Beginning at the End:
Portraits of Dementia by Joe Wallace

© 2019 Joe Wallace

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Pho Thi Ngo

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Pho Thi Ngo was born on December 18, 1929 just south of Hai Phong, Vietnam. Through an arranged marriage, Pho married Andrew Ho and together they raised a family of eight daughters. Miraculously, their family survived the Vietnam war intact and Andrew went to the United States bringing Pho's parents and two of their daughters. Separating was incredibly hard for their close-knit family but they stuck by one another.

In a few years, Andrew was able to sponsor Pho and another daughter, Le, to come to the United States. Turning 88 next week, Pho radiates energy with her big smile and intense gaze. Her daughters come to visit from Boston, Michigan, Houston and Vietnam. She doesn’t always recognize family at first but quickly feels that intangible connection and out comes the easy smile. Then the eternal question, “where is your father?” Your heart breaks but then Pho smiles again—a mother once more—and asks if you’ve eaten anything or perhaps, if you’re lucky, chides you for talking too much.