The Christmas surprise for Mom and Dad
November 21, 2005
In November of 1994, my husband and I began planning a very special Christmas for my parents, who lived in Victoria, Texas.
Larry and I lived in Tallahassee, Fla., our son was working in East Texas, and my brother and his family of seven resided in Tucson, Ariz. And the last conspirator, Larry’s mother, lived in Bristol, Va. We had so much fun planning this event that continues to be amongst my favorite memories.
My mother had just learned she had emphysema and was feeling very sad and upset. She was already showing signs of dementia and was very disturbed to watch her brilliant mind begin to slip. We wanted to cheer up both my parents, so we planned a surprise visit. My father asked me what we were doing for the holidays and I replied that we would be spending them in Bristol with Larry’s mom because it was her first Christmas after the death of her husband. So, up until the final days before Christmas, I doggedly stayed with my story. It was really hard not to spill the beans! Our parents had no idea what was about to happen.
A few days before the big day, all the family members began traveling toward South Texas. My brother and his family brought a Christmas tree and decorations and presents. Larry and I brought presents and food, his mother, and our little dog, Pookie. My son brought his famous sense of humor. We booked rooms at a local Holiday Inn and Mom and Dad were clueless. Our little secret was safe.
On Christmas Eve, we all drove up to my parents’ house at the same time and began filing in the back door, arms filled with gifts and food. I will never forget the look of surprise and joy that my parents showed. They thought they were going to be alone and doing nothing and they ended up with a house filled with happy children and a dog.
I still love to watch the video of my father dressed like Santa handing out presents on Christmas Day. This was certainly a new role for him, and he rose to the occasion. The videos we took that day are priceless, as they captured precious people enjoying each others’ company and laughing and eating. Even the dog got into the spirit, joyously making the rounds of each person to check and see what we were doing.
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My mother made her transition in the spring of this year, and I know this season will be a sad one for my father especially. He still lives in Victoria, Texas, alone and lonely. He has chosen to stay there for the holidays this year, against our better judgment. The rest of the family continues to be separated by miles as well, but our hearts remember that special Christmas of 1994 when we were all together in spirit and love.
n Paula Schneider, a registered nurse specializing in end-of-life care, writes articles for the Nevada Appeal that appear in each Tuesday’s health section.