Beginning at the End:
Portraits of Dementia by Joe Wallace

© 2019 Joe Wallace

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Phil Parisi

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Phil Parisi was born and raised in Gloucester Massachusetts. His dad was a fisherman and his mother worked at the seafood plant in town. In 1964 at age 18 he was the Greasy Pole Champion - a famous and celebrated contest in Gloucester. In 1966, Phil was drafted by the Army to serve in the Vietnam War. He returned home safely in 1968, got married and started a family. He managed "Charlie’s Place” restaurant for so many years that people started calling him Charlie even though they knew that wasn’t his name! His wife, Ann Marie, told me “We’ve been married 48 years. Phil was a great friend, great dad, great family man. That’s him in a nutshell.”

Phil started showing signs of dementia three years ago and Ann Marie took him to the neurologist. Phil was diagnosed with vascular dementia and their lives have changed dramatically since then. He gets confused and disoriented easily. He can’t play cards with his friends anymore. Ann Marie can’t safely leave him alone so she doesn’t have any space for herself. I asked her what advice she would give a newly diagnosed person or family. And she replied, “One, you need to have the patience of a saint. Two, get as much education as you can. Know what you’re in for. Read everything. I took a class and it helped me figure out what to do and how to adapt my expectations.” Then she sighed and added, “Sometimes I want to crawl into a hole. I love him SO much and sometimes I just don’t know what to do.”