Lisette C. - My Best Friend
“Okay, I’m ready to go.” He stepped out with his right shoe on his left foot, his left shoe on his right foot, and one shoe of a different pair. “Oh, Dad… C’mon, let me help you.”
My dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in my third year of college. For the longest time, I was in denial about the whole situation and believed that one day he would wake up to be “normal” again. I read numerous articles about what to expect and how to deal with the disease as well as countless blogs about others in the same situation who have taken care of their parents and grandparents. I find comfort in knowing that I’m not alone, but I’ve found that reading about Alzheimer’s is very different than actually witnessing it.
My dad is 68 years old. He’s worked all his life starting from the age of six. Growing up, my dad did not own a pair of shoes, or a bed, and only relied on the clothes on his back. Unfortunately, my grandmother wasn’t able to feed her 5 children, so it was up to my dad to find whatever he could, even if it meant just a small loaf of bread to bring home. Some days he ate, but other days he did not.
My dad used to play club soccer in Peru. That’s how he met my mother. He loves soccer (as you can imagine, he’s currently watching the World Cup). It was the only thing, aside from his random jobs, that would distract him from the poverty he lived in. Thanks to fate, his life changed when he met my mother. Together, with hard work and much sacrifice, they were able to build a small house in Peru. While, still, neither of them had much besides each other, they tried their best to provide for my older brother.
I look through some pictures of my dad from back in the day, and I see how elegant he looked with his baby blue suit and polished shoes. He liked dressing nice and taking pictures. He enjoyed his full set of hair which he styled in many different ways. He was a handy man, to say the least. He was always building, fixing, or painting something. He never sat still and always was willing to lend a hand. He loved my mother and when he came to the United States he worked twice as hard to save up to buy their first townhome.
There are so many memories I can list that I have with my dad. Thanks to him, I know how to swim, ride a bike, drive, and braid my hair (yes, my dad used to braid my hair). He was my best friend as a child; even a blind man could see that I was a daddy’s girl. Every weekend, he would take me out on a bike ride, to a waterpark, or out for ice cream. He never failed to scratch my head till I fell asleep or run from work during his breaks to make me breakfast in the morning. Sometimes, when my mom and I got into arguments, I would run to him for comfort. There was never a dull moment with my dad. We both love stand up comedies, and occasionally when we had a long car ride home, we would bust out our camera and make a home video. We’d make jokes and sing at the top of our lungs. We thought we had beautiful voices, of course. I still watch the homemade videos from time to time.
Today, things are a little different. While his love for soccer is still there, my dad’s humor is often hidden behind the long naps and mood swings. What once was a loud and funny car ride to the grocery store is now a long and quiet ride with only the radio playing in the background. There’s no more swimming or long bike rides around the neighborhood, instead there’s long blank stares out the window and repetitive questions I’m answering. There are days that he doesn’t know where the bathroom is or how to dress himself. In public, people stare at him as he struggles to sit on a chair. Some people laugh, while others ask if they can help.
The reason why I write this is because I want the world to know how remarkable my dad is. He’s come from nothing, not even a decent education, but somehow he and my mother have been able to provide my brother and I with everything we could ever ask for. While the next couple of years will be the hardest ones for me, and especially my mother, I plan to be there every day. Even if that means he won’t remember my birthday or my name. I plan to be there for him as he was for me when fell off my bike or when I walked across the stage to receive my diploma. When I look at him I still see the man that taught me everything I needed to know about growing up and being strong. Thanks for being my best friend, Dad.
I love you.