Towards the end of our family’s Thanksgiving dinner, our 9 year old nephew started doodling on the paper tablecloth.
“I’m going to draw … a submarine,” he announced, followed by a necessary clarification.
“It’s really yellow, but I’m going to make it blue.”
The submarine was perched on a rainbow next to a leprechaun (“he’s really green, but I’m going to make him blue”), a cowboy (“really brown, but now blue,”), as well as a turtle, camel and dollar bill, among others.
All — you guessed it — blue.
He had no choice. All he had was a blue pen; hence, things that aren’t typically blue became such.
And with that, a little boy’s imagination summed up everything I want to remember about this Thanksgiving.
We traveled to Philadelphia this year, knowing that this Thanksgiving was going to be different than any other we had before. (Except for, of course, the Thanksgiving dinner when the husband suffered a seizure and I had to revive him on the bathroom floor.)
I’ve alluded to the Ongoing Family Situation in recent posts and have gotten permission from The Husband to share a bit more on the blog about what’s happening. My father-in-law, who is only 71, was diagnosed with dementia this spring. I know many of you have experienced this within your own families and loved ones, so you know how this horrible disease changes everything and affects everyone. We’re fortunate that my father-in-law is able to be in a long-term care facility, which, after evaluating several options, is where we gathered for Thanksgiving dinner.
We had no idea what to expect. We just knew it wasn’t going to be like anything we experienced before.
It’s really supposed to be _______ (insert blank with whatever vision we have in our heads of what Thanksgiving should be like).
But I’m going to make it blue.
My sister-in-law ordered a delicious dinner and brought it to the home, where our reservations were for 3 p.m. in one of the facility’s conference rooms.
We ate, and then for more than two hours, we sat around the table as we laughed and talked about old family memories. My father-in-law was, thankfully, having a really good day.
I had asked The Husband if he was OK with me taking photos. He agreed, but in the end, I didn’t take a single picture — not of the food (which I’m notorious for doing), not of the relatives, not of our nephew’s drawings on the tablecloth.
One of the things dementia does is force you to be more present in the here and now. It’s all about today, this very moment, because the future is too damn uncertain and the past is … well, gone. You can wish things to be different all you want but that’s not going to change the reality of what is.
It’s not going to make something that’s blue suddenly turn back into green.
Or whatever color you think things should be.
So I deliberately kept my cell phone in my purse, didn’t take any photos or post any updates to Facebook.
Remember this, I told myself, in all its uncertainty and all of its sadness.
Remember how much laughter and smiles and light and love there was, in a moment and a time when you didn’t expect there to be any.
Remember that you always, always have the power to change the color. That even if it’s different, it can still be beautiful.
Remember the blue.