As a child I loved Easter. What was there not to like? I got new clothes, a cute little hat, patent leather shoes and white socks with lace trim. I also got an Easter basket filled with chocolate bunnies and jelly beans, paddle balls and jacks, jump ropes and balls. We would go to church and my sister and I would have our picture taken in our fancy clothes. Then we would go home, have a huge Easter dinner with extended family, change our clothes, eat candy and play outside.
I guess Easter hasn’t really changed much for children. Parents enjoy giving to their children the same Easter traditions they had. Grandparents might be invited to share in Easter egg hunts and Easter brunch if they could travel or did not live too far away.
Now this year I am trying to reconfigure Easter. It falls on March 31, a day before my sister’s death eight years ago. My youngest daughter and her family are vacationing in Hawaii. When they lived on the East Coast, we would visit them for Easter, go to church, do an Easter egg hunt, and eat a scrumptious brunch at the country club.
For the past few years, we have spent Easter with my oldest daughter in New Jersey. We went to a vineyard near Atlantic City and enjoyed an elaborate brunch. We took my mother with us and she loved to go there. Last Easter the day after the brunch, my mother had a stroke and fell, hitting her head on the closet door at my daughter’s apartment. We spent the rest of the day at Urgent Care and the hospital emergency room. She seemed to recover and return to her normal life.
In May after another stroke on Mother’s Day and a new diagnosis of cancer, my mother was admitted to the hospital and then to a nursing home, suffering also from vascular dementia caused by the strokes. This year she will have Easter dinner in the nursing home with the other residents without her family.
My oldest daughter will spend Easter alone in New Jersey. Fears of furloughs and even the possibility of layoffs have changed the lives of many federal employees. She doesn’t have time off to spare this year, and the five-hour drive up and back to our house is too much to do in just two days. My husband and I will also be alone except for the few hours I will spend with my mother at the nursing home.
Holidays bring changes. When I had family around me, holidays were special. Now they seem to be just another day. While I was young and loving Easter, I am sure I was not aware that somewhere there were older people alone during holidays. When I had children of my own, we were able to include our parents and grandparents in celebrations because we lived close by. Now that I am a grandparent myself, I can sense how lonely old age can be. I will at least talk to my daughter in New Jersey and visit my mother in the nursing home. I feel lucky to still be able to do that. I will miss the Easter bunny’s visit this year, but maybe I could still enjoy part of the day sitting in the silence of my living room surrounded by my yellow Peeps and wonderful memories of the way Easter used to be.