Beginning at the End:
Portraits of Dementia by Joe Wallace

© 2019 Joe Wallace

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Edwin Bartlett

Edwin Bartlett is part of a large, close-knit family. One of eight children, he was born in the summer of 1929 in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala.  The siblings were very close growing up and stayed in touch even as some left home - Edwin moved to New England and others moved to California.

 

I asked his daughter Claudia what Edwin loved most about his life and she said, “He loved his late wife of 64 years and his children. Living a good, useful life and providing for his family. He taught us to treat all people equally no matter who they are or where they are from. Be true to yourself. Be helpful to others when needed. He would say that life is short - don't waste time and energy on ignorant racists or mean people.“

 

Edwin and I met at La Alianza Hispana – an adult day care that caters to Latino immigrant elders. It’s offers Edwin the opportunity to socialize and receive care, enabling his daughter to go to work knowing he’s safe and well cared for.

 

Edwin was gracious and patient as I fumbled to use my high-school Spanish. I learned that he was great with his hands and could repair or build just about anything. Edwin dreamed of becoming a mechanical engineer but had to give up college and go to work to help support his family instead. 

 

I asked Claudia what values her dad taught her and she said, “Family is the most important thing. Being supportive of each other. Getting a proper education, being responsible and honest. Follow thru on the promises you make.”

 

As we ended our conversation, Edwin looked sad and I asked him, “what’s wrong?” He looked at me and replied, “I just want it to be like it was before.”