With Her Dad in Sudden Valley (Age 53 - 57 years)
During the late 1990s my parents became snowbirds, migrating south from Bellingham each winter. My parents and I spent Christmas 1998 at Doti's house in Lincoln City, Oregon, then Mom and Dad continued on to Las Vegas in early January 1999, where they had a winter apartment. A few weeks later, though, my Mom became ill and was admitted to a hospital in Las Vegas. All five kids helped, and for the last two weeks of Mom's life, Dad, Doti, and I had a round-the-clock vigil so that one of us was in her hospital room at all times. We thought Mom was going to pull through but, sadly, she passed away in late February.
Mom and Dad had been married for 56 wonderful years and her passing left a tremendous void. It had been difficult for everyone in the family, but especially for my Dad. He was 75 years old and had relied on Mom a lot, and vice-versa. They had been a great team.
A few days after Mom died, Doti and I got in my truck in Las Vegas and headed back to Oregon. On the quiet drive back, Doti told me she was going to move to Bellingham, Washington to live with my Dad to help take care of him. I thought that was an extremely generous and typical "Doti thing" to do, but I told her not to make any rash decisions that she might regret later, considering that she'd lived in Lincoln City, Oregon for 15 years and had a lot of friends there. But Doti was adamant. She wanted to move to Bellingham to help her Dad – and she did. She moved in with him the next month.
Living under the same roof was an adjustment for both of them, certainly, especially considering their different personalities. Dad was easygoing and not very concerned about details, while Doti, who was very loving, could also be precise and particular about things. But Dad, who was getting more frail, greatly appreciated Doti for moving to Bellingham to help him and he told me (and her) that many times. Doti did the cooking, cleaning and handled many of the logistics, but more importantly, she provided him with warm companionship and they shared a lot of laughs.
Looking back on it, I don't know how Dad would've managed if Doti hadn't moved in with him. But make no mistake: Doti enjoyed it, as well. She told me numerous times how important being able to help Dad in his final years was to her. Dad and Doti were always very close and this was a special time for both of them. In years past it had usually been Dad helping out Doti but now Doti wanted to return the favor.
In early 2001, I decided to take an extensive road trip around America and then overseas. I moved all of my things from Portland up to my Dad's basement, so for the next few years the house in Sudden Valley became my home base, as well.
Sadly though, in the fall of 2002 at age 79, my Dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was given only a few months to live. I was getting ready to move back to Portland to go back to work when he was diagnosed, so I cancelled my plans because I wanted to help Dad. So for the next three months, Dad, Doti and I lived in the Sudden Valley house. It was an important time for me, being with my Dad in his final days, but it was also stressful and tinged with sadness, with all of us knowing that his time was drawing near. He passed away in late November 2002 after living a remarkable life and being a role model for so many, including each of his five kids.
I was so grateful to be able to spend time with him, and Doti felt the same way. In fact, after Dad passed away, Doti told me that the nearly four years when she lived with Dad had been the most special time of her life.