You might recognize Brettlyn from our Member Care videos; she also helps place nannies with families. And to complete the picture of who Brettlyn is, she won the 2012 Care.com Spirit Award in which we give an employee with the best "spirit" a free vacation. Here, she reveals how a personal family crisis has helped her look at life.
A few months back, I asked my mom why this is one of the only family shots hanging up. There are so many memories of fun times and places, but where are the pictures?
Why my concern? At age 59, my father was diagnosed with dementia. 6 years later, I wish I had more pictures to help him remember some of the best moments of his life.
My dad was an elementary school principal. He put his heart and soul into his work. He was the person who went to the stores on his way home from work when he noticed kids did not have a proper winter coat. He got Father’s Day cards from students – because this was how they saw him. And from the time I was toddler to the day my dad retired, people would always come up to me saying much they heard about my sister, Dayna, my mom and me. We were his girls, his everything, and anyone he met knew that.
As much as I cherish my memories, I am afraid he’s losing many of his.
I want him to remember the years he was my little league softball coach. How he was so patient when someone was having a tough time, made silly faces to get everyone to have fun, and made everyone feel like they were all-stars heading to the World Series.
I wish I could show him The Father-Daughter dance he brought me to when I wore my favorite green plaid dress – and he matched in a green plaid shirt.
I want him to tell me about the days my sister and I were born. When I turned out to be a girl, and they couldn’t decide how to turn Brett into a girl’s name! My mom talks about those days as the best moments of her life -- I wish he could remember them too.
I want him to remember that he and my mom have always been best friends, their silly cards to each other every holiday, and that they always said, "til the end!" And even through this illness, she can't wait to come home to him every night and tell him what’s going on with her school, make him his favorite dinner, or get his sneakers on and take him to their favorite walking trail. He still says that he’s the luckiest guy in the world. (And it’s true!),
Most of all, I want him to remember the final graduation ceremony for his middle school students, when so many of his former students came to honor him (they’d heard he was retiring early due to illness). There was not enough room in the 500-person auditorium for the students and families who came out. His students were crying, parents were taking photos of him with their families and people were pulling me aside to tell me how my dad changed their lives.
I wish he’d remember that every day.
It’s a funny thing, getting older. You hope your life is going to go a certain way. And then it can all change suddenly. Now, Dad spends most of his days doing very limited tasks, all with the help of his full-time caregiver, and I am forced to find the good in what seems like a horrible reality. And I know exactly what it is: Live a memorable life.
My dad lived an amazing life. And as this terrible disease slowly takes these memories away, I will always have them. My mom and sister have them – and their own. And my dad’s students have vowed never to forget him.
He gave life 100%. And as his memory fades, ours won’t.
As I plan to re-locate back my home state in order to be closer to him, I think about the joy I can bring his days. The memory books I can make for him. The stories I can re-tell. Maybe he’ll love hearing them as much as we loved living them with him.