Friday, May 01, 2009

doris - 100!

My friend Doris turned 100 years old on April 27.

The neighborhood gang got together tonight to celebrate with pizza and presents.

Jeff and Doris

Jeff painted the Dogwood tree in Doris' backyard. Jeff used to live right next door (and I lived in Jeff's house for almost a year).

I love hearing her stories. I was able to take a lot of great notes.

Doris roller skated in her kitchen as a child, wearing her mother's skates, she'd also walk up and down the stairs with them on. Doris' dad was in the grocery business. She remembered two stores he ran. One was in Fountain Square on Sanders Street (very close to Second Helpings). She remembered a neighbor boy, Howard. One time they walked across several busy streets to get to the grocery store to retrieve a toy. Doris' dad could not believe they made it by themselves. In those days when people died the calling was at the home. A neighbor died and Doris and Howard picked a bouquet of dandelions and solemnly delivered them to the home.

When her mom died they were living above a store on Tacoma Street, so the viewing had to be at her grandfather's house. Doris remembers that house being at the corner of Michigan and Davidson streets.

Doris attended and boarded at the Saint Mary of the Woods Academy (now closed, there is a rule that a campus cannot house a high school and a university) from 1923-1927. There were very strict rules about dress - you could not walk though the Academy wearing pants. If they were horse back riding they would put a skirt on over the riding pants and drop the skirts at the door. If they were in a play cast in a male role, they could dress as a man but had to put a skirt over it.

In the pool they had to cover their arms and legs. They wore grey wool swimsuits and would put on white wool sleeves and black cotton stockings. After a few minutes the sleeves and stockings would be floating and the nuns would give up on having the girls wear them.

Doris' aunt and uncle took Doris in after her mother died. Her father remarried, but her stepmother would not let Doris live with them (hard to imagine now), so she stayed there. Her aunt and uncle adopted a foster child, Jimmy. He was adopted in 1914 or 1915 from the Sisters of Charity, who ran Saint Vincent's Hospital (where my grandmother and aunt lived and completed their nurse's training). She remembers the big wing-like hats and the light blue robes the nuns wore.

Jimmy had Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. They started noticing the symptoms in the first grade and he made it though his sophomore year of Cathedral High School. He never worked, but loved to ice skate and was part of a hockey team at the Coliseum. Doris remembers that Jimmy never liked to wear a hat, she finally got him to wear earmuffs when he was older.

Doris took care of Jimmy his whole life. He was alive when I moved in next door to them. He was suffering from dementia by then, on top of the FAS. Doris was heroic in her care of him. I was with them when he died. His funeral was full of laughter and stories. For years Doris had given Jimmy money to put in his envelope for offering at the church. The church secretary told her that for years Jimmy had written, "no thank you." Doris was mortified when she heard that! Neighbors told to Jimmy throwing trash and falling in to the mulch pit next door.

Doris had the full funeral package for him, including the viewing and a limousine to carry the family from the funeral home to the cemetery. Since most of Doris' contemporaries had died by that point I invited friends to come with us. My friend Kassie walked in to the wrong viewing at the funeral home, signed in and chatted with everyone before she realized she was in the wrong place. She got a thank you note from that family!

Christ the King Church has a great funeral ministry, proving singers and readers and people to attend the funeral mass. Doris' step-sisters were there also. It really was a lovely day.

And for the first time ever, Doris was living alone. She really thrived, gaining weight after the stress of taking care of Jimmy. She got her hair done every Friday, picking friends up that couldn't drive (you can imagine the crew, if Doris at 90 was the best driver) along the way. For a few years I was able to meet Doris and her gang for lunch. I need to dig out the photographs that I made poor Doris pose for in an old fashioned photo booth. It was a stand-up one and Doris had to stand on my stack of library books in order for the top of her head to be seen in the photos -- she was 4'11 at her tallest and I'm guessing that was in 1932. We both laughed so hard we were crying. I can't believe I made a then 93 year-old stand on a wobbly pile of books. Anything for the photo!

Doris moved out of her house six years ago and I'm ashamed to admit that I don't see her as often. Back when I worked at the coffeehouse I'd stop several afternoons a week. When I broke up with AVS, I sobbed and slept her sofa for days.

Doris is well read and up on current events. Swine flu was a big topic of conversation and it reminded Doris of the flu epidemic of 1918. Helen's grandparents died of the flu. It was fun to dive in to Helen's memories also. Helen was born in 1942 and was a teenager when Doris moved in next door. After Helen graduated from high school they often rode the bus downtown together. The street they lived on (Kessler Avenue) is now a major four lane thoroughfare. Helen remembers when it was not paved. The neighborhood kids would all gather on the only cement driveway on the street to skate.

Helen and Doris

Helen's mom, Bessie (who I also had the pleasure of meeting) was born in 1908. Bessie's uncle was a photographer in Fountain Square. We had fun thinking about the possibility that he photographed Doris when she was a child.

It was best Friday night I've had in ages.


Janell said...

What a great collections of stories! Thanks for sharing Doris' 100th with us!

Ralph said...

Driving at 90 ?? She sounds like an amazing women. Did she enjoy the 100 years old party?
P.S. Glad your back.

Jamie Dawn said...

What an interesting lady! I could just sit for hours and hear those stories you wrote about. I remember loving to hear the stories my grandparents told. I never got tired of them, even the ones I'd heard many times.
I hope Doris is around for many more years. She needs to stay here at least until her 110th.
God bless her! What memories she must have, and what amazing advances she's seen over the years.
She was so loving to Jimmy.

Cliff said...

You have certainly been Blessed by being a friend of Doris. What a lady. Thanks for letting us in on the day.