Dorothy was a slight girl with poor eyesight and severe learning disabilities. Born in the late 1930s before specialists tested for those types of problems in school-aged children, her disabilities were not identified until much later in life. She was often teased and as a result became feisty, but because she was lacking in some intellectual capacities and social skills, the harassment continued throughout her childhood. When her mother became ill she concentrated all of her energy on making her well. She loved her mother and her mother’s untimely death left an indelible mark.
Years later while in her late twenties, Dorothy met Henry, a tall, slim African American man ten years her senior, who she immediately had feelings for. Dorothy was a white Jewish woman whose family had raised her with traditional Jewish values. It was an unlikely coupling at the time and not popular with family members on either side. But what Dorothy lacked in intellect she made up for with Chutzpah. For good or for bad, Dorothy was determined to make the marriage work.
She researched health problems common to African American men and decided she would not let sickness take Henry from her the way it had her mother. She insisted on a low-salt diet in an effort to reduce the incidence of heart disease caused by Hypertension (high blood pressure), which she said was the number one killer of African American men. In addition to limiting Henry’s salt intake, she served Henry only natural foods. Some disgusted him and when he expressed dislike Dorothy immediately went into an uncontrollable rant which usually ended in silence and an unchanged meal plan.
Dorothy and Henry never had children, but had overcome many obstacles together as man and wife. The obstacle that created the most difficulty was their different personality types. Henry was low-keyed. He worked as a maintenance man until he retired. He was quick with a smile and a kind word. In more ways than just the obvious, they were complete opposites.
By the time I got to know them, Dorothy and Henry were well into their fifties, bespectacled, noticeably gray, displayed aging posture and appeared to be arguing with each other all the time. Dorothy remained controlling and it was obvious Henry was no longer tolerating it as well. They lived in a small single story, three bedroom bungalow on a long winding, wooded road. It sat perpendicular to the road and was hidden from the occasional passersby by tall, overgrown shrubs. And it was just as well, Dorothy assumed everyone was bigoted and didn’t like nosy people.
Dorothy had a small shed at the end of the driveway where she stored the antiques and pre-owned furniture she bought and sold. All the furnishings in her house had been purchased from local auctioneers and were pieces she liked enough to make her own. There were many rooms in their house, each one small. Dorothy often rearranged the furniture to give the house a new look, always asking my opinion and always open to my suggestions. She seemed to be preparing the house for visitors that never came, visitors she didn’t want.
Dorothy had a Cocker Spaniel she loved, but always seemed unhappy with. At the rear of the house, just outside the backdoor, was a small fenced-in area made of four foot high chain link. Dorothy vigorously wiped her dog’s paws before allowing it inside, yelling at it to “stay” the entire time. After the dog was wiped clean she began doting over it like a new mother over a first born.
Everyone entering the house had to remove their shoes. There was even a cheap pair of light blue corduroy slippers she made me put on when I arrived to do work at their home. They had the same creepy feel as rented bowling shoes; I just knew I wasn’t the only one who had worn them…
Overnight we got a fresh coating of wet snow, about ten inches. In the morning it was Henry’s job to shovel the walk and the driveway. It was Dorothy’s job to tell him when he was done. On this day Henry was unable to get Dorothy’s approval and he was getting tired, breathing heavier than usual, and talking under his breath. It had finally come to a head and Henry had had enough. He jumped in his small navy blue compact and drove off while Dorothy continued yelling from an all too familiar spot on the farmer’s porch just outside the front door.
It wasn’t long after that two uniformed police officers knocked on that same door. They told Dorothy that Henry had skidded off the road and hit a tree. He had suffered a heart attack and was dead. The medical personal was unsure if the heart attack had caused the accident or vice-versa.
Dorothy would spend the rest of her life wondering…
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.