Dorothy Canrinus has lived for 99 years.
I’ll never make it.
Her son, Mike, my husband, didn’t. He had a rare brain disease catch up with him at age 57 and died when he was 64. We didn’t tell her at the time.
Mike loved his Mom although the relationship was awkward. He didn’t quite know what to do with her paraplegic limits when he was a child and as a teenager listening to her fractured voice and tortured speech was too much. It wasn’t until the last half of his life when humiliation has already taken your looks, your need to impress, your care what others think, that he could embrace her brokenness without thinking it reflected on him. That he might catch it.
Then, actually, he did. The contagion slipped into his brain and he lost his eyesight and his own 10-year-old daughter turned her head in shame when he walked alongside, holding my hand, being led to the bathroom door with his blind eyes bright blue and unseeing.
“He’s blind!” I would announce to the ladies’ room at large while I wheeled him into the disabled stall – large, but never quite large enough for an easy transfer or getting the chair turned around to face the right way on the way out.
On the way out.
Sometimes I would be handing him toilet paper and whisper to him – “Now, if you suddenly regain your eyesight, the last thing you want to do in here is shout, ‘I can see! I can see!'” And we’d laugh as we went to the sink so I could wash his hands under disapproving eyes, lips pursed, silent judgement that there should have been SOME OTHER WAY to handle the situation.
What way, you nasty, judgmental woman? What way?
Dorothy and Mike busted through boundaries that would have preferred them be kept hidden, separate, apart. Angry and afraid. Instead Mike ran toward heaven with blessed strides and caught Jesus in a bro-hug with a joyous smile. Dorothy is patient. She accepts life for what it is and the days continue to fascinate her just by the fact that they keep coming. The birthday crown may be silly, but believe me, she will wear a crown covered with diadems reflecting the glory of heaven and shining like stars.
99 years…and counting.