Jun 132013
 

Christina and Giovanni It was a perfect summer evening.  The sun was just starting to go down and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.  I was home from college on a visit to introduce my parents to my new boyfriend (my now husband).  We sat on our patio, enjoying our evening together.

My father, Giovanni, summoned me into the kitchen through the window overlooking the patio.  I excused myself, assuming he wanted some help in preparing the food and getting the table set for dinner.  While I was correct that my father needed some help in the kitchen, I was not prepared for the kind of help he was asking for.

My father, an Italian man and one of the best chefs I have ever known, was asking ME for help on how to cook his signature pasta dish that I had requested he make for this occasion.

I could see the sadness and sheer terror in his eyes that he was asking me for assistance on something he previously could do with his eyes closed.  Immediately, I sprang into action, telling him not to worry, assuring him that we all have days like this sometimes, and that it had been a long time since he had made the dish.  But deep down, I knew something was very wrong.  It wasn’t long after this occasion that my father was officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

More than six years have passed since that summer night.  During that time, my father gradually forgot every pasta dish he ever made; he forgot the simple daily acts we take for granted; the disease robbed my father of knowing that I was his daughter — and finally, of his life.

Here is what my journey with my father taught me: Alzheimer’s changes things, but there is still a person inside.  Even after this disease progresses, there are ways to share meaningful moments.

A special recipe to share

Make a tax-deductable donation to The Alzheimer’s Association and receive a downloadable recipe card of Giovanni’s signature pasta dish as a thank you for your donation.

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One of my favorite memories of my father is of my wedding day.  It was toward the end of his illness, and he was having more bad days than good.  I wasn’t sure he would be able to attend. He was having trouble walking at that point. But he made it – and something amazing happened.  Not only did he walk – he lit up.  He was back to being an entertainer and a host and he loved every minute of it.  We danced to Sinatra’s “The Way You Look Tonight” and he looked so happy.  We both were.

As my father’s youngest and only child in the United States, I always tried to be strong for him, and support him in any way that I could. Our time together has inspired me and shaped the woman I’ve grown to be.  My father’s journey affected my career choice. I now work for the Alzheimer’s Association, providing education and guidance to other families trying to navigate this awful and often mysterious, challenging disease.

Now that my father has passed away, the greatest gift I can give him is doing my part to help end this disease for other families. I hope that my effort to help others, I honor my father, who was one of the most gentle, kind and caring people I have ever known.

Happy father’s day, Dad. I love you and miss you.

About the blog author:  Christina lives near Chicago with her husband, two dogs and a cat.  They are expecting their first child later this year.  She works at the Alzheimer’s Association helping other families dealing with dementia. 

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  51 Responses to “A Recipe to Remember: A Daughter Honors Her Father’s Memory”

  1. My Mom (and Mother-in-Law) both passed away from Alzheimers. This is a very wonderful note to honor those who have died from this horrible desease. My Mother-In-Law said it best to my husband a few months before she died. "I am losing my mind" My husband said…"Oh we all feel like that sometimes" trying to sooth the moment. She said "No I am really losing my mind and I am so scared!"

  2. I lost an Uncle to this terrible disease, I have a friend who just lost her Mother and then I have another friend who Father has it..why can we not change this..there has to be a reason for it.

  3. My Mother had Alzheimer's and she passed away just about 2 years ago. Myself and my brother were her primary caregivers, we had almost 6 years of many struggles, but also, a lot of good memories with her. It's a terrible disease and one of the most stressful to deal with because it is progressive and long lasting. I truly understand your decision to work for the Alzheimer's Association. Congratulations on the pending birth of your baby and enjoy every minute that you can:)

  4. I know your some of your pain my Mom is suffering from Alzheimers and my Dad and myself are caring for her.Its so hard to watch my Mom go through,I fall apart alot but I try my best to stay strong in front of her.Thank you for sharing this,God Bless you.

    • Just remember to take time for yourself. My mom just lost her battle with dementia this past
      March. We had her in an assisted living w/ memory care. The last year we could see her get slower and sleep more, she still knew us to the end. She lived a wonderful 85 years,
      There were days after leaving her I woukd cry all the way home, I prayed a lot had my wonderful sister keeping me grounded. It sucks! We need a cure for sure.
      Stay strong always remember the good times because those are priceless

  5. I would like to start off by saying I am touched by your story,i do donate through my work and we are part of the Bloomington ,Indiana ass.we do the walks and I have many cans out to gather donations,we will donate our money and time,thanks again for your story it was bueatiful

  6. Thank You for the Blog. I am a recent caregiver and appreciate other caregiver's experiences.

  7. So good to have a purpose. I'm sure your Dad was and is proud of you. Thanks for a sweet post!

    • I agree, having a father suffering from Alzheimer could be really hard emotionally, glad to hear you didn’t give up. Your dad must be so proud to have a daughter like you.

  8. Beautiful. I just lost my Dad March 21, 2013 to this horrible disease. He was adored and loved by everyone who had ever met him. This will be my 1st Fathers Day without my Daddy. I miss him every single day. I've missed him for the past 6 years – since the day he was diagnosed.
    Peace and comfort to you. Good luck and best wishes on your pregnancy/new baby.

  9. thank you for your comment about the time with your dad, i was blessed to have taken care of my father during his long battle with early onset alzheimer's i think he was 62 when we first noticed and 73 when he passed. my mom worked so i was able to take care of him daily until the last 3 years of his life we had to place him in a home for help, but even then i had lunch every day and my mom had dinner every night, even though he could not speak or walk he sure like to eat. i still miss the sound of his voice i do know he is in a better place with his mom who had it as well and our other family members that were waiting for him. i do miss him so much but i am blessed to have had the time with him.

  10. What a beautiful tribute to your Dad. As a nurse I have seen first hand the devastation this disease causes and the leaves behind. I'm sure he is very proud of you and your work with the Alzheimers Association. Best wishes with your little one. Lovely picture x x

  11. Wonderful article. My mom has Alzheimers and it is very difficult to see her like she is now. My dad has been diagnosed with MDS and he has been her caretaker. I keep in close touch with her and I am very touched by your article. Thank you for sharing!

  12. I worked as a caregiver for alzheimers I worked in a personal care home in a locked unit. I loved working with them they are some of the best memories for me but you all who are caregivers need to take time to get away for a little while.you also need to take care of you!thinking and praying for all.

  13. I saw my dad go through the same things. He's been gone 20 years this October. It still hurts. I cherish the memories I have of him. Those who are fortunate enough to still have a parent living…take care of them! No matter how your relationship is with them, you will miss them when they are gone.

    • My dad passed away in November 2012, we didn't have a close relationship. He passed and I didn't get to say good bye. I regret that I was so stubborn. I miss my Dad and even though I wasn't there for him, I know he forgives me and loves me. I truly miss him and love him forever.

  14. Thanks for sharing such a sweet story. I lost my mother to Alzheimers 5 years ago and I, too remember with sadness, when she forgot how to prepare the most simple things. She called me to ask how to cook a hot dog. On another occasion she was sitting at my kitchen table as I was cooking dinner. She said " can I ask you a question"? I said of course. Then very matter of fact she asked, how do you know how to cook? With tears in my eyes I said, why Mama you taught me. My mother was one of the best cooks around. Growing up in the south she loved to cook for everyone. And not long after that she forgot who I was. We had always had a close relationship, even though I am one of five. She started calling me the pretty little blonde girl. I still miss her terribly. Alzheimers is such a cruel disease. I pray that someone will discover a cure.

  15. This is a verbatim post from my FaceBook page (September 2012). A very similar experience and wanted to share.

    Because she suffers from Alzheimer's Disease, it is difficult for my mom to speak in complete sentences. Her attempts often lead to random words being uttered from her mouth. Yesterday, my mom joined us for the annual Scully picnic at my brother, John's, and brother-in-law, Dave's, cottage in Westbrook. My mom was with my dad, each of her six children, all of her daughters and sons-in law and four of her nine grandchildren. When I brought her back to the nursing home, I got her settled and said my goodbyes. As I leaned down to hug her and kiss her goodnight as she sat in her wheelchair, she whispered in my ear "I'm so glad that we were all together today." Spoken clearly, smoothly and sincerely. A great gift to end a great day. We ALL love you, mom.

  16. WOW – did THAT bring back memories!!! Although my parent with Alzheimer's was with my mom, the same sentiment holds true. As a junior high school choral teacher, my mom had perfected 'the look' and it was so difficult to watch her unable to do simple tasks, like brush her teeth or wash her hands as the disease progressed.
    She too, has passed and I too, continue to help people at the Alzheimer's facility she lived at for the last five years of her life, by working with the families as they adjust to having placed their parent or spouse. Somehow, it helps me to be able to help others go through that HORRIBLE period of their life and give them hope that life can once again be wonderful.

  17. What a beautiful story. Sometimes it is a challenge to see what is going well as this disease plods along. It is wonderful that you have these memories of one of the most important days of your life.

  18. I think your story was beautiful! I am sole caretaker for my mom who has Alzhimers. It has been a hard and heartbreaking journey. My mom and I have been lifelong best friends and now she hardly even knows who I am I am just someone who take care of her. I miss my mom and my best friend. I respect what you are doing God Bless You and may the memories of you dad remain vivid and beautiful in your heart forever!

  19. Thank you for sharing your experience and your feelings. We are going through the stages of Alzheimer's with my dad right now. We finally got him into an assisted living that is a wonderful place where he has friends, and activities, and where he has his meds dispensed and he is secure from getting out and wandering away. While he talks about going home and living there again, we know that he really is happy where he is. They hosted a Father's Day cookout lunch this week, and he lit up with the fun and the fact that his three children were there. While we don't know exactly what lies ahead, we know that things will get worse and that is a hard fact to face, but with God's help, we will get through it!

  20. This is a sad story…brings back memories of my mother. This is such a debilitating disease! Takes all your dignity away.

  21. We lost our momma last month to an excruciatingly long and hard battle with early onset Alzheimer’s. I would LOVE and aspire to worn for or with the Alz Association.

  22. You truly touched my heart with this post. My Dad went "home" in 98. I was with him everyday the last year and half. It was so hard when it got to the point he didn't know me and even harder when he didn't know Mom….but I thank God daily for having such a great Dad. Thank God even more my Mom is still here – turned 99 on April 20. God is good and we will all be together again some day! Blessings on you and your family!

  23. Very moving and wonderful story. Keep up the important work you're doing.

  24. Beautiful story, I too became a caretaker at age 48 for my husband, he was diagnosed at age 52 with Alzheimer's, it has been 10 years now. I know how heartbreaking it is, and life is like a whirlwind everyday. The only thing we can do is try to make everyday as fulfilling as possible while our loved ones can still do what ever they used to do. I try to make him as comfortable as possible and help make life as simple as I can for him. Thank you again for such a touching story. God bless.

    • It is what it is and I can relate since I was a caretaker for my spouse when he was originally diagnosed with cognitive impairment at 62 and I was only 43…Hoping you have more good days than difficult ones…especially on fathers day eve!!! It is just difficult sometimes to cope with the longest goodbye…

  25. we are living this with my mom now. it has been 7 years since the final diagnosis. what is left of her life saddens me, but with so many of us suffering this and so many of us finding new worth and meaning by helping the cause for a cure in large and small ways there is hope. thanks to the blog author for sharing and doing….

  26. What a wonderful and insightful and beautiful tribute to your father!!! I also care for my spouse with dementia and I live for those wonderful moments!!! I wish you a wonderful career and future with your family….Sending love to all those affected by these types of illness….

  27. I am sitting next to my mom at a 'Rehabilitation Center" reading this sweet story and posting this comment. Mom has brain mets. This condition presented very rapidly; she too has good days and bad days. The other day was a bad day and she asked me who I was. Her brain may forget who I am but I know that her heart will always know exactly who I am. This last month has been hard on everyone in our family, but hardest of all on her. Being here with her, holding her hand is really all that matters now. Be extra kind to those you love. Tell them that you care. Life as we know it can change very dramatically.

  28. Beautifully written article. One that I can identify with. My mother just passed away this past Wednesday. She suffered from debilitating osteoarthritis in her hips, back, and shoulders. She also suffered from Alzheimer's. She still knew who we were, but couldn't remember names. It was so hard to watch her deteriorate from the strong, intelligent woman she used to be to this sweet, child-like person she became at the end. Alzheimer's is a horrible disease!

    • Sorry for your loss…I am just glad your Mom did not have the aggression that I deal with…I love the times when my spouse is sweet and child like and HAPPY>>>> I treasure those moments….once again sorry for your loss…

  29. I was really impressed as my father had suffered from Alzheimer and passed away .All respect to you Christina.

  30. My husband and I are dealing with Alzheimer's for our mom ! She is going into the last stages and we have to move her from her apartment down to the assisted living unit where they can watch over her. She no longer recognizes my voice but still recognizes my husbands voice. I worked in an Alzheimer's unit for five years and even though it was difficult to watch I loved every patient. NO ONE deserves this disease. It tears families apart and relationships but thankfully our mom doesn't know what is going on. I'm so glad your Dad made it to your wedding and was sort of his normal self. He is in Heaven with his Lord and we will all meet again sometime. You are doing great things working to help find a cure. What a wonderful tribute to your Dad that you are working with the Alzheimer's group. We need all the help we can get !!

  31. Wishing you a wonderful life. Your Dad would want that for you. I have been there. I lost my Mother 12 years ago to This terrible disease. She called my sister and I by her two closest sisters names. It was a rough 4 yrs but I know she is in Heaven and I will see her again. She will know me. Bless you and your work.

  32. Thank you for working for the Alzheimer's Association. They were a great gift and resource for me when I took care of my mother in law while she lived with us. No one but her husband knew how much she had digressed until her husband himself became ill and asked us to care for her. I continue to reflect on all the "life lessons" of things "I didn't know I would learn" from that time of caring for her. As difficult as it was I wouldn't change it for the world. My children were in middle teen years then and a friend told me "You never know what you taking care of Marie will teach your children". I look back at that time as a gift even thought it was very difficult. Blessings to you on the new adventure of motherhood. You will think of your father often and his legacy will continue through you!

  33. My Mom and Dad both have Alzheimer's, really a tough time for our family! This is a terrible disease, we need to find a cure!

  34. How did you get involved to help others? I lost my father two months ago to it. Beautiful write up though. Rest In Peace to your father as well.

  35. My Dad was diagnosed 2/13 I had to take away his car and his guns, he is a retired Chicago Police Officer and taking his guns was taking a big part of who he is. He is still mad at me when he remembers what I had to do but I did only what is best for him and the safety of others, it was the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life. My Dad is very physically fit unfortunately this disease has taken his brain, it is going to be a long hard journey, for Dad and all of his family, but we have our memories of the good times.

  36. Thank you for the inspiration. My dad also had Alzheimers. He passed 4 years ago. His wish was to pass before he would forget all of us and his memories. This is an awful disease that robs people of their most precious commodity. Wishing I could give my dad one last hug and kiss. I know that he is with our Lord and that he remembers everything. Love you daddy. Lyonel Garcia rip

  37. My dad died in 2000. He was a WW11 vet.

    Alzheimers disease is no longer plaguing him. He now lives an active whole life in heaven. I was his caretaker. My mom now has dementia. I cared for her 7 years after dad’s death. She is now in a nursing home.

  38. Honestly, Im speechless, living in the 'moment' with my father was the most painful experience in my life. My father was my whole life, its been last november when he died, but to me he died many years before. Today is my 1st father's day sinced he past. I love you Daddy and I know your whole again in Heaven.

    • Sarabeth: Whispered prayers for you. I remember my first Father's Day without my dad. Just as I remember every other "special" occasion that came with that years of firsts. My dad had suffered from leukemia for 10 years, & I, like you, knew he was whole again, in his heavenly home, with his Heavenly Father.
      Sonya

  39. My stepfather took excellent care of our precious mother who lost her life to Alzheimer's disease in March of last year. Anything he could do for mom was never too much. One of my sisters and I are nurses and often commented that we should be so lucky to be his patient! Every choice in her care was made with love and courage. My mother loved the spring. I feel her in the lovely flowers and beautiful weather.I want my stepfather to know how much I still appreciate the care he gave my wonderful mother. Thank you father! Love Margaret!

  40. I lost my Mother to dementia in 2007. It was so hard watching the woman who raised me slowly disappear,. The hardest time for me was the few lucid moments she did have towards the end, I wanted her to come back so badly! Thank you for sharing your story

  41. Thank you for your story! My beloved Father died in Sept and my sister and I miss him greatly….you have a great career choice….may God Bless you in it and make a difference in you and your world!

  42. Hi Christina! I am from Camelford in Cornwall in the south west of England. My mother and I enjoy everything in life and are best friends despite Alzheimer's. Mum is mid-stage and I dread the future but have learnt to cope and enjoy, whatever the future holds. Please join myself and many others and use the purple angel logo which is my design for raising awareness. This little angel has a mind of it's own and has affected people worldwide – many countries are now adopting as their emblem (not instead of theri own logos) and much good is coming from it..I give my friends, Norm McNamara's website as this was the beginnning but powers greater than me have flown this angel far and wide and I do not have any help with funding! You can also connect and download the logos from Camelford Dementia Action Alliance on Facebook and visit the – Dementia Action Alliance (South West local page) for further information .http://www.dementiaaction.org.uk/local_alliances/2579_camelford_dementia_action_alliance

    Thank you for this lovely article from the heart! Jane

  43. Wow I never knew how many letters I will read. Like I wrote before is hard and sad. My husband is 59 it been 10 years he have Alzheimer’s and in bed .One of the letter I read I remember my husband, he don’t remember me but when he see me those eyes and his beautiful smile tell me he knows who I am. I ask him if he’s married he say no, in August my family we will celebrate our 30 years anniversary even though he have that condition. Thank-you for sharing all your story it really help us. God Bless you all.

  44. My dad is 5 yrs into his diagnosis. I was the one that pushed to get my father tested. He got lost in an area he has driven in since 1977. So far it is affecting his sense of direction, and he talks slower, taking longer to find the words sometimes. To me, this diagnosis was scarier to me than my mom’s breast cancer diagnosis. My mom at least had a chance to beat that. Which she did. So far the best they have had to offer was slowing it down. Thank you for your beautiful story. It made me smile through the tears.

    Daddy, I love you.

  45. As a caregiver for families who have loved ones suffering from this devastating disease, I was moved beyond words by your poignant account of your Dad's "lighting up" at your wedding. In my own work, I always try to engage the people I serve in activities from their past that will bring them "back." It is truly a joy to see someone in the final stages of Alzheimer's return to the person they were. Your Dad sounds like a wonderful man, and he would be very proud of his beautiful daughter.

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