Halfway through December, I am once again mystified as to how it arrived so quickly. Each passing year seems to trim days into hours, and leaves me scrambling to finish an ever-lengthening list of goals to achieve. This year is no different.
I find myself, now, as always looking forward to the last week of the year between Christmas and New Year’s Eve when my ambitious, self-imposed hopes for greatness have been abandoned, and I am able to concentrate on the quotidian particulars of living life to its fullest. For me, no more trips to exotic locales, challenging myself to wring out the last rays of sunshine and fun before returning to the soft blue skies of Oakland. Instead, I try to make the most of the time I am given, stretching out those 7 days into a time of relaxation, restoration. I let the primal desire to nest take over, and I settle in to the comfort of my own home, dressed in mismatched sweats, luxuriating in the ability read a much anticipated book from start to finish. Eating more healthily moves up the priority list, as I spend time in the kitchen, trying new recipes. From the depths of the couch, I evaluate, without judgment, what worked well this year and what did not, as a guide for the planning of the next. Creating this time of simply “being” is critical to ensure that the next year starts out in the best possible way for me: unencumbered by the burden of regrets, present in the moment, and clear eyed about the future.
This year, the month of December is particularly poignant for me as my dad nears the end of his battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Each cross county trip home to visit him marks his decline. I try not to dwell on that which my mom experiences every day: sifting through the streams of my dad’s gibberish in hopes of finding a nugget of meaning, his unpredictable bouts of inchoate anger and the escalating physical and mental erosion of the man we love. Instead of succumbing to thoughts of sadness and frustration because his life is drawing to a close, I am grateful to have the opportunity to enjoy his presence.
In our last moments together, with intention I focus on those mundane and temporal moments that define the man he was and continues to be. Hearing him call me a unique childhood nickname reminds me of his omnipresent optimism that no one can replicate. Seeing his head bobble as he hums along to what I thought was an unfamiliar concerto makes me realize how he has always valued education and learning in all of its forms. Usually, his hands are tucked under the bedsheets during mealtimes, but when one breaks free to help me hold his spoon, I am touched by his strength and kindness. And those whispered “Thank you”s after I feed him his favorite treats (currently chocolate pudding and vanilla milkshakes) warm my heart with the knowledge that his thoughtfulness, despite his frayed memory, remains.
Wishing you all the best for 2020, and the gift of time with those you love.