This is a short story that leads up to the happiest birthday ever for someone I know.
1938. It was a cold day in January. In rural Oklahoma. FDR was in the first year of his second term as president of the U.S. And a second daughter was born to a young couple named Lee and Syona. But it was also a time when America was still struggling to recover from the Great Depression. So, when the little family was ready to travel, they piled into their sedan and headed west to California.
The cold day in Oklahoma turned to west coast warm.
And the young couple went to work, as countless other migrant workers did, picking produce and fruit from the fertile California farms and orchards.
But times were tough.
And even the Golden State didn’t provide enough work and wages for Lee and Syona to take “proper care” of their two daughters.
So, they sent Donette, the oldest, and Doris, who was 2 years younger, back to Oklahoma to stay with their maternal grandparents. And Poodle and Poppy, as the kids called the old couple, were happy to take them in to their home “on the farm.”
There would be multiple trips back and forth between parents and grandparents. And there would be hardships far beyond what many Americans would call hardships these days.
Hunger from sometimes only one meal a day. Worn out clothes. Barefoot walks to school because there wasn’t enough money for shoes. And every day life in shantytowns.
But, as life often turns out, the young sisters made it through those hard times. With the loving help of Poodle and Poppy. But both girls yearned to venture out on their own. And, while they were still kids (young teens) themselves, they both married and started having children of their own.
(You might be thinking, “What’s this got to do with the happiest birthday?”)
OK, from this point on, the story will focus on Doris.
She married a young man named Dwight who attended the same school as her in Norman, Oklahoma. And, before long, they had two boys. They were the typical young couple adding to the baby boomer population. But their own youthful inexperience proved too much of a hurdle. And they divorced, after only 4 years.
So, on another cold day, Doris started looking for her next step.
After some bumps and stumbles, she found and married a young man named Bill. And after a stint in the Army, Bill went to work for General Motors in the Kansas City area. He and Doris also had two kids. A girl and then a boy. Plus, the two boys from Doris’ first marriage would join the four of them each summer.
And that life went on for several years until the two older boys had graduated high school and left to start their own lives. Sadly, Bill and Doris began to drift apart till one day they also divorced. They worked out the details for the care of their two younger kids. And they went their separate ways.
Once again Doris faced a “cold day” on her own.
I’d like to tell you her life rebounded onward and upward like a comeback story in an old Hollywood movie. But, for years, quite the opposite was true. And I won’t dwell on the dreary details. Just know that there were considerable obstacles for her to overcome. Some she created with her own choices. And others were thrust upon her.
After a couple more seriously broken dreams, Doris trained for restaurant management. And she worked her way through Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Kansas. Either as a manager or assistant manager for restaurants like Village Inn and Sambo’s.
Usually it was to be near one or more of her kids and grandkids.
After years in the restaurant business, Doris became a dispatcher for a transportation company based in the Kansas City area. And she lived and worked there until she retired and moved into her tiny, one bedroom apartment in the small community of Gardner, Kansas.
And she remained in Gardner until late in 2020.
Her health declined for several years leading up to that time. And, on a walk from her bedroom to the living room, she fell, injured her head, and required several stitches.
She bounced back somewhat, but dealt with more frequent bouts of headaches and dizziness.
Then, on January 8th of 2021, one day after her 83rd birthday, Doris suffered a stroke. And her health and stamina began to slowly deteriorate until she died in her sleep in her daughter’s home.
She is survived by her four kids, 10 grandkids, 6 great-grandkids, and 4 great-great-grandkids.
And I shared some of her story with you because she was my Mom. She died February 11, 2021. And today would have been her 84th birthday here on Earth. But she’s in Heaven. And that’s why I say it’s her happiest birthday ever.
Dorsie, as she was affectionately called by family and friends, will be remembered as a Mom, Memaw, Great-grandma, sister, aunt, and friend who always finished her good-byes with “I love you.”
And we all love you, too.
Your gracious love shone through
The darkest days, like songs of praise,
To those you loved and knew.
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