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I want to run away and leave behind my mom with ALZ, my dad who's in denial about it, and my sister with her family who all choose to put blinders on and act like everything is OK. How do you cope with family issues you can't tolerate during "happy holiday" season?
We always had holidays at mom & dad's until this year. Mom can no longer prepare meals, no longer clean house, no longer organize events and dad is her primary caretaker picking up where he can and thinking she will some day get better. Sister doesn't want to get her hands dirty with any level of care for mom & dad so she denies most of everything, interrupts any conversation I initiate about it, and only seems interested in how we make everything perfect for her adult children while we have the holiday celebration at her house.
I do not feel like being a part of any "show" this year. I think my sister is actually looking forward to having it at her house and being the center of all the attention - but she doesn't realize things are not the same anymore. The mom we had is gone forever. The family she grew up in is also gone. Her lack of awareness on family dynamics is causing me to turn away from her because I just can no longer relate to her.
I think mom brought us all together, but now that particular element is gone. Has anyone else felt similar? How do you manage your feelings of disappointment and frustration with your family and just "put on a happy face"? Thanks.

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Ginger Mary,

It all got to be too much. Too much spending, too many parties, too much fattening food, too much effort. Here's what my family did: We all agreed to stop the gift exchange. I buy gifts for my 3 grandkids and that's it. My husband and I gift each other when the spirit moves us, not when the season dictates.

Okay, that's the don'ts. Here's what we do: I send out Christmas cards. Yes, it's true: I send out 15 or 20 and get back one or two, but I do it because I enjoy it, not because I feel obliged to. Here's our other "do:" We love traditional Christmas music. I whip out our old holiday CD's and play them often or at least turn on a Traditional Christmas music station and go about my day. Love my cards. Love my music. It's just my husband and I. Our parents are gone now; just my mom in memory care, and we let memory care take care of Mom's Christmas, since given the opportunity, she'd spoil ours. (I know that sounds harsh, but it's reality, and I've come to accept it.) It's rare I can get all my family up to my house at the same time. No one invites us over. If family drops by, I'm delighted to cook for them, though it may not be a traditional turkey dinner; just something everyone likes, OR, we pack up and go to our favorite (inexpensive) Mexican restaurant and drive around the neighborhood to look at the pretty lights.

The consequence of "downsizing" Christmas? No credit card bills in January. No battling lines at the mall, or looking for a parking space. No frayed tempers, no stress, no anxiety. If family want to spend time with us, they are welcome. If they don't, that's okay too. It's so much more relaxing; more time to reflect on the "reason for the season." A wonderful sense of peace, of taking joy in the small things, like a beautifully sung Christmas carol, or popping a handful of Christmas cards into the snail mail. Observe Christmas YOUR way, not the way the rest of the world says you ought to!
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Christmas Spirit is gone from my life as well. Our children are grown with kids of their own and although I adore my grandchildren, Christmas passes us by and has for a few years. With the world the way it is, a bedridden hubby in ill health and money so tight we can’t even go to McDonald’s, when I see someone who’s all giddy about The Holidays, I want to ask them what they’re smoking and can they get me some.

Don’t beat yourself up over all this. Sister is not the boss of you. If she’s that annoying and irritating, I’d be tempted just to find some good movies on Netflix and stay home for Christmas. Who gives a rat’s behind what anyone thinks of you? You’ll have peace and quiet for a few hours anyway. I have a Miss Perfect, Queen of the Family Sis-in-law and I can only remember once or twice in the 30 years we celebrated Christmas with my husband’s family that I actually had a good time. I’m glad those “family times” are over.
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All I can be responsible for is the love and acceptance coming from my own heart.
I will cope by trying not to judge other's motivations or ideas of how to carry on.

Well, that is how it would be if I were a better person, but I am not.

So, where do you want to run away to?
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My sis in law would throw a no-holds -barred Christmas party every year. Never mind that it started 2 hours after the "appointed time"---she really blew out all the stops, year after year. I DON'T do Christmas that way---and it's fine, but being with her family, my MIL (who hates the sight of me) and too many people in tight spaces--I found my self dreading the party more and more.

My MIL would find some quiet moment to hiss in my ear her latest "you bi***, you did such and such this past year" during the party, which would bring me to tears, SIL would over whelm her kids with gifts while ours sat there with one gift from the cousin they'd exchanged gifts with, and maybe something from my MIL, if she remembered. There was so much food and so much noise and so much---everything---most Christmas Eves I'd be driving home, sobbing. It was just the combo of everything--noise, overeating and one of the kids would be sad about something......one year my SIL has her kids open "THEIR" pajamas (we always open new jammies on CE, too) and then she asked us to wait up a minute, she wanted us to see her kids open their "special gift"--Ok, we were being good sports. The SPECIAL GIFT was that their family was going to Disneyworld for 10 days!! My poor kids DID cry. We hadn't even taken them to Disneyland at that point in time. Their cousins are whooping it up and we slink slowly into the night. Only time I ever heard my hubby speak ill if his sister. He said "That was the lowest, cruelest thing they could have done".

BUT, it begin the end of the obligatory CE party. I said no the next year and we opted to get together ANYWHERE else but their house. (Our house is teensy and we cannot fit 30 people in here). This has been better, not to be on her turf. I planned it last year and this, told her I'd take the next 20 years. A much smaller menu, less fuss and no gifts. Cans of food for the food bank instead of gifts. It works MUCH better. SIL is still an hour or two late, but we start w/o her. Don't get me wrong, she's a sweetheart, but chronically disorganized and we all suffer.

One of my best Christmases was couple years ago. I woke up with the flu, Put the breakfast casseroles in the oven (everything else was done) said Hi to the kids and g-kids, watched them open gifts and then crawled back in bed for the rest of the day and slept. It was wonderful.

In my opinion, Christmas is the very least "Christ-like" of any day in the year.
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Dear GingerMay,

I hear you. Families are tough. There is a lot on your plate. Seeing your dad struggle, your mom's decline and the lack of support from your sister. I can see why you want to throw in the towel.

I want to say don't give up on your family but I know its easier said than done. I know accepting change is not easy. For myself, I really wished I had considered talking to a counsellor or joining a support group. In the heat of the moments its hard to take a step back and even just breath.

If you need space this holiday season and don't want to go to your sister's house, then I would leave it. Do what you need to do for your own peace.
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Maybe sister just wants to "fake it till you make it".
I've been contemplating how our expectations of the holidays is shaped by the traditions that were set by our parents or grandparents, but there must have been a time in their lives when they were the ones struggling to pick up the baton and start anew as the older generation faltered. Maybe they had to fake it too, and maybe we were just too young and inexperienced and caught up in it all to notice.
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Amber, I like your advice of observing Christmas the way an individual wants it rather than "the world's way", which is overwhelming commercialized and overdone. I think of that when some newscaster asks someone how much he or she will spend on presents this year. That's soooooo tacky1

I do miss the holidays of old, when we had a wonderful day at home, then still with my parents as we drifted apart, or celebrated with our relatives. Those get-togethers created strong bonds, and I remember them fondly. On a somewhat more amusing level, I also remember the older folks taking naps after dinner, or watching football all afternoon long.

A few days ago I was out and about and subjected to that awful so-called music played in stores. One of the songs was "it's the most wonderful time of the year." I thought about how true that could be, when families and friends come together, but also how false it really is when so much emphasis is on buying and spending, and more buying and spending, ad nauseum. I'm so glad I'm past that shallow emphasis on spending more and more and more.

For three years in a row, someone in the family was seriously ill. First it was my mother, then my sister, then my father. That changed everything. For several years afterward the holiday season always brought memories of days spent at the hospital with a semi-comatose family member.

These days I'm content to just stay at home and read. My father takes a break and sleeps in, getting additional rest which he always needs. But since I expect this will be my father's last holiday, I will spend it with him, bringing out another pureed meal. Perhaps we'll drive around afterwards and see the holiday displays; we both enjoy that. But it probably won't be on the specific 25th; it'll be more dependent on the weather, as I don't take him out when it's frigid as it is today.
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We stopped driving out of town ON the holiday - 6 hours in the car in the ice and snow and all of us cranky. We attend mass on Christmas eve and have a relaxing little dinner by the tree and my son opens one or two gifts. On Christmas day we attend mass, together make a special midday meal, open gifts when we wake in our PJ's, go for a long cold walk and play board games. Peaceful, enjoying each other.

We make the trip to see extended family a few days the week after Christmas. They are more relaxed and so are we. We still get a lot of flack about not coming ON the day, but if they are pushed, they will admit it is more enjoyable.

Do what YOU want on the holidays. Norman Rockwell holidays never ever did exist.
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I have the opposite situation from most of you this holiday season. My mom died in May and my dad died in 2009. I'm not married, no kids. I have one brother in another state who didn't come to see mom in her last seven years. So I will spend a very quiet Christmas and not buy a single present.

The only time I feel badly is when I'm out with friends and they're talking about their husbands, children, grandchildren, and the presents they're buying and parties they're going to with extended family, I always feel different. But I don't feel bad overall and having never married, I'm used to feeling different. :)

I hope you can all find some peace and simple pleasures in this season.
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Try to donate and/or help someone other than your family. You may feel better as a bonus.
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