From November through January, my family runs around buying presents, cooking for countless holiday occasions, and visiting family and friends.
But no matter how busy we become, we make sure that our Uncle Peter, who is 89, is constantly surrounded by people.
He lives alone, but he is interested in us, as he demonstrates by visiting the grandkids at college and dining with his nieces and nephews on a regular basis. Pushing 90, he has a sense of humor that’s more like a grade school boy’s. He never fails to bring laughs to the dinner table or to tell stories of “how things used to be.”
His wise words and reassurance that “you can call me for anything” comforts every member of my family, kids and adults alike.
“The best part about the holidays is just being with everyone,” he says. “I can’t wait for the next celebration.”
When the generations come together, particularly during the holidays, everyone wins. There are many ways to make that happen no matter the circumstances.
Julia Warrack, a 22-year-old from Long Island, New York, has a grandmother in her late 80s who lives alone. Warrack’s family lives 30 minutes away, and at the traditional Italian family dinner at their house every Sunday night, Grandma is always there, right in the middle of things. Then, during the holidays, the whole family travels to Grandma’s house.
“She loves hosting some holidays, loves cooking her recipes that have been handed down from the generations,” said Warrack.
What if a family member doesn’t live at home, but in a care facility? You can still involve that person in holiday festivities, and in fact doing so will make a tremendous difference in their lives.
Many facilities hold events during the holidays for residents and their friends and families, so check with them first. Bring a favorite holiday food or memento that will evoke positive memories of past holidays.
And bring younger family members along, too. A young, bubbly face lights up a sedate care facility, and older family members are reminded that others are still thinking about them, that they’re loved and appreciated.
My Uncle Peter relishes being around the young people in our family.
“I truly enjoy mixing with all of you young people and hearing your opinions and experiences,” he often says. And he loves being the patriarch who is able to give advice and share stories.
As he once said, “As an old man who has experienced much and has received many gifts, the two gifts that stand out are the gift of a wonderful family, and the gift of life.”