The times when I feel most connected to my father are usually those moments, typically in the afternoon, when we can spend some time by ourselves. We put a movie on and we start talking, not about anything in particular, we laugh at something that one of the characters does, we realize that we agree that one actor or another is funny, or weird… Normally my father is taciturn and isn’t much for talking. He gives the impression that he’s not connecting the dots about what’s going on around him and we make him anxious with questions such as “Do you remember when?” as it turns out that, invariably, he doesn’t remember. Moments like that, we just try to enjoy each other’s company, to live in the moment, without placing demands on each other or expecting too much, going over and over again how the remote control works… I notice how he relaxes, how he smiles and cracks jokes, and I feel grateful for this space where we can be together and share things. And I feel grateful to be able to discover this tender, affectionate man who I missed so badly.
I think that the most important thing I’ve discovered is touch: giving him my hand, touching him tenderly on the shoulder, giving him a kiss, a hug…he loves to gather my face in his hands and when he does it, the look on his face changes completely. Normally he’s got a bit of a lost look on his face, baseless, but when we connect his eyes start to see me again, and I see a different light, happiness, warmth…It is in those moments when I sense like he feels protected, cared for, not set apart from everyone else. There is a lot of tenderness between us; the rebukes and reproaches have ended.
Our relationship has changed completely. The truth is that, over a long period of time, our relationship was based on conflict, not communicating with each other, being disconnected from one another. My father’s vulnerability has crash-landed, as if an enormous meteorite had slammed right into the Earth. That has totally changed my perceptions of him and of our relationship. Now something different emerges and I want to care for him, to really feel the love that I questioned so often in the past. Let’s just say that, overnight, those old judgements disappeared. His vulnerability has brought us closer together and it’s made my own vulnerability that much more obvious, as well as my strength – two sides of the same coin. I feel like this situation, day by day, is making a better person of me, when each situation requires patience, caring, a sense of humour, love – but also strength. Now is the moment where I take care of my father, just as he took care of me when I was little. It took Alzheimer’s coming into the equation so that I could become closer to my father, to lay down my weapons and to start to see him like a human being.
Mariam Arroyo, Spain