Her name was Dorothy, and she had two sisters, Louise and Wilma. I was born on her birthday, and she loved me without reservation. My father was her youngest son, a child she had late in life, the son she raised as a single mom when her husband died way too young.
She died when I was three, and I only have two memories of her. I have a very clear picture of us, she and I, laying on her hospital bed in the living room of the house we lived in those days – a house my dad grew up in, a house she moved into when she married my Granddad. In my memory, the bed is in front of the window, and I was looking at a book (some things do not change) and she was beside me, looking at the book with me. I remember only feeling very loved and safe.
The other memory is less emotional, but just as clear. The house was old, and drafty. It had propane space heaters for heat, and in this memory, it was very cold, and early in the morning. She was wearing her house coat, and was squatting flat-footed in front of the space heater in the kitchen, smoking a cigarette.
It was the cigarettes that killed her. Lung cancer took her away from us far too soon.
That is really all I remember on my own. I have lots of stories filed in my head about her, but they are second-hand memories – stories dad told me, or her sisters told me when I was older. Like I know her favorite flower was the daylilly, but that is only because every summer, Dad would tell me that when the orange ditchlilies would bloom.
And she loved the music of Roy Orbison – especially Pretty Woman. But again, I know this secondhand, from hearing that fact relayed to me my entire childhood whenever it would come on the radio.
Memory is a funny thing. A random comment by a family member on Facebook about daylilys triggered this wander down memory lane. One month from today, it will be our birthday – I will be 43, and she would have been 102.
Since we moved into this house, I have planted lots of flowers. Shasta Daisy, yarrow, Asiatic lily, columbine, flags (you know them as iris) and roses. And daylilys. Lots of daylilys. But no orange ones. Until the other day, that is. The other day, I bought some orange ditchlilys to plant by the road.
I think I will do that on our birthday this year, and listen to Roy Orbison, and sit in front of my window, and read a book and try, once again, to feel safe and loved.
I think she would want that. Hell, I know that I do.