At about age ninety-six, Dolores shared with me that every time she went to the doctor, she asked if he could please find something wrong that would take her home to her Lord. She said this jokingly, lifted just one eyebrow, peered at me over her glasses, and tried to look stern. Much to her dissatisfaction, the doctor always replied, “No Dolores, you are very fit for your age and quite healthy really.”
She questioned why God was leaving her here at this age without her life partner, many of her friends, one of her children, and in a body that was so healthy there was no escape for an increasingly restless soul. I don’t think she was complaining, just thinking out loud. It was like she was talking to God while sharing her famous chocolate brownies and herb tea. She was having a dialogue that included an attempt to discern His purpose for her need to remain past the time she expected to leave. I wasn’t so much a part of the conversation. I would say I was more like an observer at the table during a friendly discussion.
Then when Dolores was ninety-seven, she suffered a serious fall. Only minor injuries were sustained. However, she accepted the fact she could no longer live alone. She and her children decided it would be best if she moved into assisted living. Because this decision was so sudden and unexpected, there wasn’t time for Dolores to clean out her house and disperse her belongings. That job fell to her loved ones, including Keith and me.
During the process, Dolores’s daughter gave me one of my most prized possessions. It was her Trevor’s Bible. As I clutched it in the middle of half-packed boxes, bare walls, and the disorganization that accompanies moving, the wide screen in my mind presented memories. I replayed scenes from many times I spent in this house with people I had come to see as my parents. Cold reality set in. Trevor was gone and Dolores was losing her independence. I would never sit in this living room or kitchen again with Dolores, having tea and chatting about things large and small. Interrupting my private viewing of the past, Dolores’s daughter offered me a very special assignment.
Dolores, like me, loved her clothes, and she was having a hard time deciding which pieces to keep in her new, very limited space. JI was asked if I would help Dolores sort through clothes and put them in a wardrobe. This was a job no one else in the family wanted frankly. When I readily agreed to do this, there was an audible, collective sigh and palpable relief.
At this point, Dolores suffered from macular degeneration and was dependent upon others to be her eyes. She did, however, still possess a keen sense of feel, articulate speech, her cleaver wit, a sharp memory, and her unwavering sense of humor. That afternoon as we went through her closet, Dolores told me stories about the clothing pieces presented to her.
During that day we traveled together, just Dolores and I. As I brought her a garment, she ran her hand over it and explained where she bought it or where Trevor bought it for her. Each piece afforded opportunity for her to share details of trips they enjoyed together. Like a little girl, she giggled at the memory of spilling French chocolate on a silk blouse and asked if the stain was still there. She took me through Greece and Turkey at the touch of a woolen jacket, and shared some of Trevor’s comical photographic exploits in that part of the world. A velvet scarf reminded her of the midnight sun in Norway. She lovingly pressed a garment to her cheek that she purchased in the U.K. She asked me if I still wore the English Lavender perfume she had bought for me there.
Her reminiscing brought more than one tear to her eyes and to mine. We laughed and cried as she related the antics of the man she married more than seventy years earlier and their adventures together. These were tears of gratitude. Dolores had no time for or interest in ruining good memories with sadness over inevitable and uncontrollable life elements like the passage of time.
That day, others decided what to do with toasters, gardening supplies, books and dishes. But Dolores and I cruised, flew and drove our way through her life. We were in France, Spain, Norway, Denmark, the Holy Land, the UK and many places in the U.S.
When Keith picked me up that evening, he said I looked tired. He asked if the task was tedious and in some ways sad. I thanked him for his concern and assured him I was fine. Truthfully, I was better than fine. I was grateful for the assignment declined by everyone else that strengthened the bond between my dear friend and me. As we left the assisted living center, I leaned against my sweet, loving man and confessed, “I think I have jet lag.”
Copyright July 2011
Lakewood, CO 80401