Category Archives: Highbanks Care Center

Caroling at the Care Center

Sweet memories… Christmas caroling at the care center was an annual event until Grandma’s death on Thanksgiving Day in 2010. It took little effort to bring joy to so many. Someday, we’ll do it again to honor her memory.

Caroling 2008

From 2008: One of my favorite Christmas traditions continues to be caroling with Grandma Dugan at her care center.  We had a smaller group this year, but our visit was every bit as meaningful and allowed for more personal time with the residents needing an extra boost.  Lily was a big hit, as usual, and my youngest niece carried out her candy-gifting with confidence and charm. We wandered room to room, knocking on doors and singing in the hallways.  There was a group sing in the piano room, but most of our “performances” were for private audiences of one or two.

Caroling 2008 close-up

Highbanks Care Center houses both rehabilitation and long-term care patients, so we sang to both familiar faces and strangers that we’re unlikely to meet again.  Some were joyous, looking forward to returning home or entertaining loved ones at Christmastime.  Others are without family and fighting infirmity and loneliness in tandem.

One strikingly lovely lady, situated near Grandma’s room, caught my heart.  She was tearfully grateful for our visit. Her living space had been lavished with holiday love, but her family is far away and she is losing her hearing. She’s a music lover, no longer able to sing and struggling to hear anything at all.  She sadly showed me a wind-up kitty that she had thought needed batteries before realizing the extent of her hearing loss.

Standing next to her bed, I placed our sleighbells in one frail hand and held tightly to the other. The kids and I sang loudly then, hoping she could hear a melody and absorb some of the energy it carried. I won’t soon forget her delight as she shook those bells to “Jingle Bells”  -with such a smile.  It won’t be hard to pop into her room from time to time when I visit Grandma, so I guess I’ve made a new friend too.

Best of all, the kids realized anew how good it feels to give blessings to others.

**I’m headed to Mexico for a few days (with my camera, of course).  ~Should be able to post “Stories on Our Tree” from there; if not, look for it on Christmas Eve when I’m back in the US.


Milestone 95

On many days she dwells in the memories gathered in crossing ninety-five years.  Her journey, begun in 1915, has been richer in people and experiences than in geographic destinations, but travel is travel, whether in distance or time.

A matriarch like no other, my Grandma Dugan also holds a bit of the little girl named Mary within her, making her a completely fascinating and compelling presence in my life.  She snoozed through a recent visit having overexerted herself moments before making a break for some enticing flower beds beyond the safe edges of the care center’s outdoor patio.  I love that she still finds satisfying a curiosity worth the considerable effort of propelling her wheelchair down a sidewalk.

Her smiles made me smile at her birthday party this past week.  In her usual fashion, she flitted about the room greeting her guests, exclaiming at the purple decorations and enjoying all the special attention.  When presented with the first slice of birthday cake she insisted I share it with her, bite for bite, enjoying it all the more for sharing it with me.

Milestones. They encapsulate our memories and plant them in a place we can revisit at will.  This year we have celebrated my oldest son’s high school graduation and the life of my Grandma Prior after her passing at age 92.  On June 30th we were privileged to honor the passing of but another year for Grandma Dugan.  95 years and still counting…


Tis the Season

One of our favorite holiday traditions: caroling with Grandma.  This year we will carol with both of my grandmas, conveniently situated in neighboring rest homes.  We have much to be thankful for.

Carolling at Highbanks 2006, Matt and Grandma Dugan

Matt, my little math whiz, has been giving me a daily “count-down” to Christmas since sometime in early November. That was just last week; right? This is one of those years that I’ve had to boil it down to the basics, focusing on a handful of meaningful traditions rather than a “mall full” of activity.

Graham cracker gingerbread house

“Traditions” gain their place by fulfilling that deepest need for spiritual and emotional connection. Ours range from secret stocking stuffing to “Seussical” graham cracker houses (who has time to make ginger bread?!) to Christmas light walks through our neighborhood and our Advent readings to… it’s a big list. Some we’ve done “forever” in kid years; others are new fits, filling a place in our hearts as if they’ve always been there.

Highbanks Carollers 2006Our newest tradition began last year when my Grandma Mary had her first Christmas as a resident of Highbanks Care Center here on the north end of Columbus, Ohio. That’s a whole story in itself: adjustments, kindnesses, fear, and compassion… The abridged version is that this is nothing that she’d planned on for her life. But, she’s really looking forward to Christmas caroling tomorrow morning. She probably won’t remember that her great-grandchildren, our dog Lily, and at least one of my sisters and I are showing up for the “event” tomorrow, but she’s been aglow this whole month knowing that we’re going to repeat the fun of last year.

My grandma’s reliable alto voice graced many a church choir. She lost a lot of what used Carolling at Highbanks 2006, Brianna the candy girlto be essential in her life when grandpa, dad and mom died a few years ago. She left her Florida home, her church and the hospital at which she was a faithful volunteer to live nearer to her remaining family. A crystallization of priorities…

Losing her mobility was unfathomable for a woman with a mile-a-day walking habit. But she lost that too with a hip fracture at age ninety… No longer able to choose when to go where, she became dependent on the kindnesses of others.

How difficult it is to be relegated to “receiving” when one is used to contributing in so many ways!

Highbanks Carollers 2006 BSo, we took her Christmas caroling last year, door-to-door within her care center. Grandma wore her favorite Christmas sweater, sang favorite music that is thankfully still hard-wired into her brain, and simply beamed as her littlest great-granddaughters handed out candy to her fellow residents.

She loved the joyful singing. She loved being enfolded by family…

Carolling at Highbanks 2006, Hannah, Noelle and Brianna

She also loved being a giver again. Grandma told me how people thanked her in the following weeks. The residents thanked her for sharing her family with them. Grandma smiled because, while she can no longer send cards and wrap pretty packages, she could still give a gift to others. That was the gift that makes caroling with Grandma a tradition we will keep.

Originally posted: December 21, 2007


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