Before the Alzheimers by Barbara Higgens

Published on 4 December 2003 in Family, Gratitude, Love (Please wait)

This is my Dad and I in 1983 in Armstrong Woods in Northern California. We loved to walk in the redwood trees and whenever company visited we’d always take them to the nearby redwood forest to show off our special place.

My Dad and I had a close relationship. I don’t ever remember arguing with him if you can believe that. He was quiet. I was quiet. I did enjoy making jokes and he enjoyed laughing, so we’d be laughing and joking as we walked through the redwood groves of California.

In the late 1980′s, after being divorced from my mother for 5-6 years, my Dad decided to find a mail order bride through a magazine. I wasn’t real thrilled, but I knew he was lonely and I wanted him to be happy, so I took pictures of him to send to the Philippines. He managed to find a bride on the first trip, a younger woman…younger than me actually, who told him she loved him on the first day they met.

Although I know my Dad is a lovable guy, I was a little suspicious about her motivations. But he brought her back to the U.S. and they soon married up in Reno Nevada. I always had a pretty good relationship with her. My mother called her a gold digger, but my Dad was happy so I accepted her as part of the family.

In the late 1990′s it soon became apparent that my Dad was getting Alzheimer’s Disease. By then I had moved to the East Coast and wasn’t as nearby to take care of things. I was worried when he started calling me to tell me he didn’t have money for food or medicine. I’d asked to talk to his wife, but she wouldn’t talk to me.

Finally, rather abruptly one day, after he had been acting particularly oddly, like talking about having mountain lions in his car and referring to me as his son (I’m his 45 year old daughter), he gave me the news that he and his wife were moving back to the Philippines.

I was very alarmed because 1) I didn’t want to lose my Dad 2) I wasn’t sure what kind of care he would receive in his wife’s village (she was from a small island, far, far away from Manilla) 3) I was just plain worried about his rapidly deteriorating condition.

So I managed to get a plane to where he lived. His wife would not talk to me and literally hid in their bedroom the whole time I was there. I went to the bank with him one day and there was only $68 in the bank (and my Dad had a lot of money. He had been an airline pilot). So naturally I later confronted his wife in a letter suggesting that maybe SHE was stealing his money and taking advantage of him because he had Alzheimer’s. She never replied, but she shared the letter with him and my Dad was extremely upset over it and it ended our relationship.

Shortly after that they moved over to the Philippines and I never heard from him again. I thought of him constantly though. I really missed his twice a week calls. It was only through some relatives that I heard that he had passed away a mere 7 months after moving there. His wife never contacted me.

So this photo is really important to me. It shows the good times I had with my father and how much we loved each other. The mail order bride may have gotten the estate, but I had the honor and priviledge of knowing and loving my Dad for 45 years. I love you Dad.

Barbara Higgens (Syracuse, NY, USA)

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