I Hope I Never Forget My Dad

My dad died. I want to tell you about him because, really, he’s the reason you and I know each other. If I didn’t grow up watching my dad do every home repair, remodel, installation, and upgrade by himself, I doubt I would be the (albeit lazy) DIYer I am today. And wtf would I even be (occasionally) blogging about? No one cares about my yarn collection.

Father painting deck, visited by toddler daughter

He Could Fix Anything

Growing up, I’m not sure I even knew there was such a thing as calling a stranger to come to your house and fix things for you. My dad took care of everything. He was an engineer, electrician, architect, carpenter, machinist, mason, and, professionally, a mechanic. He really was a jack of all trades.

A “Ron” of all trades, actually. His name was Ron.

My father was intelligent, logical, and resourceful. He taught me to problem solve and to work smarter, not harder. He was a lot like MacGyver. Give the man some duct tape and a Hershey bar and… well, he’d eat the Hershey bar (he really liked sweets…), but he could build you a freaking bicycle with that duct tape.

He Liked to Win

I remember one time, when miscreants ran over our mailbox, he welded a giant new one out of quarter inch thick steel and cemented the post six feet into the ground. The little flag on the side weighed about three pounds. The door was so heavy, I wasn’t strong enough to get the mail until I was fifteen.

The next time those jerks tried to pick a fight, we found mangled Honda parts scattered across our driveway. It makes me smile to think of how stunned they must have been, getting wrecked by a mailbox.

Dad-1 Miscreants-0

He Was His Own Man

I learned to be my own person from my dad. He was not a follower. He was unaffected by peer pressure. He never cared what the “in” crowd was doing. In fact, he never cared about the crowd at all.

He wasn’t a leader either though. The truth is my dad was a little weird. Besides his dislike of almost everything stereotypically manly (sports, fishing, beer, jerky), he wasn’t very social. He did his own thing and he didn’t care if anyone thought he was an oddball. If he were a man who danced (he wasn’t), it would’ve been to the beat of his own drum.

Or to John Denver, maybe. He liked John Denver.

He Thought Cars Were Cool

He also liked cars. No, that’s dumb. He loved cars. He was PASSIONATE! about cars and literally owned close to a hundred different ones throughout his life, but only one or two at a time. Our driveway was practically a conveyor belt.

Why so many? He was obsessed with “the chase”. He’d set his sights on a classic beauty, pursue it, lock it down, and then he’d get bored before the ink on the title was dry and move on to the next one. My dad was a car casanova. A car-sanova, if you will. Love ’em and leave ’em.

Well, sell ’em. Often for less than he paid. (This was not a lucrative hobby for my dad…)

He Was Really Good at Racquetball

My father loved science, history, and animal kingdom documentaries on TV. (You know, the boring shows when you’re ten and you want to watch The Love Boat.)

He took a lot of naps.

He enjoyed The Waltons, Elvis gospel music, bicycle rides, and black raspberry ice cream. He was the parent I went to whenever I thought I was dying. He was the one I could discuss aliens with. He was the one who taught me how to change a tire and how to drive a stick shift.

He’s Why I Am Amazing

My dad always believed I was capable and so I was. I have confidence in my abilities because my dad had confidence in me. I never doubt I can accomplish anything because my dad never doubted I could.

You have my dad to thank for my near 100% success rating in everything I attempt to do so that I can then blog about it all for your reading entertainment pleasure. (Occasionally.)

My Father Had Dementia

It’s hard to say when dad’s illness began. As I mentioned, he was always a little weird so, when he got weirder, we figured that was his normal aging process.

It wasn’t.

When he randomly pulled an electric razor out of his pants pocket (not a portable one, mind you, a full sized jobbie…) while in the doctor’s office and started shaving his face like he was in a Norelco commercial, we could no longer deny it. That wasn’t just a power move. My father had dementia.

The Longest Goodbye

His decline was painfully slow.

Dementia is a thief that robs your house one item at a time. At first, you don’t notice when random trinkets and tchotchkes go missing, but eventually more important things begin to disappear. Precious things. Essential things. It’s only then that you realize there’s a heist in progress.

I’ve been grieving the loss of my father for years now because that’s how long it’s taken this lethargic thief to rob him blind.

Six months ago, it finally became too difficult to care for my father at home, so we had to move him to an assisted living facility. During his evaluation for admission, he was handed a pen and asked to write something.

Anything.

Without prompting, he chose to write “I Like Life”. Even with advanced dementia, in spite of all he had already lost to his disease, he still liked life.

That was the last thing he ever wrote. I can’t imagine a better sentence.

I don’t want to spend too much time on who he was at the end. That nice, old man was barely my dad. Sure, he was kind and gentle, compassionate, generous with his imaginary money (he was a fictitious millionaire), and bore a striking resemblance to him, but he was missing so much of what made my dad my dad.

1969 photo of man smiling in front of Christmas tree

The last time I saw my father was a week before he died. He was glad to see me. He knew who I was. He made a silly dad joke. (When I asked him what was new, he paused, smiled, and replied, “New York!”) He ate a hot dog. We took a walk outside and sat in the sun. I think my father was happy. He liked life.

Though my father’s brain was failing him, his body did not appear to be. I thought I would have to watch this insidious disease dismantle him piece by piece, but mercifully, that was not God’s plan.

I lost my father twice. Once over the course of about eight years. The second time was on February 16, 2024, only hours after suffering a stroke. He never regained consciousness and died peacefully.

Car guy that he was, I like to think that my dad saw the road ahead was full of potholes, so he took the exit ramp.

In a way, I have him back now. I was so used to the man he became in the end that I forgot who he was before he got sick. Since his passing, all of my old memories of him have begun to resurface, resurrecting the man who has been gone for so long.

I have missed him. I will miss him.

Since my dad’s illness, I am hyper-aware of my own brain. Every time I lose a word or forget what day it is, I panic. Will I get dementia? I don’t know. Maybe I will. I am, after all, my father’s daughter.

I’m doing everything in my power to reduce my risk, but if I do get dementia, I hope I still like life. And I hope I never forget my dad. He never forgot me.


***

Six months ago, in honor of my dad, I began raising money for the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund. If you would like to help, shirts featuring his last written sentence, I Like Life, in his own addled handwriting, may be purchased here. A variety of colors and styles are available. This is not for profit. All proceeds will go to curealz.org.

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48 Comments

  • Denise

    So sorry. Dealing with similar circumstances myself. Hang in there and please keep writing. I adore your sense of humor. ????

    • My Crappy House

      Thank you, Denise. It’s impossible to really understand the loss unless you live it. I’m so sorry you’re living it. The question marks made me laugh. Apparently, my blog doesn’t know how to process emojis…

  • LaFawne

    Love and hugs sent your way. Went through this years ago, and I still remember the daily pain of seeing them slip away. Dementia in any form is indeed a slow moving thief. It takes and takes and takes. One of the most cruel diseases, IMO. I am eternally grateful for my memories. Our loved ones live on in our hearts, and one day we will do the same in our descendants(hopefully).
    Life goes on- trite but so true. Again, big hugs from an internet follower-

    • My Crappy House

      It’s awful how many are lost to this disease and how many families suffer through its effects. I’m at peace because I really do believe he is. And yes, life does go on. This is really my first loss and it’s changed the way I think about things. Thank you for your kind words.

  • Susan Kenney

    Vicki, Your writing…so beautiful…it brought tears and smiles to my heart at the same time…the photos take me back to all the visits Uncle Rick and I made to your home…he and I were the “kids” Rick being your mom’s youngest brother…and your Dad was there for us for all our questions about buying a first home…without any prompting he came to use his experience to check all the subtle details to make sure that everything was sound with any house we wanted to purchase…and even after moving into our new home we went to him with numerous questions of how to do this and how to do that…he and Uncle Rick spent hours with the cars for sure…he was always so calm and welcoming that the first time I met him I felt like I had always known him…that photo of him dancing with you when you were little at our wedding (very special)…and that photo of him taking those extra moments with you even when he was busy staining the back porch…he loved you kids so much…keep writing Vicki…keep sharing bits and pieces of your life with your dad with all of us…you will never forget him…he will always be in your heart… Love ya’, Aunt Sue

  • Cindy

    What a beautiful tribute. You made me laugh and you made me cry. You made me think about my own father – so similar.
    I wish I could have known your father.
    I will love wearing my tshirt in his memory and in a fight to end this insidious disease.

    • My Crappy House

      I love that his writing is out there and people think of him when they wear the shirt. Thank you for supporting the cause and your kind words.

  • SH

    Such a long difficult journey to an even more difficult end. I believe that this post expresses what many of us could not find words to say in our own similar circumstances. Thanks for sharing this emotional and warm tribute.

    • My Crappy House

      Thankfully, he left us before enduring that more difficult end. I’m very grateful he was spared and he’s at peace now. Thank you for your thoughtful words.

  • Marianne

    I am so sorry for the loss of your father. ????Your beautiful writing about your father touched my heart. He sure sounded like an awesome father/man and that you learned many practical things from him. His interests remind me so much of my own father who passed away 9 years ago. My father could fix anything, and I mean anything! We never had repair men at our house, ever! He even built an experimental airplane on a budget and won first place at the EAA fly in at Oshkosh, Wisconsin in the 70’s. How lucky are we both to have grown up with such wonderful men as our fathers. Your post has inspired me to write about my Dad in my journal so that I won’t ever forget his qualities. Thank you. I can only imagine your father was so happy that you are a diyer! He must have been so proud. May you carry his memory in your thoughts every day. And may you continue to be a diyer, just like your father. Take care.

    • My Crappy House

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. It makes me so happy to know that you feel inspired to write about your own dad. I actually really enjoyed writing this post, thinking back on my childhood and spending time with those thoughts. I shed a lot of tears, but it also made me feel closer to him.

      PS – I’m laughing at the question marks. They’ve shown up on several comments because my blog doesn’t know what to do with emojis. It’s so funny, the sentences they’re showing up in

  • Barbara H.

    So hard. Beautiful tribute. Wonderful memories – you were so lucky in that. Thanks for sharing your memories.

    • My Crappy House

      Ah, I know you were close to your dad, too. Thank you.

      And those question marks are just so funny. My blog doesn’t know what to do with emojis, but it’s so funny that it’s putting all of these question marks on such a somber post…lol

    • My Crappy House

      Yeah, it’s one of those “if you know, you know” things, isn’t it. Not everyone understands what it’s like. If they’re lucky, they never will. I’m sorry you had to experience it, too. Thank you

    • Karen

      I found your site looking for ways to get on a roof. Tomorrow I have to climb onto the roof of my crappy house to clean my valleys and gutters of leaves before winter starts in Australia. I’m also scared of heights.

      Normally my partner would’ve done this. This was our crappy house. But he died on March 18. He killed himself. I have no idea how I’m going to survive without him. But I have to for our kids. So I better not fall off the roof.

      I’m so sorry you lost your dad. Losing someone sucks. Grief sucks. But your dad shaped you into the resilient and resourceful person you are. I’m hoping I can also be resilient and resourceful so that I can take on everything that my partner did for us.

    • My Crappy House

      Oh, my. I’m so very sorry for your loss. I can’t even imagine how you must feel, losing your partner so suddenly. That’s not how life is supposed to go. I wish I had words for you that would make things better, but I’m coming up empty. I hope my silly roof post helped somehow and you were able to safely complete that task. Grief absolutely sucks, but your kids need you and it sounds like you are a great mom who won’t let them down. I hope happy memories are able to comfort you through this truly awful experience

  • Robin Datin

    Hi V,

    Glad to hear from you, it has been awhile. I am so sorry to hear of yor loss. You truly honored his memory with your post.

    • My Crappy House

      Thank you. Yes, it really has been too long. So much happened this past year to distract me from writing, but I hope to be back soon with some fun stuff.

  • Em Dirre

    Oh, Vickiann… so very sorry for your loss.
    What a beautiful tribute you have penned for your pop. Thank you for sharing your memories of him with those of us who have never had the privilege.

    • My Crappy House

      Thank you, Em. I’m grateful to have the outlet. It was cathartic to write and I’m happy people read it.

  • Joan

    My deepest sympathies on your loss. While my father didn’t pass from dementia, it was no less painful to lose him suddenly. Sounds like we had similar childhoods in that we both watched our fathers build and fix things and that had a big impression on us. My dad was a carpenter and I loved watching him build things. He also did what he could to fix his vehicles, etc. My mom also would fix things, but around the house, rather than do the big stuff. It why I do what I can on my own, as well. Calling repairmen only came when we needed the TV serviced (remember when you could have one come to the house to fix the TV??). When I bought my crappy house, I put on my “dad hat” and looked every house over, trying to view it via Dad’s eyes and determine if things were such that I could fix them, etc. I got the stamp of approval two years after I got it, he passed a month later.

    • My Crappy House

      Yes, sounds like we did have similar childhoods, both with watching our dads AND our moms. I wanted to keep this post just about my dad, but my mom was also very handy. She did all of the inside work, painting, wallpapering, decorating, etc. She could also sew – clothes, curtains, slipcovers, everything – and refinish furniture. Furniture that she was always rearranging for a “new look”. My parents really were DIY people. My mom still would be, except I won’t let her because I want her to live forever and she’s fragile now.

      That’s very sweet that your dad got to see your hard work before he passed.

  • Ellen Shook

    What a beautiful piece you have written to honor your father. I went through this with my mother. All her five siblings also had this awful disease, as did her mother, and her mother’s father. There hace been many others in my orbit who have finished life this way. I have to tell you you that this is the hardest thing in the world you will ever experience, with the possible exception of losing a child. It is a blessing that all those old memories seem to wash over you after a parent dies, and it often comes in waves for years afterward. I wrote a book about my mother about three years after she died, and it was cathartic. With your talent for writing, maybe you might want to think about doing that, even if you never publish it.

    • My Crappy House

      You’re very kind, thank you. I do hope this is the hardest thing I will ever endure and that my mom keeps her wits about her because I can’t imagine going through it again. I’m sorry you have lost so many to this terrible disease.

  • M. Yardley

    I loved your blog about your dad! I am so sorry for your loss. He sounds like he was a great father! It’s so good to hear about those kinds of dads. Good to hear about how he loved, cheered and encouraged you. I had a father like that too that I lost last year. You and I were blessed. Keep writing!

    • My Crappy House

      You know, when my brother read this post he was like, wtf? He didn’t remember my dad being a cheerleader. The truth is, he wasn’t! He was very low key about it, but he never told me I couldn’t do anything. If I told him I wanted to rebuild an engine (to be clear, I never did that…), he would have said ‘great, here’s a book about it’. He wouldn’t have helped me (unless I asked) because he knew I wouldn’t have needed help. He was proud that I was mechanically inclined like he was. When I bought my house, some men in my life were not supportive at all (a single woman buying a fixer upper), but my dad thought it was a great idea. He never had the mentality of “girls can’t do”. He just matter of fact knew I was capable of doing anything I wanted to do. It made me never need special encouragement. It never occurred to me that girls weren’t “supposed” to do certain things because my dad never drew those lines. It was a kind of support that went deeper than words and I felt it my whole life.

  • franc

    thank you for writing and posting pics about your dear dad. i get it, every step, mine so similar, addicted to cars, buy high sell low, odd, yadda yadda, strangely handy, and then the demon dementia landed in him. and i choose to remember his hilarious razor whip smart side, the ending was so unbearable and so long and we knew he wouldn’t have wanted to have been this guy to the world, the guy he was the last years. anyway, thank you thank you, and love your crappy hilarious house bizness.

    • My Crappy House

      Thank you. The only good thing about it was that he didn’t know he had dementia. We all suffered around him watching him loose it, but he insisted he was sharp as a tack. It was so baffling. He couldn’t tie his shoes, but he found nothing odd about that. He was happy in his dementia world, so I count that as a blessing. I’m sorry you went through the experience too. It’s not something I would wish on anyone.

  • Judy Ann England

    So, so sorry for your loss. I too lost my father to dementia in 2013. I hope writing about it was theraputic for you. I know I missed your DIy adventures and your sense of humor. Glad to have you back!

    • My Crappy House

      It definitely was therapeutic for me. I got through most of my grieving process writing this post. It makes me happy to remember him as he was, before his illness. Writing this really helped me do that.

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