Days with My Father ~ 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 didn’t have alzheimers, but he had no short-term memory, and was often lost.

I took him to the funeral, but when we got home, he’d keep asking me every 15 minutes where my mother was. I had to explain over and over again, that she had died.

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 constantly re-live her death.

I decided to tell him she’d gone to Paris, to take care of her brother, who was sick.

‘Days with my father’ is a journal.

A record of our relationship, and the time we spent over the last three years.

Phillip Toledano

Published by Chronicle Books in 2010.

To view the complete project, please go to:

I find these scraps of writing all over the house… they are a glimpse into his mind, the disquiet he tries to hide from me

Where is everyone?

What’s going on?

How lost he feels.

I asked my father to look in the mirror, while I took his photograph.

Now, you have to realize my dad was very handsome when he was young. When people talk about ‘Film star handsome’, well, that was my dad. In fact, he WAS a film star (of sorts), in Hollywood, during the 1930’s.

So when he looks in the mirror, he sees a man ravaged, a man no longer beautiful, and that upsets him deeply.

You see, he’s still vain at 98. In fact, his vanity can be quite extraordinary.

I tried to take him to the doctor a few months ago, but on the way out, he caught a glimpse of himself in the hall mirror.

He was so horrified with his appearance, that he refused to leave the house until I found a ‘black pencil’ to dye his white hair with.

Because my parents had me so late, my dad was essentially retired when I was growing up.

But for my ambitious, driven father, he wasn’t retired at all, just working on his next career.

Being an artist.

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.

He was admiring the sunset, saying that he could make a ‘whole series’ of paintings around those wonderful colors…

The urge is still there, even if the physical ability is not.

Sometimes, when we’re 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.