By Nina (Dictos) Jones
This article was published in the local paper on Father’s Day– Dedicated to her father Paul Dictos, CPA- Fresno County Assessor-Recorder
I will forever associate my daughter Athena’s third birthday party four years ago with the day we finally had to take the car keys away from Mom. She was very resistant and saw this action as yet another loss she was suffering, as the cloud of her dementia grew thicker.
We looked for other ways to make her feel she was still herself. My mom, Stella, has always been a beautiful woman, well-coiffed and with a preference for stylish dresses. But she had grown so forgetful that she struggled to remember her makeup routine or how to press her clothing into smooth surfaces.
For a couple of years after the key-turnover, my sister, Sophie, or I picked her up most mornings, got her dressed and made up and brought her home with us until Dad got off work. As our families and responsibilities grew we had someone help with Mom’s care at her home, but her new caregiver could never do her makeup. We helped when we could.
Then, a couple of years ago I noticed Mom looking much nicer. Appropriate makeup, pretty hairstyle, clothes pressed. Oh, maybe there was a little higher arch to an eyebrow and a lipstick line just beyond the natural shape of her mouth, but still a definite improvement.
It wasn’t until later that I learned it was my dad, Paul, who painstakingly drew that familiar face into place and fought with the steam iron to complete the façade.
Dad. I should have known. He stepped into his new role as Mom’s valet, nurse, handyman and, yes, makeup artist and dresser without a pause or look back at his previous role as Lord of the Manor.
It was just the beginning. As her early-onset dementia decreased her abilities, his responsibilities increased.
My sister, brother and I have watched him do everything in his power to make life more comfortable for Mom and ease her anxiety. He has changed the toilets to higher and larger seats because she is afraid to sit too low. He changed the box spring on their bed to one easier for her to get off and onto. He got a smaller car so that she can get in and out more easily. He washes sheets frequently, cooks dinner most nights and takes her for rides in the country that she will never remember.
In fact, she remembers very little now. She has forgotten English and only speaks a few disjointed words of Greek. She hasn’t said the names of her children or grandchildren in a long time. The only name she ever calls out is “Toli,” her pet name for my dad.
I worry about Dad. He works two jobs and does so much for my mom. But, two things keep him going. He loves his life in politics and enjoys doing something to help our community. It keeps him feeling passionate about something important and he takes refuge there.
And, he’s got the Lord and his bible. He prays a lot and finds great comfort there.
Our own families try to help out by staying with Mom when Dad has to be away some evenings for work. We still share important family events and draw some strength from each other during those times. Their 44th wedding anniversary is July 1 and has greater meaning for all of us with each passing year.
Dad’s devotion to my mom doesn’t surprise me. He did the same thing with his own mother. Grandma’s bed was in our living room for several years when she became ill. Dad’s loyalty and commitment to family is part of his Greek heritage and who he is as a man.
He is showing me, teaching me what is important in a relationship, what love really looks like. It’s not material things acquired together or the romantic love you share, or even the hopes you express in your wedding vows. It’s what you do when your marriage and your world are no longer in balance. It is how you behave when you lose what you once were, together. It’s sacrifice.
It’s putting your wife’s makeup on her and calling your daughters for hair advice to better style her hair. It’s asking your daughters about concealer so the dark circles beneath her eyes can be covered up.
And, at the end of it all, it’s when he still looks at her and says, “Isn’t she beautiful.”
Nina (Dictos) Jones is the mother of four, the owner of Sugarpalooza, and a part-time teacher Clovis Unified and Willow International. Her husband, John Jones, coaches the Clovis High Cougars.
Paul Dictos, CPA- Fresno County Assessor-Recorder
Paul A. Dictos Accountancy Corporation
1535 E. Shaw Ave. Suite # 103
Fresno, California 93710