My Aunt Dorothy loved words.
She loved to write, read, create, speak and have them.
In the last five or six years Dorothy and I played more games of Scrabble than anyone here could imagine, except perhaps, Tom and Jan, Dorothy’s next door neighbors, who had to have heard us arguing about a word one of us had just played. Dorothy and I were both somewhat amazed that they had never come over to check and see if the argument had ended in fisticuffs. Of course it never did, much to my relief.
Last count we were at about 400 games. That, my friends, is a lot of words. But it wasn’t just about the love of words that she and I shared. It was also the love of coffee. And competition. And companionship. And caring. And her cooking (she loved to cook and I loved eating her cooking.) ...And it was about the laughter and even the tears. Which, when all combined; competition, companionship, caring, cooking, laughter and tears you get a sense of why most of our nearly 400 games took anywhere between three to four hours to complete.
One time when I won two games in a row Dorothy accused me of reading the dictionary before I came up to visit. Of course I never read the dictionary, not like one reads a novel or the newspaper anyway, so I asked, “You mean did I read the entire dictionary before coming here?” and she said, “Of course I mean the entire dictionary! Is there a half-dictionary out that I’m not aware of?”... To which I replied “Are you crazy? Of course I didn’t read the entire dictionary! Just the Q, X and Zs.” And we would laugh. Oh my! How we would laugh.
Dorothy, even before words, above all else, loved to laugh. Hers was infectious; a big, warm and brassy laugh... the kind of laugh that comes from an unbridled joy of living; undeniably full of her special brand of love.
I remember having to pick up the Scrabble board and letter tiles from off of the floor only once. Once due to my playing a triple/triple word score on my next to last play. Next thing I knew words were flying. Figuratively and literally... all over the kitchen. As a matter of fact for a month or so after her tossing the letters everywhere we played our games minus one of the “E” tiles. I told her to make sure to keep an eye on Feister, her dog, when she’d take him out to go to the bathroom. Just in case. We were both convinced that he’d eaten the letter “E”. All Dorothy could say was, “How lucky for you that it wasn’t a Q, X or Z!”
Eventually, like most things with Dorothy, the letter was missing because Uncle JC had come in and hidden it from us. She said, “Your uncle may have passed on, but believe you me he’s still playing his little pranks!” Now I think you see why Dorothy and I spent half of our time together arguing, crying, sleeping, eating, and playing Scrabble and the other half laughing. …I am, after all, one of JC’s nephews, right?
She eventually found the letter behind the tv stand. I said, “What? Did JC come in and tell you not to sweep back there?” She laughed, flipped me on the ear, and then we promptly fell into a blistering game of Scrabble with all the tiles while watching The Price is Right….
Aunt Dorothy kept a meticulous score sheet of our games, too. This is the second notebook full of scores. The first notebook is missing; no doubt hidden away by Uncle JC.
Dorothy, like her husband, loved children. I think she realized long ago that they need us most of all. She knew that the children required words spoken with kindness and love. Dorothy may have loved to cook, but she never minced her words. If she thought it, felt it, or imagined it, you can bet your bottom dollar you’d hear it, much to our and the children’s delight. She loved children and she let them know this by her unselfish, unflinching contact with them. Any child that ever spoke with Dorothy surely felt her warmth, whether she was disciplining them, merely conversing with them or pulling their chain they knew they were safe in her presence by her words and grace.
Now Dorothy would say that “grace” is the wrong word to use for her because it doesn’t sound right, or it’s too short and not worth enough points, which is why I wish she and I were playing scrabble right now so maybe I could come up with a word that started with a Q, X or Z that meant “grace”. Yes. If a child had talked with Aunt Dorothy they knew that they had been graced with her unique sense of humor and unwavering love.
We agreed on many things, even politically, but if we got into a debate over it her favorite line was, “You’re just trying to get me riled up so I’ll lose the game!” You see, Dorothy, in my experience, loved words, but hated losing. I think much of it was due to the fact that she despised numbers. Words, in a sentence, she could change the order and come out with something altogether different… except perhaps “Dorothy, you lost that game.”, but numbers…? Well numbers were a problem for her, because, as she put it, “It doesn’t matter how you arrange them they just keep adding up!” She often said things that reminded me of Yogi Berra. But it was her loathing of numbers that was just another reason that Aunt Dorothy seemed ageless; she’d rather subtract than add, rather celebrate anything before being reminded that it’s her birthday.
--Regret… There’s a word for you… probably not worth much in Scrabble, but I can tell you, because I know if for a fact, that Aunt Dorothy lived without regret. So, today, I say let us celebrate Dorothy’s memory as one without regret, neither ours, nor hers.
After all, Regret is nothing if not a heavy rain waiting on a storm cloud.
Regret is nothing if not a beautiful hat waiting on the wind.
Regret is nothing if not a face waiting on a mirror.
Regret is nothing if not a kind word that stays inside the mouth.
So let us not regret, instead let us celebrate all of the selfless laughter and joy and kindness and beauty that we shared because of this incredible woman.
--The artist, poet and philosopher Kahlil Gibran finally reminds us that,
our joy is our sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which our laughter rises is oftentimes filled with our tears. The deeper that sorrow carves into our being, the more joy we can contain. When we leave here today and onward, as Dorothy would surely have wanted, let us know that when we are joyous, to look deep into our hearts and find it is only that which has given us sorrow that is giving us joy. And when we are sorrowful let us look again into our hearts, and we shall see that in truth we are weeping for that which has been our delight. …Aunt Dorothy Schell.
© 2007 mrp/thepoetryman