. It’s good news that he thought it sounded like a very nice trip. Another man was telling me about a movie he loved and he would tell me the first name of one of the actors in it then sing a song from the movie. I nodded and acted as though I knew exactly what he was talking about, but in reality I had no clue. His wife was in another room, and didn’t hear him when he called to her so I suggested we go to her. She was able to fill in the missing parts of the story. I have a large portion of my mother’s Hummel collection, and they and Steve’s Mickey Mouse collection were good conversation starters.
My moment of embarrassment came when two of the caregivers (spouses, not the professional) wanted to see the rest of our house. Yikes! Remember I hadn’t cleaned upstairs? They didn’t seem to notice while Steve gave them a tour. Whew!
The two hours allotted to the get together, 10-noon chosen because that is when our group meets, flew by. Hugs and thanks were exchanged as the couples started to leave during conversations that would have been unusual in another situation, but were perfectly normal here. “Do you need to use the bathroom?” “I don’t know. Do I?”
After everyone left, Steve and I sat down for the first time and enjoyed the food people brought. I said that it can be hard for caregivers to relax at a social gathering but that because we all know each other and understand the situation, I thought everyone had a fun time.
This caregiving situation has made me a more patient, tolerant and caring person, and in the end, this get together really did feel like a party.