Next month I am going to a fairytale wedding in Spain. My friend is getting married in a 15th century castle and will wear a designer gown. It is going to be a beautiful and very fun event, but my husband can’t come with me. So my date will be my dad. I am thrilled.
My dad is 64 years old. He is handsome, fit and makes great conversation. He will be fantastic company, but not because of his looks, but because he is the kindest man I know. I am honored to be his daughter and for one day next month, his date.
It wasn’t until my mom was diagnosed with dementia that I realized just what an amazing father he is. Ever since her diagnosis almost a decade ago, my dad takes care of her. His life is stalled. He can’t travel. He doesn’t go out much and his nights are often sleepless either worrying about her or being with her during her own sleepless nights. Although he looks tired, he rarely complains. He is focused on her well-being.
My dad has help in the house and goes to work every day, but he takes care of her hygiene and her medication. He cooks many of her meals, and often feeds them to her. He takes her out to friends’ homes so she can see other people, and tucks her into bed every night.
It’s a contrast from their roles when I was growing up. Back then, my mom was strong, involved and very caring. Even when she worked, she was the more present parent. In turn, my dad was the second parent. He worked 6 days a week and spent Sundays working in our yard. He didn’t talk much.
I always knew he was hard-working, handy around the house and had a very green thumb. Although he didn’t cook much, when he did, his food was delicious and special. He could also be funny, although his shyness made this comedic vain a rare happening. He knew a lot about many things, and when he didn’t know how to do something he would figure out how to do it; he taught my sister and I to do the same.
With him, I have chopped wood, pulled wall paper and reluctantly held a starfish when I was a pre-teen. I didn’t see it then, but as an adult, I realize he is a father who guides and teaches. Today’s lessons are perhaps more important than the ones from my childhood.
Through his devotion and responsibility towards my mother, he is allowing my sister and me to live our lives without worrying much about our ailing mother. While she is constantly in our thoughts, we know she has the best care there is, and that gives us a tremendous sense of calm.
I have spent time with them and have seen first hand the level of care he provides her. I am so grateful to have him do that for her, because I know if he had not taken this responsibility my sister and I would, and our lives would be much different, more complicated.
Older parents often think that their job is done once their kids grow up and leave their homes. Not so. My dad’s life and how he is choosing to live it is a life lesson in marriage, respect for our loved ones and loyalty. A lesson I am learning in my 30s and as a parent myself.
When I got married I didn’t dance with my dad. He was enjoying dancing with my mom, who had already been diagnosed with dementia. I thought that was more important than me having that moment with him. I am looking forward to my friend’s wedding. Maybe I’ll get to dance with him.
I wrote this in April, but never posted it. Thinking ahead for Father’s Day, I thought I’d share even though he could not come to the wedding with me. I have, however, enjoyed a month with my dad, seeing him interact with my kids. Amazing. The wedding, by the way, was gorgeous.