Thursday, September 11, 2008

grandma dot

My father in law's mother, Grace, died when he was just a little boy. He had two younger brothers and the smallest was just a baby. She was in an automobile accident. As was customary in those days, the boys went to live at an orphanage rather than be raised by their working father. He would come and get them on the weekends, but for the most part, that was their home for several years until their father met Dot. A young woman in her mid twenties, she was actually friends with Grace's younger sister and remembers hearing the accident in downtown Greensboro when the girls were younger. Dot and Fred Jr. dated for a while and Dot began to be like a mother to the boys though she was just a young woman herself. When they finally did marry, when my father in law, the oldest-Fred III, was just seven, she raised them and loved them like her own. She later gave birth to three of her own children a girl and two more boys. When the younger children were still small, Dot lost her husband to heart problems at a young age. She loved, nurtured, and provided for 6 children on her own. She's an amazing woman.

Today those children, Fred, Charlie, Ray, Laura, John, and Richard, are instrumental figures in many people's lives. Two of them are local doctors, and one son, the one who was always a cut up and drove his mama crazy, is a local developer who runs one of the most successful small businesses, though not so small any more, in Greensboro. They are all amazing people in their own right. Every year, those six children, fifteen grandchildren, eight great grandchildren and many spouses, gather at Figure Eight Island for a week. Grandma Dot has spent countless hours rocking babies on the porch of that beach house. It's her sanctuary. This year we didn't know if Gran Dot would make it to the beach.

In February, she was diagnosed with a rare stomach tumor that was in pretty advanced stages. She's been through multiple surgeries and treatments, some successful, some not so much. She made it to the beach where she loved on our current littlest one, Mackenzie. Early in the trip, she started feeling pretty badly and ended up having to go home to be hospitalized. It was a tearful goodbye as we filed out of the house one by one giving her tearful smiles and waves farewell. Slowly, we have come to accept that we might lose our matriarch and we have taken our opportunities to hear her stories once again, trying desperately to commit them to memory for fear they might be gone forever. We've heeded her advice and held on to her wisdom. We've hugged a bit tighter and tried to breathe deeper. We've prayed for healing, for cure, for strength, for answers, for patience, and finally for comfort and peace.

Today, Grandma Dot found her peace.

Yesterday was her 83rd birthday.

And though I lament my own small ones' loss of that opportunity to watch the sunset over the North Carolina coast enveloped in the loving arms of the woman who brought our family back together so long ago, I am thankful because she taught us to carry on in her footsteps.

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