Feeling Like I’ve Disappointed My Papa

About 6 weeks ago, my 79 year old Papa moved into a nursing home because his dementia had deteriorated to a point where he needed more care than could be provided at home. It all happened so suddenly, as my Grandma, his wife and primary carer, had a stroke. I really wish that he could’ve seen me have a boyfriend.

His form of dementia is fairly rare, in that it’s his comprehension that has severely suffered, but thankfully not yet his general memory. So he can recall random facts, but has lost the ability to hold conversation, shower, make logical decisions, etc. Currently he still recognises family members and close friends, but we expect his decline to be rapid. Papa is now a very different person to who he once was. He was very assertive, confident, organised, strong willed, loving, and an amazing handyman. He could fix absolutely anything! He was very proud of his family (and the nurses at the aged care facility say that he clearly still is), and family always came before anything else.

He became a Christian quite late in life, around his mid 60s. His wife had always been the Church going lady that went on her own with the kids, while the husband stayed at home thinking God was a waste of time. He was diagnosed with bowel cancer in his mid 60s, and my Dad (also a Christian), boldly asked Papa if he would like a visit from the Church minister to pray for him. Papa agreed, and so a wonderful minister called Ivan, who himself has since passed away, visited Papa and prayed for him. The minister put his hand on Papa’s shoulder and prayed for him.

That moment changed Papa’s life.

He said that he instantly felt heat from Ivan’s hand, and there and then believed that God was real.

Papa eventually went into remission from the bowel cancer. From the day of Ivan’s prayer, he accompanied my Grandma to church, built the men’s shed, joined the Church council, and would demand we hold hands and pray before every meal.

I really respect how he put decades of pride aside to acknowledge the Truth.

Almost weekly, Papa would jokingly ask me “have you found yourself a boyfriend yet??!!” I would always respond with “He hasn’t shown up yet!” and we’d have a bit of a laugh. He never really pushed the issue, but I could tell that he really, really wanted to see me meet someone because he thought I was a ‘good lass’.

Several weeks before he went into care, when his communication had already severely deteriorated, we were out for our weekly coffee catch up when he suddenly said to me “your Grandma and I hope all the time that you’ll meet someone.” At that stage, he was really only saying one word responses to questions, not initiating conversation…so I knew that this was really important for him to say.

I just said “me too Papa.”

I know that it’s not completely my fault that I’m single, but I still really wish that I was able to fulfill that dream for my Papa, and bring that elusive boyfriend to a Sunday lunch so Papa could be proud of me. I just need to remind myself that despite being single, I know that Papa is still proud of me for many reasons…I was the first person in the family to graduate from University, I don’t smoke (this is hilariously something that Papa would use to judge if someone was a successful  or not!), I have a job in a good school, I help around the home and I always go to family events.

So I guess it’s the realisation that I’m actually grieving the fact that my Papa won’t see me get married. And it’s important that I take time to acknowledge and process that unseen grief.

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