Those were the words of Father Mark that stuck with me as he spoke from the heart about Caroline Elizabeth (Dushinski) Daley. My Dad’s partner of 32 years and wife of 24 passed away in the early morning hours July 16th. She died of complications stemming from a back injury suffered more than fifty years ago. The last time I saw her in October, she was hunched over to the point that her back was literally parallel to the ground. As we’d walk around “The Villages,” people would stare. That would really upset my father, but not her. Caroline was good. That’s it. Just good. To the day she has hospitalized, and in spite of constant pain, she led a very active life including bingo, sunbathing and cards with the girls, volunteering at church and taking care of Dad. In the house this week, there was a sad void without her buzzing around the kitchen cooking or asking if any clothes needing laundering. She was a little dynamo. Her affliction didn’t stop her from living.
The Villages is full of people older than my Dad and far worse off physically. Just last evening before a huge thunderbolt sent us scurrying for the local karaoke joint, my brother Corey and I watched an old woman shuffle slowly to a seat in the town square where there’s music and 2 for 1 “happy hour” drinks daily. The frail and gray woman was carrying an oxygen unit and had a clear tube running from it into the point in her body where a tracheotomy had occurred. She sat with her daughter and proceeded to rock out… head bobbing and feet tapping to the music. Of course there are seniors in great shape too. One woman of my Dad’s 70+ vintage danced the whole time we were there. I mean an aerobic dance, not some slow shoe shuffling some of the guys try to pass off as dancing.
Speaking of seniors in shape, we met three of them that were 10 – 15 years older than we guessed. We met and chatted briefly with them Wednesday night at the karaoke place. The next morning Corey and I assessed their ages to be “early 50’s, 45 and 45 respectively for Joan, Susan and Ginette, a French-Canadian woman who shares the name of my lovely ex-wife. Dad disagreed and pegged Joan and the tall blond Susan to be “at least 60.” The brothers protested strongly, but figured we’d never really know. Well, Thursday night we bumped into the trio again and discovered they were looking at property. Coyly, or pathetically patronizing, I said, “aren’t you a little young for the Villages?” “I’m 66 years old,” shot back Joan without hesitancy. For the record, Susan was 60 and Ginette 55. We hung out with them until about 11 when they had to depart due to an 8:10 tee time. Living.
Corey and Dad will begin driving up to New England in the next few days. I’m on a plane home. I think the best thing for Dad is to get out of Dodge for awhile and he agrees. I’ll drive back down with him whenever he’s ready and will likely take Kyle. A tres generation road-trip with be good for all of us… It’s going to be hard for Dad in that house. Today he gave me some of Caroline’s jewelry for Megan. I also saw him walking with that cane. I bet he’ll be glad to get rid of that. One question he kept asking through tears was “What am I going to do without her?” Share life, Dad. Share life.