The Mystery of the Three Envelopes

I saw my dad this morning and he asked me what happened to the three envelopes he had last night. According to him, I, together with two of my brothers, Jo and Jim, had just pulled down the roof and, before having dinner, which I had brought with me, dad gave one envelope each to Jo and Jim. After dinner, dad gave me the last envelope to reimburse me for the cost of the dinner, and Jo left immediately after that. Surprised to see me this morning, he called me over and asked me what happened to the third envelope.

This, in turn, surprised me because, last night, I did bring home some dinner but none of the other things happened. Not last night. Not ever. Jo has been living in Davao for some years now and haven’t been around to visit for about a year. Jim has been living in Makati for about the same time. I haven’t seen Jim for about a couple of years. Maybe more. It’s been that long. Dad is living with me in Quezon City. The three of us never worked together on a roof. Ever.

My father, you see, has dementia. He sees things and people, and recalls events, that or who were never there, or happened. My first experience was rather hurtful. He accused my siblings and I of leaving him when he fell asleep after having Christmas lunch at a restaurant in a nearby mall two years ago. I denied it naturally. It troubled me but that was just the beginning.

At another time, I took him out for lunch, just the two of us, and while conversing, he asked me “kamusta tatang mo” (how is your father)? After my initial shock, I replied, “you are my father; how are you?”, he looked at me as if I was mad.

The hardest part is to see him get frustrated trying to work out what is real and what is not. Sometimes, he knows his mind makes things up. He realizes certain images are not real, which I get to reinforce. People beside him that disappear. Even guests or workers. When it’s me he is talking to, he gets to question what he sees. Unfortunately, there are times when he really believes that something or someone was there when there wasn’t. It is those times that he gets really frustrated because I don’t believe him, or having told him otherwise, he couldn’t understand how he could have been mistaken. He frequently asks about the children, which can only refer to my nephews from my third brother, Dan, with whom he was living before he transferred to my house. I have to repeatedly say they were with my brother in their house. At times, I have had to do so three times in a span of ten minutes.

It is difficult to see my father in this condition. He is a lawyer by profession and, as a lawyer myself, I know how much his mind means to him. Again, that may add to his frustration. To realize that your mind may be playing tricks on you must be truly hard. 

So, going back to the three envelopes, I pointed out to him that he gave each of us, Jo, Jim and I, one envelope each. Mystery solved! No, he says, why would he give Jim an envelope when he did not borrow money from Jim. However, I insisted that: first, he cannot change his story and introduce new facts that were not there before; and, second, he clearly repeatedly said that he gave each of us an envelope and, therefore, there was no missing third envelope. After much thought, he finally conceded that I was right. The three of us got one envelope each. What a relief!

As I turned to go, he asks “how much was in each envelope?” 


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