+
True
AARP + the Ad Council

Tony Luciani first fell in love with photography after his mother, Elia, fell and broke her hip.

While she was recovering, it became obvious that her memory was noticeably deteriorating, so her brother suggested moving her into a retirement home. But Tony, a full-time painter who worked from home, wouldn't hear of it. He knew that he should be the one to care for her.

Coincidentally, it was around that time that Tony bought a camera to take photos of his artwork.


One day, he was trying out the camera, taking photos in a mirror, when his mom came up to use the bathroom. He told her, "Five more minutes," but after that turned into an hour, he noticed his mom peeking around the corner to see if he was done yet. He caught it on camera.

[rebelmouse-image 19532875 dam="1" original_size="700x567" caption=""Photo Bombing Momma." All photos by Tony Luciani, used with permission." expand=1]"Photo Bombing Momma." All photos by Tony Luciani, used with permission.

"Then she jumped out in front and put her hands up in the air and started going 'blah blah blah blah!' and then waved," says Tony. "And I thought, 'Oh my god, this is so great.'"

The hilarious encounter was the catalyst for Tony's first photo series, "Mamma: In the Meantime."

Elia holding up a mirror with an image of herself as a child in it.

The collaboration between mother and son was a most symbiotic relationship. It reignited Elia's sense of purpose and Tony had an eager, full-time model at his disposal.

"It got to the point where I’d be painting and she’d come over to me and say, 'OK, I’m bored. Let’s do some pictures,'" Tony recalls.

The series was meant to be an homage to her life as well as the struggles of living with dementia. Her memory was leaving her, so he wanted to record as much as she could remember before it was totally lost.

"She’d tell me these stories, and I would jot the ideas down and come up with visuals in my head," Tony says.

When a child has a child. Elia standing with her walker.

"What she remembers most is when she was a little girl," he continues. "She doesn’t remember what happened 10 minutes ago, but she does remember what happened 70, 80 years ago."

Hearing the stories of her youth was especially rewarding for Tony because when he was a kid, she had worked long hours in a sewing factory, so he didn't get to spend much time with her. However, her dedication to her job always impressed him.

Elia was in charge of her entire floor which included 50 sewers who spoke a number of different languages. She actually took it upon herself to learn eight or nine languages just so she could properly communicate with them.

But despite all her language prowess, she'd never really traveled. So Tony took her on a world tour — through photos.

Elia in Egypt.

While they didn't really travel to far-away places — thanks to image editing software — they may as well have, considering the fun they had getting the shots.

Elia in Paris.

"The process of getting the end results is what I remember the most," Tony says. "The laughter and the giggling and the craziness."

Elia balancing on the Great Wall of China.

And as the photos show, his mom had a great time too.

"She felt worthy again," Tony says. "Like her life wasn’t over. And her life isn’t over — and she’s proved that over and over again."

While caring for his mother hasn't always been easy for Tony, what he got in return far outweighed any inconvenience.

Tony and Elia's hands.

Aside from a number of incredible photo series and his mom's memories beautifully immortalized, Tony has also connected with many other people who've either been caregivers or are about to become caregivers.

It all came out of the simple act of posting his photos in photography forums  to get feedback on how he could improve his technique.

"I had photographers saying, 'Oh my gosh, I wish I had done that with my mother or grandmother, but I will do that with my aunt or another loved one.' I think I encouraged people just by posting my photos."

Sadly, Elia no longer remembers her son's name, but Tony is so grateful for the three years he got to spend saying goodbye to her.

[rebelmouse-image 19532882 dam="1" original_size="700x529" caption=""She Ain't Heavy." Elia in Tony's arms." expand=1]"She Ain't Heavy." Elia in Tony's arms.

"My dad died, and I wasn’t there," Tony says. "My brother passed away 15 years ago, and I wasn’t there. I never had the chance to say goodbye. This is my chance to say goodbye, even though she might outlive us all."

When children become their parents' caregivers, there can be many challenges, even if they don't have a degenerative disease like dementia. It can become easy to view them as a stressor or an inconvenience.

Tony's experience with his mother is a testament to what happens when you don't do that. When you listen to your aging loved one and try to find a way to connect with them again, it can change everything.

Even if you don't create art, the effort will leave you with incredible new memories — the likes of which you may have never imagined.

10/10. The Mayyas dance.

We can almost always expect to see amazing acts and rare skills on “America’s Got Talent.” But sometimes, we get even more than that.

The Mayyas, a Lebanese women’s dance troupe whose name means “proud walk of a lioness,” delivered a performance so mesmerizing that judge Simon Cowell called it the “best dance act” the show has ever seen, winning them an almost instant golden buzzer.

Perhaps this victory comes as no surprise, considering that the Mayyas had previously won “Arab’s Got Talent” in 2019 and competed on “Britain’s Got Talent: The Champions.” But truly, it’s what motivates them to take to the stage that’s remarkable.

“Lebanon is a very beautiful country, but we live a daily struggle," one of the dancers said to the judges just moments before their audition. Another explained, “being a dancer as a female Arab is not fully supported yet.”

Nadim Cherfan, the team’s choreographer, added that “Lebanon is not considered a place where you can build a career out of dancing, so it’s really hard, and harder for women.”

Still, Cherfan shared that it was a previous “AGT” star who inspired the Mayyas to defy the odds and audition anyway. Nightbirde, a breakout singer who also earned a golden buzzer before tragically passing away in February 2021 due to cancer, had told the audience, “You can't wait until life isn't hard anymore before you decide to be happy.” The dance team took the advice to heart.

For the Mayyas, coming onto the “AGT” stage became more than an audition opportunity. Getting emotional, one of the dancers declared that it was “our only chance to prove to the world what Arab women can do, the art we can create, the fights we fight.”

Keep ReadingShow less
Joy

5 easy ways to practice self care

Because taking care of yourself should never feel like a chore

Sometimes in the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life we forget the important things: like taking care of ourselves. While binge watching your favorite show and ordering take out can be just the treat-yourself-thing you need, your body might not always feel the same. So we’re bringing you 5 easy ways to practice self-care that both you and your body will thank us for.

Keep ReadingShow less
via Pexels

Three people engaged in conversation at a party.

There are some people who live under the illusion that everything they say is deeply interesting and have no problem wasting your time by rambling on and on without a sign of stopping. They’re the relative, neighbor or co-worker who can’t take a hint that the conversation is over.

Of all these people, the co-worker who can’t stop talking may be the most challenging because you see them every day in a professional setting that requires politeness.

There are many reasons that some people talk excessively. Therapist F. Diane Barth writes in Psychology Today that some people talk excessively because they don’t have the ability to process complex auditory signals, so they ramble on without recognizing the subtle cues others are sending.

It may also be a case of someone who thinks they’re the most interesting person in the conversation.

Keep ReadingShow less