This week, my parents will be celebrating 50 years of marriage. It’s an incredible accomplishment and one not many couples achieve. While it may seem like this would be a joyous occasion full of celebration, it’s actually another reminder of the sadness that is dementia. Well, I suppose it’s bittersweet, really. My mami, siblings, extended family, and I are extremely happy for my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. Yet, my dad – one half of the celebratory couple – does not know that he and his wife have achieved such a milestone. He doesn’t know it’s his anniversary at all, due to the terrible plight that is dementia. And that, is why my parents’ 50th anniversary is both a beautiful and sad occasion. So just how do we celebrate a forgotten anniversary?
To be honest, the day itself will be much like any other day for my mami and papi. There will be no romantic dinner for two, no special party with friends and family, and no “happy anniversary” wishes spoken by my father. But, my parents will be together.
As my father’s caregiver, on their 50th anniversary, my mami will feed him, bathe him, and ensure he takes all his medicines. She will sit by his side, engage with him and attempt to make conversation. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better embodiment of “in sickness and in health.” When he inevitably asks who she is or where his wife is, she will calmly answer that she herself is his wife. I have no doubt, though, that this daily interaction will cause extra tears for my mami on such a momentous occasion as the day of their 50th anniversary.
Due to activities we’re unable to reschedule, sadly, my family and I will not be able to join my parents on their anniversary to celebrate in-person. I’m hoping we can mark the occasion in the very near future with a belated 50th wedding anniversary party or celebration of some sort. However, the day will not go unrecognized.
To commemorate 50 years of marriage, we’ve gifted my mom with a “then and now” canvas featuring a photo from their wedding day alongside a recent photo. Being that the 50th anniversary is the gold anniversary, we also gifted her with an engraved gold glass plate, which I haven’t yet seen in person, but already love. These are small tokens to honor their long-lasting marriage, but ones we know she will appreciate in remembrance of what once was.
Honestly, the testament of their love for each other still lives on, despite the current situation and my dad’s daily struggle with dementia. My mom’s role as caregiver for my dad and all that she does each and every day to ensure he’s well taken care of is the epitome of ever-lasting love. Similarly, although my papi has little conversation these days, he does ask about his wife several times a day – per hour, even! Plus, one of his most-repeated phrases is to say, ” I love my wife. She takes care of me.”
While my papi may not exactly know they are celebrating 50 years of marriage, clearly he hasn’t forgotten what 50 years of marriage means to him.