Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Farewell Dear Special Lady by Camilla McGuinn

We usually turn the telephones off after 5pm, an old habit of mine. Sad news always comes to me in the dark hours. Tonight, I went for a walk before turning off the phones. The evening summer air was refreshing after the hot summer day. Neighbors were watering their lawns, the trees were gently moving with the light breeze.

Dorothy McGuinn was diligent to keep a daily record of her life. I asked her during our last visit if she would trust us with her journals. She said yes as long as she got credit if I used them to write a story;she was always the consummate publicist. I tucked a few of the journals in my bag to read during the airplane ride from Tucson. Tonight my plan was to fall asleep while finishing her diary from 1955. The daily life of this special woman was fascinating. I couldn't decide if my fascination was because I knew her, or because each page is a glimpse of history.

Just as I turned on my reading light the phone rang. I didn’t want to pick up the receiver. The sun had set, there were only shadows lurking outside my window. I knew why the phone was ringing. Brian, Roger’s younger brother and devoted son to Dorothy, whispered a quiet “Hi.” “Brian, are you okay? “ I asked. I knew what was coming. “I am, but mom’s not. She’s gone.” His voice cracked slightly.

Roger was in his studio listening to music with headphones. He hadn’t heard the ring of the telephone. The walk to his studio was a long one.

For the past couple of days, the life of a 45 year old Dorothy McGuinn sprang from the words of her journal into my heart. We had just returned home from celebrating her 102nd birthday on July 28th in Tucson. Roger and his grandson James spent two days by her bedside playing guitar and singing. Her eyes lit up when they played her favorite songs.

Old friends and family called throughout the day to wish her happy birthday. She couldn’t hear them well, so I often relayed the good wishes. One caller, the granddaughter of one of her Chicago friends told me that Dorothy was a bridesmaid in her grandmother’s wedding. When our conversation was over, I asked Dorothy if she was a wild girl in Chicago with her friend. She told me how there were four of them that went out every night. “Single women on the town?” I teased. “Oh no! We all had dates.” She quietly spoke with just a bit of distain in her voice at my thinking she would go out alone. It just wasn’t done in 1936.

Dorothy was a thoroughly modern woman. Born in 1910, educated at Northwestern University, married while in college against her parent’s wishes, divorced a short time later and declared she was never going to marry again. Then she met Jim McGuinn.

Jim was the whirlwind that swept her off her feet. When she called her friend and said that Jim had asked her to marry him, the friend replied,” Go for it! You will have a ball!” The ball continued for a long time. They were a team in writing a book, in business and in life.

Their first son was a surprise. They called him James Joseph McGuinn III. Their second son, Brian, was a much wanted child. They were living in Tarrytown, NY and their house had a wonderful backyard – just the right place for children to play. When Brian was born, Dorothy declared to Jim, “We must take care of this little one.” It was Brian who ended up lovingly taking care of her.

This morning, a nurse emailed me and told me that Dorothy had been waiting for her birthday so she could see Roger one last time. Dorothy’s intestinal fortitude was so strong that we were sure we would be spending Thanksgiving with her. We told her we would see her then as we left her room. But her body was tired and she wanted to join the love of her life, Jim.

We are now a little numb. I cried yesterday when I was telling Roger about the vibrancy I felt from her journal. It was as if I was being prepared for today.

Grief takes a different road with every passing. This grief will be different for all of us- Roger, Brian, Patrick, Henry, James, Ciaron, Callie, her extended family, her loyal friends and me.

More about Dorothy McGuinn- http://rogermcguinn.blogspot.com/2005/07/special-lady-by-camilla-mcguinn.html

Wedding photo-Dorothy is stage left.