Dottie Taylor, June 1968
Bob Taylor, June 1968
Dottie and Bob, August 1967
I’ve been thinking about my cousin Bob Taylor lately. I spent a long weekend with him 45 years ago, when I was a boy, and I want to try to describe what it meant to me, and what it still means. Truth in advertising – I don’t remember many details.
When I was 7, Bob’s wife Dottie spent about six weeks with my family in Rochester. She had Hodgkin’s Disease and stayed with us while she underwent radiation treatment at Strong Memorial Hospital. Ma tells me that Dottie cooked a fried chicken dinner for the family on her (Mom’s) birthday, so this must have been around February-March of 1967. Bob was working in a Waterloo grocery at the time, but of course he came up to our house as often as he could.
Bob and Dottie became close to the whole family, and after Dottie’s treatment was complete, they returned to Waterloo. I guess because I was the right age, they asked me later that year to visit.
I don’t remember just how long the visit lasted, but several days. It was at their house in Waterloo (Ma and Pa tell me it was a post-WWII home, built on a slab). I can remember meals around the kitchen table. And I remember Bob teaching me how to play pool on a pool table that he had. We had quite a bit of fun playing eight ball.
I also remember attending church with Bob and Dottie on Sunday. I think it was the Presbyterian Church on Main Street in Waterloo. I had been to Ma's Presbyterian Church before, but going to Catholic school, it was Catholic mass that I was used to. I had never seen a Protestant communion service, but that Sunday there was one. Bob was about to let me go up to the altar, but saw that I hesitated. "Have you had first communion in your church yet?" he asked. I shook my head no. "Well you better wait on this then," he said. So I had to wait another year or two.
Dottie died on December 1, 1969 at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo. Bob arrived at our house afterward and we were all quite broken up. I had hand-written a short remembrance of Dottie that I gave to Bob when he arrived (I think I framed it!). It was on the sort of lined paper that a nine-year-old would use. I spoke of how wonderful Dottie was, and how much we loved her. I don’t remember any of it in detail except the ending: “I fear we shall not see her like again.” I think Bob liked that turn of phrase. I didn’t tell him that I’d stolen it from a funeral oration given for John F. Kennedy, which I had found in a book Ma & Pa kept in the living room. I used to feel bad about that slice of plagiarism – I should have spoken more from the heart. But now that I look back and search the web for the exact quotation, I see that I quoted someone who was riffing on Shakespeare. Hamlet says of his father: “I shall not look upon his like again.”
I know that Dottie was a great loss to Bob. She was a great loss to all of us, I think; but at my age her death was a life lesson, too. I don’t really know why, out of all of my brothers and sisters, I was invited to visit for that long weekend, but it made me feel special. And being a part of their family life, if only for a very short time, has always been important to me. I remember Bob and Dottie with deep, sad affection.