The 2013-2014 Parent of the Year is Ernesto Victor Sierra
Here is the winning essay, written by Ernesto's daughter, Linda Casas.
February 28, 2013, was one of the hardest days for my dad and me. My dad has been suffering from dementia for the past three years. He had lived with me for 14 years. He was my strength. He was my encouragement. He was my best friend. He was everything to me as I was to him. My mom had died 12 years ago; and because I was the only sibling without a mate, I chose to care for him. For years, he would give me advice (sometimes I wanted to say, "Dad, I am a grownup!") and I let him because it made him feel important and knowledgeable. He was such a knowledgeable man with many, many experiences to learn from.
I was working as a paraprofessional until my dad could not be left alone. I stayed home to care for my dad full time and also continue my education part time.
During these past three years, I learned so much from my dad. He struggled to remember things but that did not discourage him. He continued to make life count for him. Not only does he have this crippling disease but he is legally blind and deaf. I would find him at times in his room close to the tv trying to find the scores of the baseball games, his love of baseball. What he loved most of all were his great-grandchildren. He loved to play with them. He would get on all fours and give them rides. When it was baseball or basketball season, I would bundle him up and take him with me to see the grandchildren play in their tournaments. He could not see them but he was there. To him, that was very important. He let them know that he was very proud of them all the time.
My dad never stopped encouraging me. How could I not learn from his strength when everyday he always saw the best in life even without his vision or hearing and now less of his mind. He never complained although he wondered why he would forget things but he would say, "Got to see the doctor to see what he can give me."
The last months at home were the most difficult. We would fall together. We would cry together. We would laugh together. We would share our meals together. Most importantly, we were together! We still supported and encouraged each other. He would scold me when I felt down. He would say, "Life is too precious...look at what we do have and cherish it."
My dad was a very strong man. On February 28, I wheeled my dad into the memory care unit. My heart tore from my being when I left him. I visit him every day and I still learn from his strength. We still laugh together, I help feed him, I wheel-chair him outside the facility, let him feel the cool breeze and the sun hitting his face, loving him more each day.