A man’s best friend isn’t his dog; it’s his father. The first thing I saw on dayswithmyfather.com was a picture of an elderly man wearing a fuzzy sleep mask. To the right, there was a title reading, “Days with My Father,” and on the left was a caption, urging you to “click the bottom of each page to continue.”
Intrigued, I followed the instructions and became increasingly engrossed with the story. The author, Phillip Toledano, focuses on his father who suffered from short-term memory loss. The site, according to Toledano, is “an ongoing record of my father, and of our relationship. For whatever days we have left together.”
It’s an overwhelmingly sad story. His father couldn’t even remember the death of his wife or his brother because of his memory problems. He would write questions on scraps of paper asking, “Where is everyone? What’s going on?” He was lost in a world he couldn’t remember. The grief, however, wasn’t what made this story touching, it was the glimpses of joy and happiness interspersed throughout.
One of those glimpses was a picture of Toledano’s father with cookies on his chest with the caption “My father is very funny. I put these little cookies on his chest, and he said-‘look at my titties!’ How can you not laugh?”
How can’t you?
Toledano talked about his father’s achievements; he told us how he was an amazing storyteller, a very handsome man, an actor and an artist, and talked about how his father was so appreciative, kind, funny and loving. It was amazing to see how much he loved and admired his dad.
The one thing that really tugged the heartstrings was a photo of his father watching himself in a Charlie Chan detective movie from the 30s. The photo made you realize how fleeting and precious life is, and how media can be so permanent and wonderful. You see an old man looking into his past through a movie, and you see his son looking at his father’s life through pictures. It’s amazing how much information and emotion a single picture can convey. I honestly think that Toledano did everything perfectly with this story. I wouldn’t change a single thing.
From this site, I learned storytelling is strongest when there’s multiple mediums. The pictures by themselves were highly emotional, but would lose a lot of context without the author’s words. Likewise, the text was saturated with feelings, but wouldn’t have had the same punch without the photos. However, this doesn’t mean you always need to have both, sometimes a picture is all you need. For example, the picture of Toledano’s father sitting in his green chair spoke for itself. You could see all the emotion in his father’s face, no words required.
I also learned storytelling is an art form. Much like painting or playing an instrument, it takes practice to know what works effectively, and Phillip Toledano, by the looks of it, has had a lot of practice.
Unfortunately for me, I’m just a beginning writer, so I’m an amateur storyteller. I highly recommend you go check out Phillip Toledano’s memoir for his father at dayswithmyfather.com. It’s amazing to see what the man can do with a few pixels and words.