At 80 years old, my father has seen and done a lot in his life. From raising his four younger brothers after his parents both passed, to working multiple jobs to support our family of 9, to going back to finish his schooling and getting his GED, well into his 40’s, after only having completed the 3rd grade, to building the home he and my mother lived in for the last 20 years. I have only ever known my father as a man of strength, perseverance and wisdom all these years, until a stroke that left him with a pacemaker, and Parkinson’s and dementia that have left him dependent and wheelchair-bound changed him. But then in life, there is always the silver lining, the sweet to balance out the sour.
At 80 years old, my father was recently nominated by the nursing home staff to run for King for Valentine’s Day. It is an honor I’m not surprised by. My mother is in charge of baking cupcakes, selling raffle tickets and basically becoming unofficial campaign manager to get him votes. But I’m pretty certain, even without all of this, my Dad has this contest in the bag. Since day one, he has won over the staff with his charm, and the twinkle in his eye when he’s looking for takers to his naughty jokes, and his inventive storytelling that has become more amusing as his dementia progresses. I have no doubt, come Valentine’s Day, that my Dad will be holding court as King.
It has been a slow progression, with peaks and valleys of joy and sadness, but mainly moments for which I am grateful to still have my Dad here, regardless of his condition. To see his eyes light up and see another side of his personality emerge when my mother enters the room is lovelier than anything I have ever witnessed in my short life. His illness doesn’t exist when he is with her and he is able to plant a kiss on her lips and spend time playing their Chinese checkers or just sitting outside on the little veranda listening to the clicks and squeals of the beautiful South Texas grackles. I have learned many lessons through all of this, but mostly that love knows no bounds, it has the power to transform and transcend, and it is always there if you just open your eyes to it.
I wish I could be there to see my Dad get crowned King for a day and share these delicious chocolate raspberry cream puffs with him. He’s a sucker for anything sweet, so much that he’s finally gained some weight and my mother has had to stop smuggling in the sweet breads and pbj sandwiches he keeps requesting. Love like theirs is sweet enough. I know at least they have that to celebrate.
Celebrate all the loves in your life, including my favorite, chocolate, with these airy and decadent, chocolate raspberry cream puffs, that feature Washington State potatoes. How is that possible?! Head on over to the Washington State Potato Commission to find out the secret of this lovely recipe.