This is a pretty Christmas tree, no doubt about it. It is the tree I always wanted, the kind they sell on lots strung with white lights. The kind that doesn’t shed, that can hold all our decorations, even the heavy ones. Even the dogs love it (actually I bribed them with treats to be in the picture; they are a little afraid of it).
For the last twenty-five years, I have not had a tree like this. Instead, Ralph and I with assorted children….
I have to stop here: A moment of déjà vu. Have I written this before?
Yes, a year ago. I just went back and found my little story about Ralph and me cutting our tree and the line For the last few years, Ralph and I have dragged along grandkids or nieces, city kids who try to be patient but quickly get bored traipsing through fields.
I forgot I wrote about our Christmas tree last year. Here is more from last year’s story, the crux of what I titled “A Little Christmas Joy”:
I expected Ralph to tell me that looking for a tree would be “too much trouble”– his current catch phrase regarding so many activities we used to enjoy. Frankly, in this case I was secretly thinking he might be right, that a bought tree, with its perfect limbs, might be a pleasant change from our usual Charlie Brown monstrosities. But Ralph surprised me.
He was eager to go out tree hunting. And he remembered for two days straight that we were going to go today. He even made sure we gassed up the truck before we started. And off we went… two sixty-something-year-old cynics driving around in a beat up truck debating over the perfect height and shape of straggly pine trees as if our lives depended on making sure we didn’t end up with a bare spot in the branches. And it was great….. I didn’t have to make myself remember what I used to enjoy about being married to Ralph; I simply enjoyed being with him.
Reading what I wrote a year ago is a jolt of reality. The annual Christmas tree hunt is the perfect metaphor for the ways in which Ralph and my life has changed.
Ralph was definitely not eager to get a tree this year. (When did Ralph stop saying things are “too much trouble? Now he says, “Tomorrow” and “I’m too tired.”) Every time I suggested it was time to go out tree hunting, he said “What’s the hurry?” I explained, less than patiently, that I wanted it up so I could get it decorated before I started cooking and baking for the crowd that will descend (and that I considered not inviting this year —all three kids and various assorted other family members and friends that add up to between 13 and 18 houseguests but who’s counting?–but am now glad are coming because Rick wants them here and by next year who knows).
This back and forth went on for days. I said, should I go buy a tree. He said no, we would get our tree on the farm as usual. I said, well let’s go out now to look. He said tomorrow. Tomorrow. And Tomorrow.
Then some friends came out for an afternoon visit. The idea was that the husband R. would take a walk with Ralph because Ralph’s daily “walk with the dogs”—his main exercise—has become a drive in the truck. No surprise that Ralph was not enthusiastic about a walk but he was willing to go tree-hunting in the truck with R. They returned quite proud of themselves, and reeking from snuck cigars, having marked two trees with colored ribbon.
The next day, at my repeated urging, Ralph and I went together to check out the tree. It was lovely. I said let’s cut it down. Ralph said, What’s the hurry? I’ll do it tomorrow.” I said, not entirely patiently, “We need to get the tree.” I arranged with our farm helper to meet Ralph since Ralph said he’d lost his number. I told Ralph, “He can do the cutting down. You just need to be there.”
In my mind, I was letting Ralph stay in charge, which seemed important at the time, but now I wonder what I was thinking. Why didn’t I go myself?
They returned empty handed. According to Ralph, the tree wasn’t as nice as he thought, the saw blade was too dull, it was going to be a big job. I asked if we should get the blade sharpened. Ralph shrugged. Tomorrow.
I could see in his face that I was asking too much. I said, “Should I go buy a tree?”
He brightened immediately. “That’s a great idea.”
His relief was palpable. One more activity to struggle through off the list.
So after twenty-five years I have the tree I always wanted. But I am incredibly sad every time I look at it. It is a benchmark, a sad reminder of the changes in our lives– Our first Alzheimer’s Tree.