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Saturday, August 17, 2013

My Dad's Billie Jean

Today Dad and I had to go to Des Moines to get his toe nails clipped. Yes, it seems silly that we had to drive an hour and a half to get toe nails clipped. I have, since he moved here to live with us, tried to keep as much normal as I can. One of the things I have insisted on is that all of his medical care continue at the VA in Des Moines. It is where he is used to. He knows his way around, he knows people there. Everything else in his life has changed, I wanted to let him have something that didn't.

On the way there he talked about things from the past. He talked about things that we drove past. While he didn't talk like he was living in the past, he wasn't quite in the present either. As we were leaving the house today, he asked about the neighbor lady that brought us some tomatoes yesterday. Then said that they were the neighbors that had asked permission to build something next to the fence on our property. "But then they tore it down," he said.  We don't have a fence. He pointed to our shed and insisted that was the building. The building he had just said had been torn down. I told him, no that was our shed. He was confusing our house with his house, where a neighbor did ask and build a shed, next to the fence, on his property. He has good days and bad days, today wasn't the best.

All the way to Des Moines, he would point out things that had been there forever and talk about them like they were brand new. At the same time he talked of taking his mom to Davenport to see her sister. The concept that that was a long time ago seemed intact. He knew that his aunt had passed away a long time ago. 

We got to the VA hospital, he knew where we needed to go. He directed me in the right direction and we got a few other things done besides getting his toe nails cut on his one foot. We went to the eye care clinic and got his glasses adjusted again, and got him some ted hose. He even got to chat a bit with some physical therapists he worked with while he was at the Community Living Center there. I think he kind of enjoyed the trip today. 

On the way home he started talking about the past again. He told me a story about Billie Jean Triber. Billie Jean was, I think, his first love. He met her while he was in the service during WWII. I think, perhaps, had her parents been different, he would have married her. Her parents had money, he didn't. She was going to college in Nevada. I haven't quite figured out how they met, but I do know that her mother didn't approve. They were from Alaska, and Billie Jean's mother made her leave college and come back home. She had someone more suitable in mind for Billie Jean to wed. 

This isn't the first time I have heard of Billie Jean. When Dad speaks of her, a little light, stardust perhaps, gleams in his eyes. He has a look I never see any other time. He said today that he would like to see her again. He knows there is a possibility that she has passed away. He almost said it, but got a catch in his voice when he did. He said, "the last letter I got from her was the day before her wedding, she was asking me to come get her and bring her home." He said that twice. I think he wishes he had done just that. 

I looked up Billie Jean Triber in Alaska tonight when I got home. I got one good hit. There is an organization called Pioneers of Alaska in Anchorage. I found a newsletter dated in 2009. In it was a listing of birthdays for the three months the newsletter covered. On September 29, there was the name Billie Jean Triber. I looked and looked to try and find something more recent from the Pioneers of Alaska to see if they were still around. I couldn't find anything past 2010. I did find an address for them, but it was for 2009. 

I tried to looks up obituaries in Alaska. She is my father's age so it is very possible. I didn't find anything. Does that mean she may still be alive? If this is the same Billie Jean Triber that was in Igloo 4 in the Pioneers of Alaska, in 2009, that my dad so obviously loved, did she never marry? It wasn't the custom for a bride to keep her own name in the 1940's. If she was widowed, she likely wouldn't have changed her name, but maybe if she had divorced. Could this maybe be a niece, her brother's daughter, that was named for her? Maybe it is someone completely different. 

I'm thinking of writing a letter and sending it to the address of the Pioneers of Alaska. Should I? I suppose the worst thing that could happen is getting a letter back saying that she has passed away, or that it is the completely wrong person. What if it is my dad's Billie Jean. What if a reunion with her would be a dream come true for him. Or what if it would be a disaster? What if it broke his heart? 

I'll be honest with you, Dad talks to me more of Billie Jean than he does of my mother. In fact he seldom speaks of my mother at all. He will respond when I bring Mom up, but never talks about her on his own. 

I guess my question to throw out there to the great beyond is, should I try to reach out to Billie Jean? Should I keep trying to find her? I won't tell my dad I'm looking for her. That way if I don't find her he won't be disappointed. If I do find her, but she is very ill or doesn't want to get back in touch with Dad, he would never know. What if something could happen, and in a fairy tail way, they could find happiness if even by just writing letters? What should I do?


  1. I say do it! You are protecting him from hurt if she's passed away or doesn't want to speak to him. It's a shot in the dark anyway so I say, take it! :)

  2. I agree. No guts no glory. If all the stars align just right (oh wait, they did just that this year) you may bring happiness to one, maybe two people needing something good to come together. A ray of sunshine even if just for a moment for them.
    Go for it!