Wednesday 10 July 2024

Days With My Father. By Phillip Toledano.

"My Mum died suddenly on September 4th, 2006 After she died, I realized how much she’d been shielding me from my father’s mental state. He doesn’t have alzheimers, but he has no short-term memory, and is often lost. I took him to my mother’s funeral, and to the burial, but when we got home, he’d ask me every 15 minutes where my mother was. I’d explain carefully that she had died, and we’d been to her funeral. This was shocking news to him Why had no-one told him? Why hadn’t I taken him to the funeral? Why hadn’t he visited her in the hospital? He had no memory of these events. After a while, I realized I couldn’t keep telling him that his wife had died. He didn’t remember, and it was killing both of us, to re-live her death constantly. I decided to tell him she’d gone to Paris, to take care of her brother, who was sick. And that’s where she is now.

 (...) I have so many memories of him listening to opera, sketching, painting, sculpting. Although he doesn't paint anymore, he still sees. He still has the artistic impulse. (...) The urge is still there, even if the physical ability is not ...

(...) For just a few minutes, everything almost feels normal again. My mum isn't dead, and we're not pretending she's gone to Paris. She's popped out to the store, and she'll be back shortly. How sweet that would be.

(...) It's amazing. My father is so appreciative of the love he receives. Each visit is an incredible gift, to  him, and to me, as though we're both drinking deeply from the same well, for one last time. He's always talking about how much he loves me. What a genius he thinks I am. How glad he is that Carla is part of our (tiny) family. These are things he's never told me before. I'm so glad we have this time together.

(...) Sometimes when we are talking, my dad will stop and sigh, and close his eyes. It's then that I know that he knows. about my mum. About everything.

My dad died yesterday. I spent the whole night with him, holding his hand (...). Just last week, on his 99th birthday, I asked him how old he thought he was. Grinning, he said: "22 and a half?" Now he's gone to Paris, to meet my mum."

photographs by Philipp Toledano via