When the reminders for Father’s Day begin, memories of Father’s Days past are what I cling to – memories that I know are buried deep inside my father as well. But for many years, Father’s Day has no longer been filled with his laughter or signs of pride in his children. Father’s Day also always seems to fall near major moments that I wish I could have shared with my dad: starting a job with the Governor of Virginia, finishing graduate school, and this year, getting married.
When I met Graham, my father’s Alzheimer’s had already progressed enough that he could not really get to know Graham or understand our relationship. Graham had seen his parents care for his grandmother, who also had Alzheimer’s and was quick to help us care for my dad. Because Alzheimer’s took his English, my father was left speaking and understanding only Spanish, and Graham took it upon himself to learn commands in Spanish. I know how much it would mean to my father that I’m marrying someone so thoughtful, who feels my pain with me.
I couldn’t call my dad when Graham and I got engaged because he no longer recognized a phone, so Graham and I went to visit him in his nursing home. Dad got excited whenever we said ‘casarse,’ Spanish for “getting married” and smiled many times throughout our visit. Since then, I’ve thought of him whenever we are planning our wedding and try to incorporate him into the event as much as possible. He will be there in spirit.
It’s hard to describe the feeling I had when my wedding invitations arrived. Mr. and Mrs. Jose Del Carmen Carbajal request the pleasure of your company. My father’s name was written so beautifully, but it struck me that this may be the last time I see my father’s name written in such a formal way. It makes me sad to think about the request itself – of my father requesting the presence of people he doesn’t remember at an event he doesn’t know is happening.
I’ll miss having my father walk me down the aisle. I’ll miss dancing with him during the celebration. My Mom and Brother will fill in for my Dad and escort me down the aisle, my Mom will dance the Father-Daughter dance with me. We will do this because we have to, because my Father, my best friend, can’t.
This Father’s Day, I’ll be thinking about how I wish my father could enjoy the payoff for all his hard work. He came to the United States from Peru with little education and little money and learned some English so that he could provide a better life for his children. He would be so happy about so many aspects of my life and of my brother’s life, and of what we’ve accomplished. I wish he’d had a chance to share in the joy he helped to create. Happy Father’s Day, Dad.