As my father’s dementia has progressed over the last 10+ years, more and more parts of the man I grew up with and once knew have slowly (and sometimes rapidly) faded away. There’s no denying that both physically and mentally, my papi is different. To look at him now, one would not recognize him to be the same man that used to stand tall, proud, with broad shoulders. Instead, what we see today is a more frail, weaker version of the same man. His essence is still there, but he is not there. It’s such a hard thing to explain, but dementia truly does rob a person of their life. And their family is left to watch in agony.
My father was a computer programmer in Puerto Rico and Florida for more than 30 years and worked with software companies that provided applications to the banking industry. Specifically, in his last position before retiring, my dad was a software analyst. His job was to look through stacks of papers full of programming code and look at the code line-by-line in search of errors. He was a human debugger, if you will.
My father was the one who taught me how to balance a checkbook, how to pay bills, and how to file my annual taxes (before you could so electronically). He taught me everything I knew regarding finances before I went off to college and it gave me a great foundation for managing my money to this day. I can’t remember if I ever thanked him for that.
My father was the one who taught me how to dance and his love of music was definitely passed on to me, even if indirectly. Watching him listen to his albums every weekend, listening to him sing along to his favorite songs, and even being annoyed by him quizzing me of who sang what song, eventually had a permanent effect. I too love music! I find myself doing many of the same drumming motions on the steering wheel as I drive listening to music, just as he used to.Now Reading: 'I Miss My Papi,' a #caregiving story of coping with #dementia.Click To Tweet
My father was my go-to person for stories about Puerto Rico. He loved sharing about his island and it’s undoubtedly because of him and those stories I heard growing up, that I have such pride for my heritage. He taught me a lot about the importance of family heritage and knowing your roots. I also can’t remember if I ever thanked him for that.
As the dementia has progressed, my papi has gone through many phases of the disease. As I shared earlier this year, he’s in the late stages of this terrible disease. And I miss him.
I even miss the man he was at the beginning stages of the dementia, when he could still function, even if just a little confused. I miss the repeated statements he used to say, though it seemed like he had a recorded tape on him. But, even hearing him say “Better, now that you’re here,” when I would ask how he was doing would bring a smile to my face. Now, I don’t even get that.
Most of all, I miss my papi. I miss talking to him and hearing stories about Puerto Rico. I miss asking him for La Bendición and hearing him answer, “Dios te Bendiga.” I miss hugging him. I miss saying I love you. Will he ever know that I was proud of him? I can’t remember if I ever told him that either.