Sunday, August 10, 2008

The most intimate story I've ever read...

...can be found here. "Days With My Father" is published by a brilliant photographer named Phillip Toledano. Mr. Toledano's father is 98 (at the time of writing...not sure how current that is) and while he doesn't have Alzheimer's, he has no short term memory. The picture he paints with his word and his lens is sweet, sad, loving, heartwarming, heartbreaking, and achingly intimate.

The elder Mr. Toledano wants to die. He's tired and frustrated and achingly alone, imprisoned in a mind that no longer works correctly and a body too strong to die. My mother feels the same way. Her short term memory isn't as far gone as Mr. Toledano's, but it's going. She isn't as old; at 81 she's physically strong and nowhere near death. People she loves have died. She's lonely. She's frustrated. She's immeasurably sad.

I was moved to tears when I read "Days With My Father". Some were from sadness for an old man's pain and a son's grief. Some were from joy at being allowed such an intimate peek into so much love. Most were from knowing that a woman I have always struggled to know and understand and to have understand and love me, and still loved with all my heart is living in her own hell and I can't fix it.

Please...let me be patient...kind...loving...compassionate...for whatever days are left...days with my mother.

2 comments:

  1. Wow, that is an incredible site and a great post. I defy anyone to look through those pages and not tear up at least once.

    We lived with my grandmother for her last 10 years before she succumbed to a number of medical complications and passed away. She struggled with ever-worsening dementia throughout the decade. During that time, I went from being a 12 year old to a 22 year old, and I only wish I had at least some of that time back to do it over (for many, many reasons, but I digress).

    I missed so much because I was so wrapped up in myself and what I wanted to do. Teenagers are apt to be self-absorbed, I know, but it still shames me to think of it. Being with her made me extremely uncomfortable, and I remember trying to pretend she wasn't there. Near the end she didn't know who I was, and I'm sad to say, I was a little hurt by that. I failed to see the horror and pain she must have experienced on a daily basis because I was so wrapped up in how she affected me. I missed out on so many lessons about compassion, honor, and love.

    Only now do I see how incredibly strong and wise my mother was when she was able to smooth over and make light of painful situations, even when it must have have been ripping her heart out to witness what was happening to her mother. She would laugh things off, and I remember more than once seeing her turn around with tears in her eyes. I thought Mamaw was driving her crazy, but now I know she was laughing to make Mamaw feel better, even when she wanted to cry her eyes out. Absolutely incredible.

    I'm so sorry to hear your mother is suffering. I'm glad and thankful, however, that she has a daughter who is perceptive, wise, and compassionate.

    May you both find as much peace and joy as possible in one another in the time you have left together.

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  2. Seth...

    Beautifully written...so honest...and deeply moving. Thank you for your good wishes and I hope you, too, cherish and enjoy the time remaining with all those you love. Your mother sounds like an amazing woman...you are blessed.

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