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Two years ago, Tony Luciani's mother Elia broke her hip. Soon thereafter, she was diagnosed with dementia — and found herself unable to live on her own.

Elia and Tony Luciani. All photos courtesy of Tony Luciani.


"I brought her [into my home], and around that time, I had purchased a new camera," Tony said.

The camera would need to be tested, and Elia's presence in the house gave Tony — a visual artist who had planned to use the camera to photograph his paintings — something he had never before sought: a human subject.

"I said, 'OK mom, you're a good model. Stay still.'"

What started as an attempt to learn the camera's buttons and dials turned into a massive project, spanning 21 months and 93 photos — many inspired by Elia's fading memories.

"My mom would remember things that happened 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80 years ago," Tony said. "But she wouldn't remember things that happened five, 10 minutes ago. So in order to keep a conversation going, she would tell stories of what she knew."

Those stories became the basis for some of his photographs — playful, often haunting portraits that fuse Elia's past and current realities.

"I just thought it was a great way for me and her to connect while she was with me; otherwise, she'd just be sitting there and reading a magazine," he said.

Elia walks, tethered to a shadow.

"She was my caregiver as a kid, and now those roles have changed," Tony said.

At first, including his mother in the photography project was an attempt to help her feel productive, since Elia is no longer able to help with household tasks.

It quickly became clear that Elia was not only an evocative subject, but an eager and able collaborator.

"She's always been someone who participated and gave more than she received."

Elia pushes her walker.

Elia was born in Italy in 1923, and was married at the age of 13.

"She was 16 when she had her first son," Tony said. "So that image for me was the story of her when she was a young girl, being a mother at that age."

Elia holds up a mirror, containing a portrait of her as a young girl.

Elia looks through binoculars.

After immigrating to Canada in 1955, Elia worked as a seamstress in garment factory in Toronto, overseeing and training new hires — often immigrants themselves. Doing so required learning their languages: Spanish, French, German, Korean.

These days, she spends twice a week in a program with other seniors, where she often finds herself helping those who can't read.

"She likes that, only because she becomes the teacher again," Tony said.

Elia's face appears in portrait above her clothes.

Elia bursts through a portrait of her younger self.

Elia tries a rolling jump.

Despite her short-term memory loss, Elia remains physically active and enjoys getting out of the house when she can.

"She goes out and walks her route. She'll sit under a tree sometimes, or she'll sit on a park bench on her own," Tony said.

Elia combs her hair.

Elia and Tony hold hands.

Tony's transition to full-time caretaker has been lonely at times, but he considers the loss of independence a worthwhile trade for what he's gotten in return.

"I'm doing more work, and I'm not at the beach. I'm at the studio and I'm creating and I'm doing photographs," he said. "And with her here as my model, it's every artist's dream to have a model that I can call — and there she is."

Elia and Tony take an old-school selfie.

"She's become a real voice in my art," Tony said.

Beyond the art, Tony says that the project made him rethink his relationship with his mom.

"Here I thought, initially, I was going to be the brave guy and take her into my home, rather than shoving her into a nursing home or assisted living, and having my life disrupted and all that.

"But what I got out of it was more than I gave."

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Making a priceless memory

Upon first glance, one might think that Jillian Lynch wore a traditional (read: expensive) dress to her wedding. After all, it did look glamorous on her. But this 32-year-old bride has a secret superpower: thrifting.

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"Mom missed the memo it was parent day, and the reason her mom missed the memo was her dad left Wednesday," said Alexis Perry-Rodriguez, Addie's mom. She continued, "It was really heartbreaking to see your daughter standing out there being the only one without their father, knowing why he's away. It's not just an absentee parent. He's serving our country."

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Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.