An adult son embraces his mother with Alzheimer’s in a warm hug.

Savor the Moments this Holiday Season & Don't Blink

When I think about the holidays, I think about us loading up and caravanning to tiny Falkner, Mississippi to visit my aunt and uncle to gorge on turkey and my Aunt Kay’s hummingbird cake.

If I was the lucky one, I got to ride between my grandparents in his two-tone tan and brown pickup for the forty-mile trip. My brother and I must have taken turns being the one in the middle seat because he recalls the same trip.

My brother's face-off with Grandmommie

Timmy recalls arguing with Grandmommie over the ant mounds on the side of the road. He kept pointing and calling them out. She didn’t believe that there could possibly be so many.

He poked the proverbial bear in the truck, and the end result was Granddaddy pulling over to let my brother prove his point. He got to poke at a literal ant mound and send ants scurrying, returning to the middle seat victorious. I don’t know for sure, but I imagine her arms were crossed for the rest of the trip.

Grandmommie's words

My experience was a little different, and what I recall of those trips has been sticking in my head for weeks. On the way to Falkner from equally tiny towns in Tennessee, you have to pass through Brownfield.

Brownfield is perhaps the tiniest of them all. I’m pretty sure the signs on the highway marking the expanse of the little hamlet can both be seen at the same time if you squint a little. The straight, flat stretch of pavement that separates the two signs can’t be a mile long. It feels like less.

All of these years though, I always remember Brownfield. I couldn’t tell you what a single house there looks like even though I’ve since passed through a million times. What I do remember and what I still associate it with thirty years later is what Grandmommie always said. “Blink, and you’ll miss it.”

Finding deeper meaning

As a little kid, my childish brain took her statement literally. I remember leaning up and grasping the dashboard wide-eyed. I never did figure out what I’d be missing if I did blink. I didn’t see a whole lot there with my eyelids stretched wide open.

A lot of years later, and a little bit wiser, I now hear her statement in my head differently. Those days and months and years of my childhood passed in a flash.

Looking back

We didn’t know back then that she’d ever refuse an argument or stop picking at us. We couldn’t have known that her last few years she would be mostly silent and very still. We didn’t know that dementia would take pieces of her that we couldn’t get back. We didn’t know that in the end, we’d only have those “blink and you’ll miss it” kinds of memories to hang onto.

We never considered a holiday without her big picnic basket full of Tupperware bowls full of meat grease-seasoned vegetables, but that’s what we got. We never thought about outgrowing the middle seat, or the “bear” falling into hibernation, but she did.

So, this holiday season, soak it all in. The ride. The cake. The arguments. - Because, if you blink, you’ll miss it.

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