So, this has become a melancholy week. This is the week three years ago my mom marked her 84th birthday, and died four days later.
Honestly, I’m still not sure the exact cause of death, other than the broken heart she’d lived with for the four years she was without my dad. I know she too was ready to go the night we sat on his bed, helpless in the nursing home; as it happened, she shared that same room, recovering from a broken shoulder.
But fate had different plans. And so she survived and endured and napped and disengaged – and passed the better part of 1,400 days waiting for her turn to go.
A shattered leg suffered in a fall at her assisted-living apartment, and subsequent kidney complications, put her on that irreversible path to goodbye.
Dorothy Mae was a farm girl from Denton, Md. transported to the Philadelphia suburbs as a young girl. She worked for a little while during the war after high school, but soon married and became a “homemaker,” as we used to put down on the school forms.
She was 4-foot-11 in her prime, smaller as she aged and osteoporosis came into play. She never got a driver’s license. She never flew in a plane. She never turned on a computer. She was content to dote on Dorie for the 60 years they were married, through absence and paycheck-to-paycheck days and fertility issues that brought my sister and I to her as adopted children. And yet mom and dad conceived our brother. Two adoptees, and then they hit the procreative lottery. Imagine that elation!
Mom and I never talked about that miracle, though, nor much about my adoption, really. The details weren’t important. She and dad were proud of their children, provided a loving home. That’s all that mattered.
Dorothy was seen and loved around town, a constant presence on foot power, and she loved it there. It was a small place, where neighbors cared and knew her joys and sorrows. Yet the day we brought her back from the nursing home, to try and carry on in a house now with a bottomless hole, she asked “How long do I have to stay here?”
I knew she meant “How long until I can rejoin Dorie?”
When my dad’s grave marker was installed, it included Dorothy’s name and birth date as well – and an empty space to the right.
It was dismaying to see that, until we came to realize Dorothy’s empty space was unbearable. Until the solace she sought, three years ago tomorrow, set her free.