Both Gone

Leo and Mary Dodd circa 1949

I should have this memorized so I don’t have to read from my notes at my mom’s service tomorrow. But I don’t.

When you’re young there is no safer place than in your mother’s arms. You learn that when things get weird you can always return to your mom. I first met my mom in 1950. Everything was brand new for me but I had a sense that everything was brand new for her as well. There was an air of experimentation in our home and I watched this play out as our family grew. Teachers come and go but your mom is on a higher rung. You learn from your mom how to make your way in the world. When she had enough of our nonsense she would say, “Go out and play.” That was the best advice she ever gave me.

My mom was very aware. She had keen observational skills and a fashion sense that she shared with us all. I was the only one in my Confirmation class with a striped sport coat. A few years ago my father and I did an event at the Brighton Town Hall where we drew quick portraits of people. My mother surprised me by looking over my shoulder and making suggestions that were right on.

Mary was not shy about expressing how she felt about something even if it went against the popular grain. This was jarring to me at first but I grew to admire her for that streak. We argued plenty and she was a formidable opponent. In the process she taught me to think for myself and she gave me the confidence to leave home.

Mary was a devout Catholic but grew frustrated with the church and would say “I wish they would stop praying and do something.” To a college demonstrator my mom’s peace flag seemed like a benign protest. But when a neighbor demanded that she take it down because her son, my friend Tom, was fighting in Vietnam, I witnessed my mom hold her ground in a real world situation.

The nurturing caregiver relationship slowly flipped over time. Yet Mary faced her decline with determined dignity. And she shared with us the gift of spending time with her fellow members in the Friendly Home’s Memory Care center.

I will always feel lucky to be Mary’s son.

2 Responses to “Both Gone”

  1. Louise Says:

    You and Peggi both spoke so beautifully, it brought tears to me. What a moving remembrance, by all 7 children. I felt blessed to be there and listen to you all. Thank you for letting me, almost a stranger to the Dodds, in on an childhood so powerful and locked into time and place. Orange carpet wall to wall. Sweetness. A soft real voice. xx Louise

  2. Peggi Says:

    Mary was my mother-in-law for over 40 years. I feel really lucky to have been a part of her world for so long. She was incredibly caring and considerate of others. When she’d call, she’d ask “Did I get you at a bad time?” And when I was sick or had gone to the doctor, she’d always check in to see how I was doing. Mary had amazing taste and the ability to find gifts at Christmas that were perfect for each individual. After opening our gifts, we’d turn to each other in amazement at how perfectly she saw each family member’s unique fashion sense. Up until the end, Mary noticed if I was wearing a new shirt and commented on it and voiced her opinion about Paul’s hair.

    But as caring and sweet as she was, she was also a ferocious fighter for what she believed in – politically, morally and for the community. In the 80’s, we all used to gather on Sundays for dinner at Mary and Leo’s house and she never held back from voicing her opinions and encouraging her kids and their spouses to make well thought out choices through the discussions. I learned a lot from her and admired the strength of her convictions.

    But Mary’s sweetness is what stays with me the most. Dignity to the end and…so sweet. She was the best of both delicateness and strength.

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