I know you probably won’t read this because reading and comprehension are impossible for you at this stage of your Alzheimer’s. I’ve been meaning to write to you for years, now, but I could never find the words. I’ve also thought about recording your old stories for a while, but it seems that may not be possible anymore. I always thought that I would have plenty of time with you and that it would be our project together after your retirement.
At some point, though, retirement came forced because you were showing signs of Alzheimer’s. That was almost 5 years ago before the birth of your first grandchild. In the excitement of her birth, I didn’t notice that our time would be so short.
In the beginning, your memory loss wasn’t so bad. You recognized me easily – even recognizing Ninjette. You never seemed to forget her name. I’m sorry that I wasn’t more patient with you and bugged you about being nicer to mom and listening to what she was telling you to do. I’m sorry that I didn’t take the time to imagine what you were going through. I didn’t want to accept that your mind was not going to be what it was.
You were so brilliant in ways that I never was. You were always a little ahead of your time and you were all over the cloud before we could even understand what it was. You were on the cutting edge of technology and innovation, but you still couldn’t operate a vcr. I chalked it up to the fact that your brain was filled with much more advanced things.
One of my favorite memories with you was when you helped me make a computer for a science fair project. I am still fascinated by the inner workings of computers and all things tech related.
One of my other poignant memories of you was your search for your birth parents – both of whom were lost during the Korean War. I don’t know if you remember, but there was a moment where we finally found a picture of your dad and I saw you cry. You didn’t really show much emotion, so I was surprised and moved. Do you also remember how you showed me their writings, pictures, and told me what you could about them? You also taught me the importance of learning about my Korean roots and language. I remember how you said to me, “Someday, I will be old and might forget a lot of English, but I will still want to have heart to heart talks with you and this is my heart language. So I want you to learn it. That way, even when I am old, our hearts will still be able to talk to each other.”
It is the part of you that I wish I explored more. It’s the part of me that I still feel is missing. It is the part of our family that I wish I had recorded and documented.
I’m sorry all of this letter is so disjointed, but there is a lifetime of words that I saved until now. I don’t know why I saved them. Why didn’t I just tell you? Maybe I just felt like you knew my words, already. I should have said them anyway.
Father’s Day is hard to celebrate this year because I feel like I am missing my dad. The past several times I’ve seen you, there wasn’t much recognition. My only hope is that you still seem to recognize Ninjette. Maybe you are remembering when we were little?
Dad, 아 빠, I love you. I hope you know that when you see me. I hope you know that we all love you so much and it breaks our hearts that you are suffering this way. This is not the retirement we imagined for you and mom. You have worked so hard to be who you are, despite the difficult childhood you had. Seeing so much of your brilliance diminished makes me weep. I don’t want you to forget the wonderful life you’ve lived and built. Please remember that we surround you and love you so much. I think about you every day and remember you every day. In my heart, you are still my young dad. When did we both get older?
Your brain may forget me, but I will never forget you and I know that our hearts will forever be together. My heart will always speak to your heart. I hope your heart will hear mine today.