Life with Pito

Ten years ago, Alzheimer’s was something that affected other families.  I heard stories about it.  I heard about the hardships and heartbreak, but it didn’t really affect me the way it does now.  It was a disease other people were dealing with.  I’ll never forget when my father n law was first diagnosed with dementia.  My husband was deployed to Iraq in 2007 and during a satellite phone call home to his family, one of his brothers informed him that their dad was diagnosed with dementia of the Alzheimer’s type.  I think in my own mind, I believed it wouldn’t progress and that somehow it may even go away.   I think all of the family felt this way.  But it didn’t go away and sadly it has progressed. Alzheimer’s is tragic, no matter what the circumstances are.  What makes Pito’s  (Spanish nick-name for grandfather) situation so sad is that his mind was his life.  You see, Pito was a medical doctor that specialized in pediatrics and family practice.  He loved children and loved helping the sick be healed.  When he was at home after seeing patients at his office and the hospital all he did was read, to stay current with today’s medicine.  He loved reading, he always said it exercises, stimulates, and challenges one’s mind.  He was also a very active adult.  He loved to play tennis.  He taught all his boys to play tennis when they were very young and continued to play with them as they grew into adults.  I remember playing with him when my husband and I were dating.    At that time he was in his mid-60′s and he still moved around the court like a teen.  My mother n law and he would also frequently go on walks together, holding hands and sharing memories of their boys and life.

My husband and I moved our family back to our hometown in 2011. Before moving home, I think we still felt some separation from the disease. We had no idea how hard the daily life with Pito was, nor did we have any idea how quickly things would progress and change.  I still do not think we can ever really understand what my mother n law goes through emotionally and physically caring for her husband.  Sadly, he has progressed to the point where he mostly doesn’t recognize his wife of over 40 years and his four sons.  He now just sits around his house, talking to himself and to photos on the walls.  He’ll be 80 this year and his age is finally showing.  My mother n law still takes care of him in the home where they raised their four children.  She tries to keep him active by taking him walking daily along the same path they’ve walked thousands of times over the 40 years they’ve lived in our hometown.  He walks slowly now and gets winded quickly, but is still by his wife’s side, holding her hand.  My mother n law would not be able to maintain her sanity and strength if it were not for her faith in God.  It amazes me that even with her husband slowly slipping away, she still seeks to serve others.  She will call and ask if she can cook us dinner, take care of the children, or even do our laundry.  She truly exemplifies selflessness and is such a godly role model for me, her boys, and grandchildren.  She has good and bad days with Pito, but she says that she would rather have him like this than not at all.  Even through the heartbreak of Pito not recognizing her, the woman he courted as a nurse in the hospital where he worked after graduating from medical school, she still manages to love and serve him.  She says he deserves this, for being such a devoted loving husband and father for so many years.  She vows to be by his side until the end.  Love endures all….

As I have witnessed Pito progressing, I felt God pushing me to capture him through the lens.  His life at home, with his adoring wife, sons, and seven grandchildren.   I wanted to be able to capture moments of him now–not always pretty moments, but his life as it is.  I feel our family needs these memories.  These memories are a part of his story, just as much as his childhood memories are.

Jeremiah 29:11: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”


Thank you to the following publications for sharing this special project:

The Huffington Post : Life with Pito is Life with Alzheimer’s

Daily Mail: ’His mind was his life’: Moving photographs chart one family’s struggle to come to terms with beloved grandfather’s Alzheimer’s disease

My Modern Met:  Touching Series, Featuring a Grandfather with Alzheimer’s, Shows a Family’s True Love



  • Crecia - So beautiful Ginger! So Beautiful!ReplyCancel

  • renee - Thank you for sharing Ginger… your story has touched me!ReplyCancel

  • Vickie McHAM - I came across your blog by accident and was curious about the “Life with Pito” tab. What a beautiful story of love and family. It is heart warming to see that he is surrounded by family and love everyday. My beloved Step-Father suffered from the same disease…I understand the heartache. Your photographs are beautiful and priceless and have touched me deeply. Please know that there is a fellow photog in Paris, Texas praying for your family.ReplyCancel

  • Life with Pito ‹ I'm A Fighter - […] [To learn about Pito, Mita and their love story, visit Ginger's blog.] […]ReplyCancel

  • Racheal Trahan - Wow! I am on the verge of tears, these images are so powerful. Your family will no doubt cherish these in the years to come.ReplyCancel

  • Liz Thomas - I am so sorry to hear about your father-in-law and this horrible disease. Your mother-in-law sounds like a remarkable woman! He is so fortunate to have her even though he may not know it!ReplyCancel

  • Heather - Ginger,

    I am so moved by this…and by you. Praying for your family.ReplyCancel

  • debbie - I found your blog through Bloom forum and fell in love with your photographs. This post I happened upon touched me so. My mom has Alzheimer’s after she kicked breast cancer in the butt. She knew it before she found about the cancer and she told me it wasn’t the cancer scared her.

    We must find a cure for this.

    Thank you for sharing your family’s story.ReplyCancel

  • Robin - Love this, Ginger. And it is so close to my heart as my mother (67 years) has early onset Alzheimer’s. It is a terrible disease and has affected our whole family so much… but thankfully we live close by and help my dad out as much as possible. I have been struggling with how (and whether or not to) document my mom as she progresses. It is hard for me to share… but I did a little post about her last Mother’s day and, although it was hard, it felt good. Love your post.ReplyCancel

  • all my hope | Ginger Unzueta Photography - […] Over the last year, I have been documenting the life of my father n law with Alzheimer’s Disease in a project called Life with Pito. […]ReplyCancel

  • Cheryl - Ginger,

    As a self taught photographer, I am always looking for work I admire. I found your site, and clicked on life with pito. It touched my heart, as my husband was diagnosed at age 49 with a rare form of dementia (frontotemporal dementa). This was in 2006. In 2011 he passed away, at home with our two children. I was able to care for him at home.

    Although my interest in photography began before Kenny’s illness, it became paramount for me to capture moments of our life those last years. I still can’t look at the photos. They are in a Lightroom folder, but I know I have them, and when it doesn’t hurt so much, I will go through them.

    Thank you for sharing this important story.ReplyCancel

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