« Modern Love

Questions I Can’t Ask My Father

2023-02-22 | 🔗

In her early 20s, Annabelle Allen longed to know what her dad had been like when he was her age. How did he spend his Saturdays? What was his first impression of her mom? When did he feel lonely? But Annabelle’s dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at age 62, and ever since, memories of his past had started slipping away.

Recently, Annabelle was cleaning up her parents’ storage bin when she made an incredible discovery: more than a dozen of her dad’s old journals. They were a gift that gave her a window into her father’s past — and strengthened their connection in the present. After Annabelle’s essay, she shares an update on her father and reflects on the ways they have both been caring for one another.

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Today's podcast cast is brought. You buy chanel in nineteen. Fifty two marilyn monroe revealed that all she were too bad was chanel number five. What is the truth? Rare worthy? Where are you up and To choose, truth is forever an encounter between a woman and her perfume chanel number five. My grandma christine Lou, showed her love in a lot of ways. She held my hand really tightly when we took walks around the neighbourhood. She took these elaborate chinese meals, never let my plato empty and towards the end. Her life? She started sending me emails. I loved these emails.
English was her second language, so I knew she worked really hard on them. I like to picture her front of her giant, desktop computer, carefully, typing out reminders to study hard to say, thank you to my mom and to find a boyfriend, preferably a nice trainees. One. about a year before she died. Migrants Send me an email that I immediately knew was different object line. Was life story dear anna I didn't tell you that in the past years I have been right some of my story and something happening in my life. I'm ending a copy of the writing to you to see? If you can understand my english, this is my first time, writing in english, and many chinese customs and thinkings will be difficult for you to comprehensively grasped the ideas. Lots of love, I could hear her voice as I read that email and I couldn't stop crying
grandma had attached a document, and I started scrolling through pages and pages of her memories. Her first date with my grandpa, in the summer day in Taiwan? imprisoned for her political beliefs. Moving to the eu, as a young mother, all these things I'd never heard before that she was choosing now to share with me that it was a gift, my grandma was giving me her story, a story I could on two in a story the chair, even after she was gone. from the new york times. I'm Anna Martin. This is modern. Love in today's essay. A daughter is losing her father. She need something to hold onto. and she discovers his story in his own words. The usa is called the day. His journal went blank,
it's written by Annabel Alan and read by frank corso, my father stood in the kitchen eating re, fried beans right out of the can. He was listening to Paul Simon, singing grace land on repeat this went on for twenty minutes. He finally said: hey Alexa, why don't we take a break ha as if the speaker, where a child who had taken too many turns on the slide air, let's pressed for a little better than he had the speaker and gently shushed,
Alex I turn off, I said, and the kitchen fell silent. My father gave me a look the same. Look he used to give me when I was ten and didn't want to call my grandmother a look of a lesson to impart. Yes, I said next time he said see. Please five years ago, when my father was sixty two? He learned he had alzheimer's disease over the last few years, my mother and I have watched his decline. He forgot his friends names and can no longer read every morning he sits in a baby. Blue poker ought tower and waits for one of us to prompt him to start his day. My mother will say: come in here and get dressed honey brush your teeth, honey come drink some more.
Jews, honey. I look at other fathers who make money and pancakes and kissed their wives, and I feel depressed for how small my father's world has become. I see how my mother is nervous to take him to dinner parties where the other husbands talk about work and politics, while asks over and over. If frank sinatra is alive, when I graduated from college two years ago, I started splitting my time between my apartment in brooklyn and my parents house and hastings on hudson,
every week I pack a bag and take the train thirty miles north to help with the caregiving. I struggle to understand myself as a twenty three year old, who is also taking care of apparent, I feel stiff when my roommates got dressed for work and ask which shoes I like, I don't know what to say when they talk about their goals, what they want to do where they want to live, they sound so sure of their freedom and choices. It's not that I don't have plans for myself or I dislike shoes, but I have a hard time offering style advice or talking about my dreams when my life is all about my father, who calls me mommy in front of the neighbours I often wish. I could ask my father who he was at twenty three. I wish I could ask what his
I'd habits were or how he treated his mother or what he did on saturdays, but he can't remember his past anymore. So I try to ask him other questions dad. What do you love about mom dat? What is your favorite thing about yourself dead? Do you like to cry I shake him up like a magic, a ball and throw him as many questions as I can impatient. Does he searches for words and pronunciations but we often under playing charades, as I guess at the words he can't remember,.
a few months ago, my parents and I were organizing the storage and in the basement of our apartment, building we dug through yellowed superman comic, send water damaged concert, tickets and underneath I uncovered a chest of my father's old journals, teen or so composition, notebooks dating from nineteen, seventy eight to two thousand and two, and they have been a gift. My father wrote about self doubt and fear and all the things that brought him joy. He also wrote about riding his bike around brooklyn reporting for small newspapers and getting off the subway at seventh avenue to walk home through the until I read those journals. I had no idea, he done those things and the similarities between us stunned me. I have spent the last two years, working as a rapporteur for small brooklyn papers,
and every sunday heading home for my parents and hastings, I too take that walk home from seventh avenue. When I read my father's entries, I feel less lost. I copy his sentences into my own journal and sight his wisdom. When I speak to my friends, my mother gave me permission to quote a few of them on September. Ninth nineteen. You won. He wrote I want to stand up outside between the cars head blowing in the wind and scream
Scream until I nearly start living start living my dream, I need something too much time and too little touch in my life. Lately loneliness can kill, I believe, a few months later, on February tenth, ninety ninety two, I feel guilty. Like a kid. I want to dance. She called suzanne from brooklyn. Yes, she loved out again so its branch and watching the play off that her play sunday. God I feel happy suzanne is my mother, and it was through these journals that I learned how much my father loves her later. He wrote last night after eleven, spurred by the phone call, I danced in the kitchen in the dark.
stone song. I danced alongside old ghosts and laughed at them, whether china shaky means are embrace a new dream dancing in the dark, always felt guide. His journals showed me how much he loves his friends and how much he loves me, every entry from ninety ninety seven to two thousand to mentions little and about what I wasn't prepared for was the moment the entries stopped on April ten
If two thousand to my father wrote about me singing tomorrow from the musical annie in the bathroom and then the next page is blank, and so is the next and the one. After that I slipped through wide eyed in denial. I didn't want this version of my father to be over. As I read that last entry he and I were sitting on the couch with Ellen on tv. She was playing burning questions with bradley cooper, but their exchanges were too quick for him, so he stared at the rugged. Instead, I thought about the scenes. I'd just read my father.
calling his friends at midnight to tell them a joke riding the subway and reading the paper asking my mother to dance watching him now ass. He gazed at the rug. I was afraid of how much he had lost and would continue to lose dad. I said yes, do you love mom. he laughed. Of course I took a breath and turned off the tv how to join him in the moment, because that is all we have. How much do you love her What do you mean how much he laughed again? One court. And you love me a gallon. Yes, he said this much. He understood
very many gallons after the break, I talked to Annabel about caring for her dad and how he cares for her. That's next. annabel, it's great to have you in the studio. Welcome to modern love, high energy- it's great to be here, so you wrote this essay almost two years ago. How was your dad doing now, if simplify in other good days and bad days a good day
Is one outside with my dad? We live in this affair. Men in hearings on hudson, but outside is like this gorgeous. lord, it's right by the hudson river and last weekend, his kind. Stressful morning, just energy wise in the house, so folk to be outside and add ons like dad how about we yell so loud right now and he like good idea and just screaming at the water hands on our knees, absolutely giving at our all, while he thought me screaming was hilarious thing. He'd ever you know he's like go girl and its. killing am and he was screaming to yes, we're like needed. That tell me about what a bad day looks. Like I say. Bad day. Is him showing frustrations about his limits,
He picks at his nails And the nail picking is a manifestation of that for nations, you really, I see him doing and he is now really been an anxious person is always the mai com parent. He has lost with his vocabulary. He recently lost the word. like tissue and banana and shoes healthy, the what's it called Can you get me the the thou? What's a calm and his large about the bathroom, that's new. For me, you know to see my dad in those moments and see how frustrated that he is being himself. how do you react in those moments to call him with him to show me understand for myself. I I struggle with the panic. I feel to see a pair. And struggling, I think that's always kind of upsetting, but
I say I have you it's ok, I have you. I said I'm taking care of you. Think when I was younger, I tried to have him pass and appear as functioning and There is social and I would hide his limitations from him Never what I say you have alzheimer's you'd, never say that out loud directly to him yeah. I think then a little bit more directly about it. Now and that being so, we'll say to him like you're. Ok, I understand you have trouble with your memory, but I've aloud to be flawed and the people who are around him if they love, I will allow that to. He doesn't have to nail it socially. At a dinner party. He can say some weird stuff in that fine if you want to stick around, If you want to hang out with us, it might be awkward, sometimes Do you and your mom have a plan for your dad's care in the future.
Well he's actually going a home in the next couple weeks. That's really soon yeah I'm gonna be home that weak and I think have you or your mom. You haven't told him that he is a plan for telling him, I think we will say something like hey, you're gonna go here for a little bit or travel Oh god, I don't know, monies lay to answer your question. No, dont, have a plan on what to say. Well, ok, how do you and your mom share taking care of him now my dad came and stayed with me in brooklyn in the fall gave me. her vacation weekend and. We went to the movies online. Came to and monitor the bathroom
ok, go dad, got the men's and his sick a minute, so I go in there too Rescue him or attend to whatever is how an angle you cinnamon and that it was just taking law. Where then yeah I just go he's having trouble with his bell. Did you pausing think like Should I go winner? Was it just like I'm going in my dad's on ongoing in justice support I'm sure there. when there be like, what's up with this guy, how come his pants down How come his belt is in the sink he needed a buddy. It's just it's just an act of love to help keep someone Alive and have them feel good and cared for. I think I refuse to feel shame helping him in that intimate way in when it also happens to be public. Life is too short to care.
Has there been a time recently where you ve been able to connect with your dad outside of being his caretaker yeah? I was going to break up at the time and he's the best kind of throw advice off of, and I was just expressing some hurts and he was like me on you're gonna be ok and he's never harsh like that, and I was like, if he's telling me to move on. Rest assured. I will move on to your still able to have these moments where If you feel like he's hearing you and he's understanding what you're saying you just might not tell me he might not remember it in a couple hours. Definitely he won't know like after that's the apartment after the movie hidden? Remember, though, we ve been to a movie, so there is. That is upsetting when
something feel some meaningful to me in its absolutely cleared his consciousness to her, but we are still able to connect Definitely I will call him and share something that plaguing me and he gets that he gets the sentiment of that and he gets it enough for he's like I will be here for her. Animal thank you so much for coming in and talking to me about your dad, and I thank you for asking Modern. Love is produced by julie, about taro, Christina Josiah, illicit deadly enhance bhutto. its edited by Sarah saracens. This episode was by Sophia landmine our show is.
What did by mattie masilo dan, I will created our modern love, be music, a region, music in this episode by Lee should be took me lozano show her marrow feel landmine and patrick. Ask her digital production by me, much bologna and now globally, special to Anna diamond at autumn. The modern column is edited by Daniel jones mealy Is the editor of modern must projects I met a martin thanks for listening.
Transcript generated on 2023-02-23.