One of the most moving sets of portraits I’ve ever seen on Flickr is wmacphail’s photoset Parents which portrays his mother and father — his mother suffering from Alzheimers. In one photo she is seen interacting with her teddy bear “Baby”, then in another portrait she is looking it, confused. And then there is this extraordinary double portrait of both parents, and, my favorite, his father in Jerry’s Diner.
When I was 15, my mother got me a job at the local nursing home. I wanted to work at the snack shop at the beach club — roast hot dogs, flirt with lifeguards — but she insisted I take the sad job in the sad place where so many people were baffled and afraid, and where it smelled like pee. I asked her years later why she made me do it, and she said, “To teach you compassion.”