My memories of her from youth are vague. By the time I was old enough to notice much about Lolly ~ the name coined by Barbara (2 years her junior), used affectionately by our father, & eventually chosen by my own tongue ~ she was readying to leave our family home. It is because of the rarity of those specific memories that I pen them here.
I'm not sure how old I was, but I delighted in being squired about in a baby pram on at least one occasion. The older girls loved the show-and-tell part of their baby sister; except, that is, when they would have preferred I not interfere in their altogether sophisticated lives.
(Photo/1949: Dolores, Mother holding me, Carol)
At one time all four of we girls slept upstairs in the home that is, even now, the joyful harbinger of our collective musings. The older girls shared one room, while Carol & I shared another.
One of the things that imprinted on my small mind is the contents of that upstairs space in which they, Dolores & Barbara resided ~ Dolores playing Felix to Barbara's Oscar. It was a world of combs & brushes, international dolls framed in windowed boxes & arrayed on the walls (no doubt out of reach of little hands), smelly perfumes, & books. Lots of books.
She loved all things penned by Zane Grey, as well as the writings of Mildred Wirt Benson, best known for Nancy Drew mysteries. I vividly recall the terrible disappointment I experienced when opening those linen-clad tomes, greeted only by words & more words, as mine was a penchant for pictures in that day. Their room could easily have been Terabithia or Narnia, so foreign & curious was it to my toddler-sized senses.
It made no big impression on me when Lolly turned up missing. At 19, & with our parent's blessing she & a girlfriend made their way to California for employment and adventure. I would have been three or four at that time, unaware of the shifts taking place beneath my napping nose.
I was equally non-plussed at her return some two years later until, that is, I found her ~ along with Barbara ~ bandaged & bedridden on the couches in our living room (*). Their condition didn't fascinate me so much as the fact of their simply being there. And I confess, too, at the jealousy I felt (yes, I really do remember it) when mother spent so much of her time ministering to their needs.
On one level my childhood was idyllic ~ sweetly gaited & secure. But on the level that involved Dolores, it seemed a bit confusing. And it also seems to have been perpetually on Fast Forward. From her sickbed on the couch to her becoming a real-life princess, my next memory is of her wedding day.
It wasn't long before Dolores & her husband, John (who passed away just 2 1/2 years ago) added three little ones. Rick & Jim came first, and only 10 months apart; followed by Diane two years later. Many years hence, when the first three were teenagers, a 4th, David was born, followed a year later with the adoption of Monica.
From the start, Dolores devoted herself to family. She kept an immaculate home, cooked & canned, hung laundry in the backyard, & made all things domestic appear easy. I would later come to know just how much work her devotion entailed.
While I was first applying lipstick & relishing the hand-holding romance of my first love, Dolores lived in the background. Yet on family gatherings, holidays, and even at our father's death when I was but 16, she is a pivotal figure. I see her still; she & the little ducklings always near her heels. Solid.
I can't say I really knew Dolores in those days. She was my sister, but in many ways she was more like a favorite aunt. Barbara too. I had so little in common with them that I rarely gave them a thought, preferring to occupy my head with the selfish years of my youth.
When our mother suffered a stroke in 1974, we girls sat vigil at her bedside for 3 long days. It was then I began to see Dolores in a different hue. She was the sturdy one; the prayerful one. It was she that jostled us awake to announce that mother was leaving; to gather us around to hold mother's hands & bid her goodbye. To this day I don't know how she knew, but she knew.
As my own life played out, and as my children were added & grew up, we all came to know and love Annie Lorus (as my then-toddler daughter dubbed her). The seeds of friendship between us were sewn deeply then. Eventually those shoots would become the powerful Oak that is today's connection, and shared equally by our other sisters.
Much has happened in the intervening years ~ the years between my watching her children grow up, marry & have children of their own, and my own family's growth & goings. We've shared many events: holidays, shopping forays, Arizona visits, and sister gatherings (as we like to call them) ~ when we four make time to spend days on end together. Since returning from my ten year hiatus in Arizona, she & I now spend every Wednesday together. It's my favorite day of the week.
As I draw these musings to a close I cannot help but regret the many details I've left out. I could easily have written a novella about Dolores' noble character, her honest tongue, her loyalty. Of happy times at her beach retreat at Mason Lake. Of Christmases in her home. Of our shared experiences with a horse name Flicka.
Dolores subscribes to an ongoing & powerful roadmap is: Family matters. In times of joy and in times of trouble, family hangs together...
(Dolores' family today,
now missing the Patriarch ~ her husband, John
~ but with one more added, & two more on the way.
It's a roadmap I've begun to endorse in the lives of my own children & grandchildren, inspired by a sister who deserves great praise. Even now, her children & grandchildren & great-grandchildren rise up and call her blessed. How appropriate!
Happy 80th birthday, Dolores.
Thank you for being who you are, for loving the Lord with your entire life, for never wavering in your devotion to Him, to your beloveds, to we sisters ~ and, especially to me.
I love you.
(* I later learned that Barb had followed Dolores to California, where they both met the men they would eventually marry. But they returned home when our father was left unemployed, at which time they both took jobs with the burgeoning employer known as Boeing. While driving home one dark & stormy night, they were struck by another car & injured severely.)