Phillip Toledano’s “Days with My Father” is a moving, personal photo essay. To call Toledano’s work a “photo essay” is simply inadequate; it’s so much more than that. It’s a reflection on memory and relationships, on absence and loss, and on the frail, tender spaces between the love of a son and a mother and a father.

It lacks pretension. I’ve imbibed this son’s portrait of a 98-year-old man many times — the first at three in the morning, the last reading Toledano’s simply worded tales of remembrance and observation to my ‘tiny’ family during supper. We laughed. We cried. We sighed. We kissed our boys.

Yesterday, we had our first cuts-and-copy for a show addressing Alzheimer’s disease (podcast release, March 26th). While listening to Krista and psychologist Alan Dienstag’s conversation, the title of Vladimir Nabokov’s memoir kept swirling around in my head, “speak, memory.” I even found myself mouthing the words in some strange poetic manner.

Why? Dienstag’s insights into Alzheimer’s became universal quite quickly. His experiences speak to memory writ large. They speak to me in my life as I try to remember all that is good, and even my failures.

Nabokov spoke to this in his writing about his own life. And I’m learning that there is this indistinguishable line between the autobiographical facts and events of one’s life and the stories that surround them, that build on them, that transcend them. That includes the stories we tell to our loved ones. They become as true as any recordable event.

Sharing these stories is a way to communicate when all else is lost. Giving away these memories in some recorded form ensures that these memories endure — even as the person holding these memories loses contact with them.

And although Toledano’s father has short-term memory loss and not Alzheimer’s, a common silken thread of factual events mixed with stories fill the gaps where memory ceases to exist. And from this necessary mix a new story emerges. As his son records these memories, remembering begins again. And that gift of memory is given to us. I’m incredibly thankful for that act.

(photo: Phillip Toledano)


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9Reflections

Reflections

Thank you so much for sharing Phillip Toledano's collection of images and writings - they are simultaneously touching, heartbreaking, and humanizing all at once. I eagerly await the forthcoming broadcast.

Looking forward to listening to this podcast. A dear childhood friend of mine died recently after many many years of Alzheimers and other mentally debilitating disorders. His wife, my friend, cared for him at home right until his death.

If you wish, perhaps you can listen to this interesting conversation between Gregory Sharrow and his mother Marjorie (http://hearingvoices.com/webwo.... Well worth the time.

My sympathies to your friend. The show is magnificent (can I write this without meaning to be promotional), and I hope will strike a new chord for many people. And thank you for the link. I'll definitely list it on our resources page. Cheers.

Oh, and lilalia, thank you for being such a dedicated reader and commenter on the blog. It means a lot to us.

I was deeply moved by Toledano's words and photograph's describing his journey with his father. My mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's over 10 years ago and I have done my best to keep her safe and comfortable and well-loved since then. Last Nov I finally got the courage to do a series of photographs myself which have been published on www.socialdocumentary.net. Though my mom is in advanced stage and no longer knows who I am, I was taken by the similarities that can be seen in the stares of Toledano's father and my mother. Iook forward to the podcast and the book. Thank you.

The photography was as intimate as the text of all personal accounts of this extraordinary story. Heartfelt and open, I appreciated the gift of experience and emotions conveyed here. Stories like this need to be shared. I am grateful.

Phillip's sequencing and stills were powerful edits. My, the power of a pitcher of water and a glass on a tabletop.

This information is so timely for me and my organization. I sing and serve as president of the Susquehanna Valley Chorale, Lewisburg, PA, a 100+ regional adult chorus which has commissioned their first new work. This choral/orchestral work will be focused on Alzheimer's Disease and will be premiered by the Chorale Oct. 9, 2010, at the Weis Center for the Performing Arts, Bucknell University, under the direction of Dr. William Payn. New Jersey composer Robert Cohen and New York librettist Herschel Garfein are creating this work, leaning heavily on over 70 true stories/anecdotes centered on AD which were posted by central Pennsylvanians on the Chorale website through January of 2009.

The Chorale will essentially be singing Alzheimer's experiences of the central Susquehanna Valley. To contact us and to view these stories and information about the project go to: http://www.svcmusic.org/ With the help of a community Task Force, we are using this concert as a springboard to promote AD awareness and education through other activities in our region near the concert date. Thank you for featuring this crucial topic.

Thanks to Phillip for sharing his Days with his Father. I will try to remember to show it to my Mother, for Edward reminds me a bit of her late husband who died recently, even though he didn't have dementia, he was failing with ALS, trying to keep his humor and wanting to keep caring for his wife & daughter though they had to be caring for him. And he reminds me of my mom's father who died of Alzheimers years ago, but kept trying to do his pastoral work right up until his death. He never could understand why it was no longer okay for him to do visitation rounds in the nursing home, for surely that must be why he was there. His last sermon was about 10 minutes long spontaneous monologue at a family gathering that was basically a word salad, yet his non-verbal communication was so powerful that it was like he was shining from within. Everyone in the room was moved to tears - I think it was his best sermon ever, because he held nothing back from it.

Really wonderful ..... congratulations!!

honorably

Ericsson José Alves
Brasil - São Paulo

apples