Imagine – it’s Father’s Day on Sunday, and while most people are wondering what to get for their father, you’re at home knowing that despite whatever you get for him, it will not have the same meaning. You reminisce about what your father may have wanted before everything came crashing down. You remember how your dad was a handyman before it all fell to pieces. You remember that summer you spent with your dad building a picket fence because he was determined to make the front yard perfect. I remember these little things about my dad - these everyday memories turned precious because of Alzheimer’s.
Every time something needed fixing, out came the handy old tool bag he got when he first came to America. He never wanted a new bag because he knew exactly where he had carefully placed each tool. Now his favorite tool bag lays forgotten in the basement, collecting dust and cobwebs, untouched for six years.
If you look around my parents' house you’ll notice the many unfinished projects, the broken furniture, the unhung curtains, the stairwell in disrepair - all neglected because the man of the house has slowly faded away. Each of these unfinished projects tells the story of my dad’s decline. They were never finished because my dad forgot how to charge his tools, how to hang up curtains, and how to use a ladder. Despite being carefully placed in his special bag, he doesn’t know how to use them anymore.
As a daddy’s girl, I sometimes hope this is all just a phase and that in a few weeks dad will have the energy and wherewithal to finish my mom’s demanding projects. But as the weeks, months, and years pass, I’m coming to terms with the reality of this disease. He has forgotten how to do the things he loved the most; things that me--as his little girl--loved doing with him. He can’t hang the curtains, fix the pipe under the sink, or repair the fence that he loved building and painting. My father is one of the estimated 200,000 Latinos touched by Alzheimer’s or dementia and he’ll never again be the handyman he used to be.
I can’t tell you how much I miss my old man. As I watch the countless father’s day commercials, I think about my dad and how I would love to get him a new tool set to fix the things around the house. I know the tools would go unused and the projects will remain unfinished but he’ll always be my handyman.
Lisette Carbajal is a LatinosAgainstAlzheimer's & ActivistAgainstAlzheimer's Advocate