For A Father With Alzheimer's, Life 'Came Down To Love'

Oct 22, 2013
Originally published on October 22, 2013 10:19 am

Five years after Ken Morganstern was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, he sat down with his daughters Priya Morganstern and Bhavani Jaroff to talk about some of the memories he had left.

At 81, he couldn't see and he needed some prompting from time to time, but family stayed strong in his memory.

He remembered that his dad was an easygoing guy, nicknamed "Happy Harry." "I had a lot of his characteristics, I think," he said.

Priya asked him if he wished he had gotten anything in life that he didn't get. "I have no regrets on anything," he responded. "I have a family that I love. And they're loving people. That's the biggest thing you can leave is a ..."

"Legacy," Bhavani said.

"Legacy, yeah."

The interview was first broadcast in 2006, and Ken died a year later. His daughters recently came back to a StoryCorps booth to talk about his legacy.

"I remember one time we stopped for a bagel and he's taking a bite and he goes, 'Who would have ever thought eating blind could be so much fun. Every bite's a surprise!' " Bhavani, now 56, says.

His daughters say they listen to the original interview often.

"I think my father had the opportunity to say what was important in his life," Bhavani says. "And it really came down to love."

Audio produced for Morning Edition by Michael Garofalo with Yasmina Guerda.

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This week we're looking back on 10 years of StoryCorps, revisiting some of the conversations we've heard on this program. Today we go back to 2006, when Ken Morganstern, who was living with Alzheimer's Disease, sat down to talk with his daughters.

PRIYA MORGANSTERN: I'm Priya Morganstern.

KEN MORGANSTERN: Excuse me. Can you raise the volume?

MORGANSTERN: Oh, you want me to speak louder? I can raise my voice.

MORGANSTERN: Yeah. Louder. Yeah.

MORGANSTERN: OK. Let me turn the dial. I'm going to be interviewing my father today with my sister, Bhavani. Dad, why don't you say your name and how old you are?

MORGANSTERN: I'm Ken Morganstern. Hmm, I think 81. Is that right?



MORGANSTERN: So let's talk about your kids a little bit.

MORGANSTERN: We had four kids. Is that the right number?



JAROFF: Who are they?

MORGANSTERN: You. Who else? There's a man in there.



MORGANSTERN: David, yeah.

JAROFF: Oh, Dad.

MORGANSTERN: David is not going to be too happy when he listens to this, Dad.

JAROFF: Who's the best kid?


MORGANSTERN: He was actually the best kid. No, he definitely was.


MORGANSTERN: And you see us all a lot still. Right, Dad?



JAROFF: Priya was asking if you still see us a lot.

MORGANSTERN: What are you talking about?


JAROFF: We're just asking you a question.

MORGANSTERN: Yeah. What's your life like now, Dad?

MORGANSTERN: Oh, it's a wonderful life. I get up in the morning, go to sleep at night, and in between, eat three meals.


MORGANSTERN: It's a nice thing that it's so easy to make you happy, Dad.

JAROFF: Dad, was there anything that you wished you had gotten in life that you didn't get?

MORGANSTERN: I have no regrets on anything. I have a family that I love. And they're loving people. That's the biggest thing you can leave is a...

JAROFF: Legacy.

MORGANSTERN: Legacy, yeah.

MORGANSTERN: I want to tell you, Dad, that I've always considered you my guru and teacher.

MORGANSTERN: Well, thank you.

JAROFF: I would say the same. You've created such love around you, and we want to be with you.

MORGANSTERN: Thank you, honey. That's awfully nice to hear.


GREENE: Now, Ken Morganstern died in 2007. His daughters recently came back to StoryCorps to remember him.

MORGANSTERN: It was very easy to be patient with him, because he was delightful. I mean, he was blind, but he would always say: It's a beautiful day outside. And, of course, he couldn't really see. It could be raining or gray, but it was, like, yeah, beautiful day.

JAROFF: I remember one time, we stopped for a bagel, and he's taking a bite, and he goes: Who would have ever thought eating blind could be so much fun?


JAROFF: Every bite's a surprise. That's how my father was.

MORGANSTERN: He was so present for us when we were kids, that I actually grew up thinking that he didn't work during the summer, because I thought he was always there.

JAROFF: I remember him putting us to sleep. And he would just give us little, tiny kisses all over our face and on our eyelids and...

MORGANSTERN: Oh, yes, little baby kisses.

JAROFF:'d just go off to sleep. It was the best.

MORGANSTERN: The night that he passed, we were all there, telling funny stories and singing. And we played the clip at his funeral. And it was just like he was there.

JAROFF: Yeah. I listen to that clip often. I think my father had the opportunity to say what was important in his life, and it really came down to love.

MORGANSTERN: We were very lucky, really, really lucky.


GREENE: That's Bhavani Jaroff and Priya Morganstern remembering their father Ken Morganstern at StoryCorps. Both their interviews will be archived at the Library of Congress, and we'll hear more from StoryCorps throughout this week. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.