Keeping the flame

There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” — Zora Neale Hurston

hestiasnowFor several years I’ve kept a small garden statue of a woman by our side entrance. I named her Hestia after the ancient goddess of home and family. In Greek mythology, Hestia’s role was to keep the flame of the hearth burning. This week she’s dressed in snow — and looking a little overwhelmed by the onset of winter and the challenges ahead.  I can relate.

It’s been a mixed bag of a holiday in our household. My husband and I have been enjoying a week-long visit with our son, who flew in from Chicago for Christmas last week. We’ve shared some cozy meals at home together — I love to cook with my family — and we’ve made time to visit extended family, old friends, and favorite haunts around town.

Meanwhile, real life also paid us a yuletide visit. On Christmas Eve, my mother (who was just diagnosed with early-stage dementia last month) came down with another serious infection. I spent most of Christmas Eve morning at the doctor’s office with her, and the rest of the holiday bringing meals to her.

At times it felt awkward to celebrate with the rest of the family while my mother stayed in bed in her condo, watching television.  And so, with regrets, I canceled out of several parties and gatherings, all the while feeling guilty for lacking the social energy and enthusiasm required of the holiday season. I know I disappointed more than a few people for not showing up in one way or another.

My mother’s doctor asked me to come in with my mother for a consultation this afternoon. As the doctor put it, we need to determine the next step for Mom’s ongoing care. I’m guessing, from the doctor’s tone on the phone, that 2010 will be a year of changes. But there’s hope too. Mom agreed, after several arguments, to take a new medication prescribed for her dementia. She adores her condo — keeping house is the thing that gives her life meaning, shape, and routine. So I’m hoping she’ll be able to stay in her own place as long as possible.

At this point in the holiday season, I’d usually be drawing up a lengthy list of New Year’s resolutions. In the past, most of those resolutions would have included ambitious career goals and pie-in-the-sky dreams of self-improvement. This year, I’m asking only two things of myself: To sustain the energy I’ll need to keep the fire burning — and to find the patience to ride out the changes ahead. — Cindy La Ferle

— “Hestia” garden statue photo by Cindy La Ferle —

7 thoughts on “Keeping the flame

  1. Oh Cindy, What a bittersweet holiday. I’m sorry your mother’s health is declining but I salute you for staying by her side and helping through this difficult time. I know the road well so know that I’m cheering you on from Los Angeles and hoping for the best.

    Happy New Year.

  2. I think bittersweet is a good word for the holidays as life changes with our grown children and our aging parents. I have heard good things about the newer medications for dementia. I am keeping a good thought for your mother and wishing for you renewed energy. Happy New Year, Cindy.

  3. Oh , Cindy.
    If other’s were disappointed it was only because you must bring so much to their lives.
    This tugs at a heart. My girlfriend and I were just discussing this yesterday. How we assumed the windows of free and easy would be large and long, but then life happens.
    I am thinking of you, and hoping good things come with the new meds.
    It was good to hear you enjoyed time with your son. I’ve enjoyed my son this holiday as well. Who knew? 🙂 Some of the girl drama… not so much.

  4. Oh Cindy- I wish you the energy and spirit for this New Year! Hugs and positive thoughts for you and your Mom, and all of your family.
    That gal looks like she needs a jacket!

  5. Cindy, I will say an extra prayer for you as you increase the caregiving for your mother. I went through years of caregiving for my elderly widowed mother, and know that the role reversal can be physically and emotionally draining. I know you can handle it, but please remember, as your mother’s needs increase, that you need to take good care of yourself, too.

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