Fresh Conversation
Do They Know It's Christmas?

The best Christmas present for me this year?  My brother Hyatt and his wife Nicole and their four kiddos coming down from Palo Alto for Christmas (and the several days around it.) They could have made a special Christmas for themselves in the comfort of their own home amongst their dearest friends but they decided to make the seven hour trek with a minivan full of young kids just so we could all be together.  Hyatt said he’d thought about what he could bring us this year…and he decided a visit was easier than giving a kidney.  I appreciate it!  And of course the whole family brought the experience to Vernon at the nursing home.  Christmas just doesn’t feel like Christmas in our family if it isn’t loud and slightly chaotic.  So sorry to all the resting folk who had hoped for peace on earth for Christmas, I hope you got that after we left.


Nicole and the littlest Moore, Lucas, arrived first (with Justine and I) while Vernon was eating lunch. I had to laugh as Vernon was using the same excuses for not clearing (or actually even starting) his plate as some of the children had that same morning at pre-presents breakfast.  “I already ate most of it!”  Obviously nothing had been touched. But no matter! It’s Christmas…there are more exciting things to be had.

Vernon was introduced to one-year old Lucas, and he was riveted, as you can see in the above photo. He kept calling him “Maki.”  He went as far as to ask Justine if she was taking care of young Maki before we were able to explain to him that this was Lucas, his nephew.  I marvel at the time-warp of Vernon’s mind and the way he perceives his loved ones in this stage.  There is something very profound and even heavenly about it.  Like its the way we would all maybe process things if we weren’t so socialized and bracketed about it all.

I am using the wrong words, I think. I just mean…there is something wonderful about Vernon’s emotional associations lately that make me wonder if in some ways his brain is coming back fresh, despite his injuries, as if he is using parts of it that the rest of us evolved adults aren’t even able to access.  They say we only use 10 percent, after all…

But I digress.  Before we left the house, 7-year old Kaiya announced to me that her plan for the afternoon was to “teach Uncle Vernon to remember.” She was probably the only one of us who actually went with a plan and stuck with it.

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And I’ve got to say, I admire her for it.  She spent the whole time making up new lessons for him…starting with Math. He seemed to do well with the +zero category.  In fact, it wasn’t long before she said, “I’ve got to make this harder!”

In the meantime, my mom brought a slightly-British “High Tea” of finger sandwiches and a selection of tea bags and cookies.


And the band played on…


Early on, we had to let the kids know that they needed to treat this central courtyard like  “a library.” You in to be quiet?  I don’t know that they took that to heart for long, but knowing Vernon and his susceptible imagination, I shouldn’t have been surprised when he authoritatively pulled his daughter aside and told her: “Justine, you must play quietly. All these surrounding rooms are filled with people trying to read BOOKS.”

It was a sweet and funny statement, but what actually struck me is that he was being slightly commanding with her for the first time in months. And for those that know Vernon, that tone of voice was rare even in the old days. Just making a note of it.  I saw him kind of reclaiming his role of a Dad in that moment.  Interesting to me, anyway.


Here is Vernon trying to read the beautiful card his sister sent him from England. His reading cursive is difficult still…ironic as he was a font designer in his former life. BUT he loves trying and he loved the card and recognized the photo of the two of them straightaway.  I think its all good though…the right brain gets its fix and the left gets its challenge.

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More presents from sweet little elves. So pleased that Vernon is using his right hand now as well…even if his shoulder and upper arm still seem stuck.


Best gift of clothing I ever gave Vernon! FINALLY nailed it!  A shirt he liked. He even said. “This is the kind of shirt I would have bought if I were buying it on my own!”

I’ve never been able to get Vernon a piece of clothing he actually loved. Its never cut right or comfortable enough…yadda yadda.  The Prince and The Pea, I got it.  So I should probably admit that this Fred Perry shirt was something I found in a box he had ordered (maybe the size wasn’t right and he had meant to send back) 8 months ago or so.  I deserve no credit.  However, he seemed thrilled to open this gift.  RESULT!

All the clothes he received (as well as wheelchair blanket, that he was NOT excited about: made him feel old)  were then sent off to have his name written in the collars and corners. How  clever of his folks to make us all individual t-shirts: “THANK YOU, I’M DOING FINE!” (says Vernon’s.)


My mom bought him the most interactive gift: arm weights! I didn’t even think of that! After the above pictures, he moved one over to his troublesome right arm on his own. Way to go!


Throughout the visit, Kaiya continued to try to “teach Vernon to remember.” It was becoming more obvious that spelling and reading and drawing were proving more difficult for him than his earlier sums.

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I can’t believe I didn’t nab a photo of the beautiful Nicole in this set. Well, make up for it by looking at her fabulous professional work here.

Anyway…it was a great day. One for the books, for sure.  We will remember it and hope that he does too.


Here is Kaiya’s report card for Uncle Vernon. Math was good.  Looks like he needs some work in Language and Art and Spelling.  F-? Ouch.

Well, at least we have room to improve. Lets do it in 2015!  We believe in you, Vernon.












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Do They Know It's Christmas?