My first Christmas spent away from my family was spent with my in-laws. It was my first Christmas with my husband's mom, and his last with her.
For both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we picked up his mother from the hospital so that she could be with us. A photo of Jason and his mom taken on Christmas Day still graces his dresser. She is wearing sweatpants and her hair is thin, white and unkempt, her eyes bulging out, her shrunken body, hunched. She was in the final months of her life, after battling melanoma cancer for 10 months already. He wassmiley, wearing a green shirt, arm wrapped around his skeleton of a mother, love and pride swelling in his eyes. Her body was fading, her spirit was alive and brimming over with the enthusiasm that was unique to her.
We opened presents with her, my new brother and sister-in-law, and Jason's Grandma and Aunt and Uncle. Mom and Grandma have since passed on.
I will never forget that Christmas because it was the first time I had been a part of another family's tradition. We went to Grandma's house with presents in tow. She decorated with lots of stuffed holiday bears and Cabbage Patch kids. There were trinkets all crowded together on the floor of the family room. Grandma and Mom were insistent about taking turns, so that we could watch each other open gifts. They constantly cheated, and opened out of turn. Grandma wanted us to eat candy that we didn't want to eat. Mom tired easily. We had to get her back to the hospital.
During those days spent in the hospital, Mom's cancer was spreading to her brain. One hour she would be like an elderly person, crippled, not seeing us, hearing us, not able to eat or talk. Then the tumors would shift and the next hour she was herself again. I have two favorite memories of that time spent in the hospital:
1. She composed a list of women for her husband to pursue once she was deceased. We went over the list as well and edited it down a bit...."No! Not her!" And he did end up pursuing and marrying one of the lucky ladies on that list!
2. One afternoon we asked her if she could lift her arms above her head (there must have been a good reason for this...can't remember what it was now). She sat there struggling to lift her arms, but they would not budge. Then we asked if she could at least move her hands, and she lifted her arms above her head and rolled her hands around and around. It was the funniest moment in the hospital because she COULD move her arms, the brain was just not connect the words to the action.
That Christmas was our first as a married couple, and it has become a cherished memory especially as I try to keep DH's mom's memory alive for my girls. She always wanted a daughter, I like to think that she was responsible for sending us our two.