A Bittersweet Gift: The Dickens’ Village

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A photo of my mother-in-law and her late husband is perched right above the village she created

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The village all lit up

Last year I inherited my mother-in-law’s rather extensive “Dickens’ Village”. She built it over several decades, and some pieces need repair (like the gorgeous church, which isn’t pictured here because the steeple is broken). But it’s a beautiful collection, and my girls, when they were little, always used to love to go to grandma’s to look at it all lit up during the holidays.

It’s a little bittersweet now, to have it in our home. Her home was sold about a year ago because she suffers from Alzheimer’s. She lived with us for a summer and spent time with each of my husband’s siblings, but as she got worse, we had no choice for her own safety and well being but to move her to a constant care facility about 30 minutes from us. As of now, her disease has progressed to the point that although she usually recognizes that she knows us, when we visit, she doesn’t always know why or how, or who we are.

The village is one of the tangible reminders of what once was in our little family and can never be again.

So we will keep the village safe and put it out with love each year, in memory of all the happy times we spent together. Someday, I will pass it down to my girls, and they can keep the memories – and the remembered love – of their Grandma McCall alive and well.

6 thoughts on “A Bittersweet Gift: The Dickens’ Village

  1. A very worthy task to care for something that has such meaning for your family. Perhaps you can also pass it along to the next generation at some time in the future.

    Although heart disease and cancer take most of our parents, Alzheimer’s takes them from us and leaves their frail bodies behind. A shell that looks like them but empty. My mom lived on her own for 25 years after my dad died but near the end just sat in her room even unable to watch television. It terrified her because she could not understand what she was seeing. There has to be a special place in heaven for these dear folks.

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    • Losing a parent to any wasting disease is so difficult, and Alzheimer’s is one of the worst. My maternal grandmother suffered from it as well. The long, slow death. I keep hoping the medical community will find a breakthrough, as it seems to be a disease that is increasing at alarming rates.

      Condolences on the loss of your mom. I do believe there is a special place in heaven for those who have suffered so, and that there they know and understand everything, and can feel all the love that they could no longer perceive when they were confined in their physical bodies.

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  2. My wife’s grandmother passed away from Alzheimer’s. I still remember how my young daughter would feed her M & M’s one by one when she got to be pretty bad. She would just open her mouth like a little bird and smile at her great grand-daughter. We do have to hold on to the special memories with our loved ones. We never know what path we may have to go down in this life.

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    • What a beautiful comment. And the way you described that poignant scene of your daughter feeding the M & M’s brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing; you are so very right about the vagaries of life’s journey and the need to hold close the special memories.

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  3. My parents, although in their mid-seventies, are still relatively healthy. It took several comments before my mother stopped saying, at the weekly dinners with them, ” I want you to have the miniature dollhouses when I die.” She was matter-of- fact about it in her usual quirky fashion. I had to keep telling her ” Getting those dollhouses would cost too much. Why don’t you just hang around!” Your village reminds me of this, family treasures come with pain.

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