From Chicken Soup for the Father & Daughter Soul

I Want My Daddy Back

God gave us memories that we might have roses in December.

James M. Barrie

A few years ago my beloved daddy had to be placed in a nursing home. Alzheimer’s disease stole his memories and ability to function on his own. I was heartbroken— I knew it was the end of the daddy that I’d known. I couldn’t conceive of him not being there for me like he’d always been. Always cheerful and happy, he had a “Howdy!” and a kind word for everyone he met.

Even though the staff at the nursing home was kind and treated him very well, he always asked Mom when he was going to be well enough to go home. It broke her heart for her to explain—again and again—why he could not do that. He’d frown and get sad, but would acquiesce.

I grieved when I saw him. Daddy was no longer a vital adult male; he was a young boy again in his mind. I’d frequently leave the nursing home in tears. I missed him so much. I wanted my daddy back.

One Christmas I reminisced about the days when my parents first moved to Florida. For many years, Daddy had played Santa Claus during the holidays at various shopping centers. He loved to watch the eyes of the kids as they sat on his knee and recited their wishes for Christmas.

Since I live in Orlando, where Walt Disney World is located, I went shopping for a Santa hat and found one with Mickey Mouse ears. I brought it to Daddy at the nursing home. To my surprise, he sprang from his chair, grabbed the hat and placed it merrily on his head. He insisted that Mom help him on with his red flannel shirt, exclaiming, “I’ve got to go entertain the girls!” He then shuffled out to the nurses’ station. He grinned at the nurses and proceeded to do a little jig.

“Ho, ho, ho!” he bellowed, his eyes twinkling. One nurse pretended to sit lightly on his knee. Another grabbed a camera and snapped pictures. Mom clapped her hands and nearly squealed with delight.

For one fleeting Christmas moment, I had my daddy back.

Deb Haggerty

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