Secret to Being Happy

There are a lot of moments when I feel profoundly connected to my father, and as the disease progresses, the ways and spaces through which we connect adapt themselves without my noticing. Every time I come through the front door of his home, I feel the shine in his eyes, welcoming me, and his limpid smile immediately lifts my soul. So we sit together on the sofa, shoulder to shoulder, holding hands, and we share kisses, happy and calm. And I think: It doesn’t get better than this.

Sometimes, when my mother isn’t watching, I’ll slip him a couple of ounces of chocolate or a piece of pastry; he looks at me with a sense of infinite contentment, and, then, I melt. If I’m working on the computer, he’ll come from behind to see me, tenderly touches my face, and then covers me with kisses.

Although the illness has shot holes through his memory, my father still remembers some of his favourite songs, especially the older ones. It’s one way that we now use to communicate while scarcely using words: when I pick him up from the Drop-In Centre, as we drive home, we’ll sing some of those old popular tunes, like Clavelitos or Asturias Patria Querida, and he’ll belt them out at full volume.

We’ll also play with balloons as if we were playing tennis. He doesn’t just love it – he’s great at it because he still has the reflexes to do it. He also hasn’t lost his sense of rhythm, and we’ll spend long periods of time clapping as we enjoy music, or even taking simple dance steps.

Without a doubt, his sense of humour has always been with him wherever he went, and it’s specifically that means of communication which, even today, he uses to show the world that he’s not just here – he still has a lot to say.

I believe that now that he’s losing his words, he replaces words with kisses. Alzheimer’s has made him very affectionate.

Now I tell him quite frequently that I love him, and he tells me, too, constantly, and we give each other kisses and hugs. I think that now that he’s forgetting his words, we replace words with kisses. This didn’t happen before he became ill. Although we’ve always gotten along and we’ve always been close, my father was never that expressive, not with kisses and not with words. I wasn’t with him, either. Now it’s as if he were my son, my friend; and, my father all at the same time. He hasn’t lost the essence of who he is, I can feel this with certainty in my cells that are also his somehow.

I often ask him for advice, and even though the words hardly come out, he always answers one way or another. Not so long ago, I asked him what he thinks is the secret to being happy in life. This is what he said: “Well, not thinking about it, just being it, this way, with this….”, and he placed his hand on his heart.

Through this journey, which is sometimes very difficult to carry out, I feel like I’ve found my essence and that I know now what LOVE (in capital letters) means. Every time I see my father and I spend time with him, I return home charged with energy. He gives it to me. He’s made me see what really matters, and has made me realize the enormous power that touch and kisses have. I myself have become more affectionate with everyone. Every time he looks at me, and he smiles at me, I feel like the happiest person in the world.


Susana, Spain

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