Editor's note: Oh My Papa is a new column written by Patch contributor . This column is her personal and very touching account of what it's like to watch a loved one mentally slip away as a result of dementia.
Because we know there are others out there going through the same thing, as the column progresses we will provide information beyond Baldocchi's experiences and include such things as advice from experts, local resources for help and support for others who may, like Baldocchi, be losing someone to the depths of dementia.
Let Baldocchi know she's not alone and please share your comments and thoughts in this, her first installment of Oh My Papa.
It’s hard to realize just what we have until it begins to slip away. My papa and I have almost the same personality, even yelling in Italian around the same situations. We look similar, me minus his ever-changing beard of course. And I always knew that he would back me up on issues that others in the family would not, like how he never was concerned or worried that I didn’t go to college right away.
Now he sleeps a good portion of the day—which I do not know whether it is a side effect of the medications or just the results of the illness worsening. To me, the parts of my papa with which I relate are slipping away.
But, to him, they’ll never be gone. Gosh, I wish I could get into that head of his. It’s as if his mind, as jumbled up as it may be, has picked the best memories of his life, throughout several decades, and put them together into the same time period.
To papa, I am junior in high school again, trying to act older, at my first real newspaper and he’s telling his friends. His parents are still alive. His beautiful black lab, which died almost 25 years ago is out in the backyard and papa always asks me to go feed her (even though she is not actually there). He is still working and counting down the days till retirement—he has not worked since October of 2007. He has a soccer match—which has not happened in probably more than two decades—tomorrow for which he needs to prepare.
All these great things about life, none of which happen at the same time or even close to the same time, are how my father lives each day.
Maybe we should take a lesson from those who are struggling with brain illnesses, like dementia. Maybe it’s a coping mechanism the mind makes for those struggling this much—to keep the endorphins going and the happiness at a good level so as not to become depressed.
Nobody knows for sure. All I do know is that I would never have wished for my father to have this illness. But, as there is no cure yet, all we can do is learn from this utopian world of wonderful memories he has built into each day.