Dementia can alter someone's personality and change how how they interact with the world. But sometimes, it can also lead to moments of profound connection. Jenny McPhee writes about one of those moments in her piece, which is read by Zoe Saldana.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Modern love the pod cast supported by while tax state isn't a holiday. It is an opportunity when you open and fund of Fidelity Retail Irae there, no account fees and no minimums plus you could help lower your taxable income for the twenty twenty one taxi air there's still time to make attack smart meant of severe fidelity, dot com, slash irey today. Investing involves risk, including risk of loss, fidelity brokerage services, member and why I see as a pc. produced by the island at W B. You are Boston.
Oh the from the New York Times and W B. You are Boston. This is modern. The stories of love loss and redemption. I'm your host magnet Chakrabarti. The dimension can alter someone's personality and change how they interact with the world, but sometimes it can also lead to moments of profound connection, Jenny, Mcphee, writes about one of those moments in her piece, crushing a mother's memory with love and stories, It's right by Zoe Saldana, she started in avatar and guardians of the galaxy, and you can see her in April in missing. Link, though, is all
the founder of Bee, say a new media platform aiming to represent communities that have been left out of mainstream conversations. My mother is slowly losing her mind. This fact as well as all the tragic repercussions along the way takes up a large chunk of my chats with my four sisters. And with many of my friends who are going through similar issues with their parents. Recently, my mother's, bariatric specialist, told me there was a significant he's in those sixty and older. My mother is eighty one particularly among women and no one really knows why I later Joe, one of my sisters, with women having to endure so much injustice throughout their lives. It was perhaps a relief to forget it all. But that's just me being cynical. The story is not cynical. I have a large family.
and at Thanksgiving, we were thirty five sitting around several tables in my mother's dining room and that didn't even include us all My mother once flourished in a crowd playing the perfect hostess, making every guest feel as if his or her presence was crucial nowadays, any gathering beyond her five daughters, flusters her and she often retreats to her bedroom. During the Thanksgiving celebration, she pulled me aside and said with panic, Jenny who are all these people and what are they doing in my house? I feel so strange to be here with all these people- I don't I reassured her that I felt the same way and truth. I was relieved that she had remembered my name and knew she was in her own house. I live in dread of a day when she won't
We returned to the party, and I like a politician's aide- did what I have become good at, in her subtle reminders of home. She is talking to where she is. What day month year, it is etc. I also indulge in impatient snaps her for the high probability that she won't remember them, my mother for her part as brilliant at faking it after a lifetime of faking it in all sorts of ways as a mode of resilience. She is still an expert compensating for her memory. Lost with skill and Greece. The fact that my eighty five year old Father and his ninety two year old brother, their minds, razor sharp, were at that things giving tables around it by their present wives and their former wives spoke volumes of the expertise women have developed in accommodating men and indeed patriarch
Early on my mother was a traditional stay at home. Mom sewing her daughter's clothes and overseeing all things domestic though she harbored a secret desire to be. the writer like so many women of her generation. Instead of pursuing her dream, she married it, though my father was working at a shipping. Bunny, then his literary ambitions were paramount and he went on to become a professional writer After my parents separated in nineteen sixty nine, I was seven, my mother Again, to build a robust business as a portrait and wedding photographer, she recently told me that, although she would never have chosen to get divorced, she was ultimately glad because otherwise she might never have been forced to discover what she was capable of following her divorce. She
came active in the local chapter of the National Organisation for women was a co founder of writers, collective dedicated to analyzing gender roles and children's media and was a copy oh sure, of two seminal books on sex stereotyping in children's books and primetime tv. During my childhood she was the breadwinner, the working mom, her second husband, a stay at home, dad who brought five children of his own to the man at the time. The domestic arrangement was so unusual that people mag Dean ran a feature on our family. With my stepfather, she had a fifth daughter Joan eleven years. My junior. When we were growing up our mother radiated ambition, possibility and strength, but above all, she radiated love for us ultimately pushing us out into the world to shine on our own.
And now my four sisters- and I are terrified of a time when our mother won't recognize us. We know that day is coming. Three days after Thanksgiving, it arrived from my sister Joan. My mother had gone with Joan to have dinner with her in laws in Brooklyn
They were sitting next to each other at the table, surrounded by others. When my mother turned to Joan and sad so remind me, how did we meet taken aback Joan, replied, mom you give birth to me. Well then, she said hesitantly. Why widen I raise you, you did mom Overwhelmed Joan excused herself saying. Let me get you some water, perhaps Joan hoped mom's lapse was because of too much wine, not enough water. Often we sisters console ourselves with the thought about our There that, when the circumstances are right, no alcohol, adequate hydration a lot of sleep familiar setting. She does well her memory nearly intact during the
he's giving holiday Joan reasoned mom had become overtired from having too much family all at once and for too many days. Joan rose from the table and went into the kitchen crying mom followed, Joan, not one
Imaam to see how upset she was moved to a bedroom. Mom followed, don't cry, please mom urged her when they were alone. Are you crying because you think I don't love you ooh? No Joan said, I know you love me. Are you crying for me? Mom asked Jones, had nothing mom took Jones' hand and held it tightly. This is me getting old. She said it is neither easy nor pleasant, but if I can get through this, so can you please know that. I love you and brace yourself, because this is who I am now Jones sobbed her hands still in our
There's it's not that I don't love you mom said I love you absolutely it's just that you have slipped from my mind these things. They have been and this thing this thing will happen again and again, but I love you. I love you so much JO steers were by now a torrent. She felt awful for making our mother worried. For making her feel ashamed of her failing mind. I know you love me mom. She said honey
Mother said, I don't know your name right now, but you must trust that I will always know exactly who you are so do this. For me, tell me everything. I want a new every last detail where you were born where you went to high school in college. What do you do for a living? If you are married? Do you have children come back to the table and sit down next to me and tell me all of it? Since Joan told me this story, her devastation is also mine, but because, not happen to me directly, my looming question is like a survivor's. Why, Joan? Why not me.
My sisters and I are so closely- I draw great strength from them on an almost daily basis, this gift of unity. I a tribute to my mother, so why John? There are rational explanations like the fact that John lives in MOSS Angela's, or that in memory terms, she was the last one in and therefore the first to go. but none of those work for me, mom has always had a special love for Joan, not greater just different. Perhaps that is because she's, the youngest unique in her combination of parents and as such, in a sense an only child though she has nine siblings. Perhaps it's because she was and is a bridge between the two families or because, as a child, she was very serious and always attached, sickly or because Jones Father, her primary caretaker, died while she was still in college.
Mom has been profoundly protective of us all, but a little more so of Joan that mom managed to muster a magical, mystical self for Joan in that very difficult moment, for both of them that she could speak above and beyond. In spite of her memory that she was able to dig deep and find her brightness. I a to her particular love for Joan that evening. In Brooklyn, Joan did as mom asked and recounted her life story our mother could have forgotten any of us and one day she surely well, but her lucidity amid terrible confusion driven by powerful love, has given us a way forward. She has affirmed for us the extraordinary power of a mother's love, as if that love Lover, a force like gravity governing who we are
and how we behave as human beings during our orbit it so he sold on reading Jenny, MC fees, peace, refreshing, a mother's memory with long and storms will catch up with Johnny after the break I laughed felling, my boyfriend and I often play stalling, be together by together. I been sitting next to it they're playing individually and not cheating. Sometimes when I open up spelling bee- and I see that you have completed a few words on your own, I feel a little betrayed
It may have happened again. I have one friend who I will send screenshots from spelling bee of inappropriate words. Then I was get nervous. I sent it to my parents or something like that me and my dad. We like to play spy together, and I wish her out. I it J see K, P, o t yeah right nice, I'm same as earth's sky, the digital puzzles editor for the New York Times. You can try, spelling bee and all our games. At N Y Times dot com, slash games, Jenny, Mcqueen Essay was first published in two thousand and seventeen since then, her mother's dementia has progressed further and she doesn't recognize Jenny anymore and her mother has also lost her sense of the passage of time. Most of the time she thinks she's about. Eighteen
but then she'll be thirty. Five, the next minute, she's very rarely, eighty two, so it all shifts and you kind of as our interlocutor you know just trying to keep up like. Where are you now? It's also spatial, so she doesn't. Agnes that she's in her own home, she often thinks she's in her childhood home. So what is the brain doing there? It's just going all over the place,
Rights to to memories, our stories are, though, who knows what it is, but it has very little what we call coherence and I try and just be with her in it. There have been other changes too and in some ways an unexpected silver lining can be brutally honest, she's a much nicer person she and she was always lovely and everybody adored her, but she had a side to her. That was that had an edge and she could be very manipulative. She cannot be manipulative now at all so she's just lovely, and I feel really lucky, because I know with dementia that it can go many different ways, but she went soft. She went just very sad
often carrying and an ice. Every time I walk into her house in New Jersey. She comes up to me and she just throws her arms around me and says: oh, I'm so happy to see you and she has no idea who I am but she knows something that gives her that impulse to do that with me, and it makes me feel, like you know, the most beautiful important, wonderful person on earth. and Jenny still thinks about the moment she wrote about in her peace. So this experience is heartbreaking from beginning to end, but mom in this experience with Joan that I done wrote about kind of show.
what does how to be with her? I feel like she really just wants us to be present with her in the moment, and it is an incredible gift at the same I miss it being really really difficult. It's also an an alternate way of being in our world, and I am sort of grateful for that experience. Jenny Mckay she's. The author of the novels, the center of things: no, ordinary matter and a man
of no moon. She works and teaches at anyway. You in Princeton and lives in New York City with her family. I love spelling. If I find- and I often play following me together by together, I mean sitting next to each other playing individually and not cheating. Sometimes when I open up spelling bee- and I see that you have completed a few words on your own, I feel a little betrayed. It may have happened again. I have one friend: who I will send screenshots from spelling bee of inappropriate words. Then I was get nervous. I sent it to my parents or something like that
me and my dad. We like a sponge together, and I wish to point out- I it said a c K. P o t yeah now run nice, I'm same is asking the digital puzzles editor for the New York Times. You can try, spelling bee and all our games at annoying times dot com, Flash Games, Daniel Jones is editor of the modern love column for the New York Times, he says that over the years many people have written in with stories about dementia and Alzheimer's, and he's asked himself why it's such a compelling subject. I wonder if it's not that you know for writers in particular but for everyone we are made up of stories and memories like that is
is who we are and what defines us and what I thought Jenny did so artfully in her essay was illustrate the poignancy of that, but then turn to know. How do we cope with that this case you cope with it by trying to fill in those memories again and try to like refill her life with memories and touchstones and, like desperately as the the bucket is draining out memories and facts and relationships, they're sort desperately trying to pour it back in because that's what they need, you know and that's what both people need, but the kids more than the mother to feel like who am I without this relationship? And what is this relationship, if not for the stories that make it up and here's Zoe Saldana, I chose
this aside, because I am one of three sisters- and I guess I am very much in love, mother and my sisters are as well. And now that we're in our early Ortiz and my mom is in her sixties. to wonder? You know that that time will come one day when you will probably have to take care of your mom and your mom may not know who you are and no wonder. How will I react to that, but will that feel like it's dread? You know, you'd read it, but I think that accepting it as much as you can and living in the present really help. So this essay was very healing and kind of like a prep for me for very distant future, hopefully, for us,
Thanks again to zero for reading this week's peace, she's an actor mother activist and entrepreneurs and upcoming movie is missing, link everyone. This is modern love producer keeping Keith and before we get to the credits today, there is a little something we ve gotta. Do I'm sick the studio with magna and sound designer map. Reed and former modern love producer, Emory seaports in and were here because we ve got to say goodbye to are incredible colleague, Jessica Albert Jessica has been on the show since its beginning in the fall of two thousand and fifteen, and she has been instrumental in creating the show and making it everything that it is she's a force of nature, sure she's somebody who's just able to see the world, in a certain way and then will that into being she's, been
Mentor and a friend, and today is her last day and we are absolutely heartbroken to say goodbye to her in fending off my ugly cry me too. Is a safe space to let it out. Okay, somebody else- and you said that, because I choose to go- am ok well. This is an area I worked on the show with Jessica for two plus years. Think, and you know The idea was always to have actors come in and read these beautiful essays, but I think Jessica was really the force behind we are going to get atlas talent. Just wait you know I was. Why was booking people with her? A kind of thought. Well, if she says we're going to do it, we're going to do it somehow and I will never that it was in the fall of twenty fifteen, so Biunno several months before the show and launched
we're just sitting next to each other, sending out our booking emails and all of a sudden Jessica, let's at one of her classic, next to me and I said what what and she said. I got a response. From a really big name and. I just had this feeling like that's it. We can do this we can do this and it was because of Jess because of her belief that we could but also just that classic persistence that you know, makes her. producer? She is and the person she is and and the woman that she is so I just feel tremendously lucky to have gotten work with her and learn from her for all these years. My gosh, I don't know how to follow those. I yeah. I love you. Does a guy do okay, so I I have worked with Jessica Oprah for eight years and do you know how.
Ooh you everybody does that's right, you just dream of all of the things that you wish for in your perfect supervisor, she's that yeah right. She really is and she's. So smart really aims for lake excellence in everything that she does and she's. So nice and so kind and so strong and so I and so generous, so generous and so funny she's, the mom of twins, so like there's that too she's a miracle yeah she
she and our our other partner in crime or former partner in crime. John Karate are off to form a company together that I mean like. Could you think of more of a power duo than the two of them they're going to take over podcast yeah? They are and Matt Jon has been a friend of yours for a long time, and was you know a mentor for you as well? Do you want to talk a little bit about him and about Jessica yeah? So I came into the show about two years ago and I was pretty I was pretty green to it and Jess and and John
and were two huge, just guiding lights for me last week I didn't get to say anything about John, but John showed me the ropes, and my best hope is that I can continue what he set up when he started. Here's here's to the goal of trying to to keep up the same quality with you know as hard as that is going to be, and he said I am so excited about what they're going to do yeah. I can't wait to see what can I say one more thing: if any out there listening thinking, I don't know these people, I just like your pride, cannot. Why should I care about these people? I just want you to know that how you function in a team mad, and how you celebrate the work of the people around you that make that work possible and make that better matters.
and in many cases and on many projects like modern love, it makes all the difference in the world and we're glad that you listen and we hope that what we make matters to you Modern love is the production of the New York Times and W B you are Boston, NPR station, its produced direct an edited by Jessica, Alpert and Caitlin O'Keefe scoring and sound design by Matt Reed Adler's our executive producer, Daniel Jones, the editor of the modern love column for the New York Times and adviser to the show special thanks to Samantha, an egg on your streamline and meal. We ask the New York Times the idea, for the modern. My pod cast was conceived by visiting additional music for the past courtesy of APL. I'm making Chakravarti see you next week
Transcript generated on 2022-04-16.