As ironic as it seems, my dad’s dementia and memory loss is strangely helping us to reconnect. My father and I have never been very close – not in the way you normally think of a father-daughter relationship. We had no issues and did have a relationship, just not an emotionally close one.
My father was a typical, old-fashioned, Puerto Rican father. That means that while he was a provider and was there for us as a husband and father, he was never the go-to guy for talking about problems. He did not nurture, play, or goof around. He did provide: he worked hard, provided financially for our family and provided sound, logical advice. That’s who he was.
Because of the type of father he was, it resulted in me knowing I could count on him for things like financial advice, logical solutions, and life lessons, so to speak. I also knew I could not count on him for heart-to-heart talks about feelings or seek emotional support, something us girls often need. For that, I went to my mother.
However, my father was always a storyteller. I do remember hearing many stories about his childhood in Puerto Rico, his family, and music. As such, even with the disease of dementia affecting his mind, he still enjoys telling stories.
These days, my father’s stories may be full of inaccurate statements, inconsistencies, and mixed-up facts, but they are still interesting to hear. I may hear a particular anecdote five times within a span of ten minutes, but to me, it’s allowing for us to talk. I simply sit and listen. I respond at the appropriate cues, prompt him for more at certain points, and pretend I’m hearing him share the story for the first time. Sometimes I do let him know he’s told me before, but I give him only part of the story and let him finish the rest.
Hearing him tell his stories is how we now talk, connect, and spend time together. In a way, it’s helping us patch up the bond that was always loose. Ironic as it is, I feel closer to him now, than I ever did before.