Dorothy sat on a park bench as I approached the path on the river behind the 2 story, apartment building where she lives. She said, “I knew it was you, I can tell by the way you walk.” I asked her how she was, “Okay.”
“I’m lonely. Old people get lonely.”
I sat down.
Dorothy is 87. It seems like I know a disproportionate number of 87 year-olds; 1925 must’ve been a good year for longevity. She listens to talk radio. She’s convinced Obama is purposely ruining the country, plotting against the working class. I am absolutely not going to debate politics with a lonely, 87 year-old woman. Ain’t happenin’.
I sat on that park bench with Dorothy for well over an hour. She got divorced after 31 years of marriage, sometime in the late 70s I imagine. She got her motorcycle license when she was 50. As we talked, she’d stop to tilt her head to the sound of an approaching Harley and a big, toothless, grin would grace her countenance. She tries to hide her mouth when she’s talking but joy foils her efforts at concealment. Her teeth don’t matter to me. Her story does.
She moved here 15 years ago, after nursing her only son as he died, from AIDS related opportunistic diseases, in California. He opted out of a thirty year marriage and a life that wasn’t really his. He’d moved to California to make an exuberant splash in the bathhouse scene. Dorothy says he was promiscuous but she doesn’t judge. There is nothing to judge. He was relieved to finally be himself. He made some undiscriminating choices, haven’t we all?
Her daughter lives here. It strikes me that they may be very different. Dorothy lived in an apartment at her daughter’s house for a while. For some reason, she doesn’t reveal, she had to leave and move to Section 8 housing. Without prompting, she claims she doesn’t know why she couldn’t stay. It’s likely a lot more involved than that. It hurts her. Mother-daughter relationships are often convoluted. There’s no reason to speculate.
When her former husband died two years ago she applied for his social security benefit. She attended his funeral, “I was there for all of that. We had a family so we remained friends.” Her cremation is pre-paid but she doesn’t know if the funeral mass is worth the $150 she’d have to pay for it. She really wants to get to the bottom of the money laundering situation at the Vatican.
As I left, I told Dorothy how much I’d enjoyed our visit. I said, “It was fun. Good for us!” She responded with a big unguarded grin, “Yes, good for US!”