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Text I read at my mother’s funeral:
I had originally planned on reading the obituary I’d written for the newspapers, but changed my mind, since it copied a great deal of text from the obituary I wrote for my father three years ago. This was because I have never known a couple who approached life with such a totality of partnership in all things as my parents.
My father happened to leave first, so for him I wrote the things that I read here three years ago: how he dedicated his latter decades to property management, and left beautiful homes up and down the east coast as his mark. I realized now I should have written the plural “they” and not “he”, a mistake I corrected when I had to lightly edit the article last week for his wife’s sake.
Dorothy defined herself so much as half of the person that she and Richard made that, towards the end of her life, when nurses and old-folks homes asked me about her hobbies and interests, all I could say was: I don’t know — talking? When she did have to act as an individual, she retreated easily behind a veneer of storytelling. As I grew up I came to realize that most of her stories were baloney, so much that I really have no accurate notion about her own past and probably never will.
But that was never important. She always used her talent for storytelling out of love: either to help boost the confidence of a loved one, or to cement friendships, or to make new friends entirely.
Were you her child, and had trouble with a bully at school, she might confide in you that she’d spoken to the superintendent about it, and he agreed in secret that the other kid was a little jerk. Or, if you felt doubt about your wardrobe, she’d let you know that she just saw a TV news report about how bright green slacks for boys are super-fashionable right now, and that the other kids, aware of this, surely stared at you out of silent admiration.
Were you a stranger, she would ask where you were from, and — wouldn’t you know it! Her college roommate was from the very same place, can you believe that? And she’d carry on an easy conversation about it, letting you fill in the details yourself because you loved this strange lady even if you didn’t realize it yet and you really wanted her to like you too.
And everyone she did ensorcel in this way would know her husband too, because they were never apart, at least not during my own lifetime. Far more often than “Richard” or “Dorothy” would their friends call them “Dick-and-dottie”, the four-syllable name of a single person.
We had to say goodbye to this person three years ago, though I didn’t realize it at the time. Dorothy alone lost something far too profound to continue as anyone knew her. There really never was a Dorothy alone, after all.
For the rest of my own days, while I will time and again flash on an earthy joke my dad told, or have reason to recall one of my mother’s beautiful and winding absurdities, I know I will remember my parents less as two individuals than as a single partnership, a model of love for one another and for all the world around them that I can only aspire to.
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