Dorothy – My Gift from God by Paul Andruss
Stevie Smith had her Lion Aunt. I had a work’s mum. Her name was Dorothy, which is Greek for ‘Gift of God’. Although at those times she was absolutely driving me up the wall, I could have sworn she was from a different place entirely.
Like many significant people, I cannot remember meeting her. Presumably it was day one at my new job. The first memory is Dorothy announcing I should treat her like a work’s mum. So it must have been after she’d found out she was the same age as my mother. Like mum she had her son, Paul, at the age of 23. He was a month younger than me.
At 5 foot 2, Dorothy was the same height as mum. Hard to believe as she always wore 6 inch stiletto heels. She once took her shoes off and for a horrible moment I thought the earth had opened up and swallowed her. ‘Even my slippers have heels,’ she confessed in that coy way of hers. ‘I can’t even walk in flats, they cripple me calves.’
And very shapely calves they were too Dorothy.
In fact all of Dorothy was shapely; and glamourous. Imagine if you can a mature Sophia Loren, beneath a huge pair of Nana Mouskouri glasses and a swept up lion’s mane gathered into a chignon at the neck. Lacquered to within an inch of its life, her hair added at least another 2 inches of height.
Her poitrine, as the French so delicately put it, was classic 60’s lift and separate; more suited to movies such as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes than a place of work. What an addition she would have made to those two little girls from Little Rock; the complementary red head to Russell’s brunette and Munroe’s blonde.
No man could resist Dorothy’s cheeky grin and winning ways. God knows I couldn’t, even when I could have cheerfully choked her. Like during the days she chattered all afternoon while I was desperate to get some work finished. Happily those days were few and far between – the days I would rather work than listen to her outrageous tales I mean.
My favourite was the Shirley Bassey concert when an admirer threw her a diamond bracelet. Best remembered for two James Bond themes ‘Goldfinger’ and ‘Diamonds are Forever’, Shirley Bassey didn’t just sing her songs; she lived them. Even down to crying on stage.
Dorothy skilfully pantomimed Bassey stopping; looking down in surprise; hand clutching trembling heart; picking up the token; holding the glittering bauble to a spotlight in admiration; her vehement protests and finally the reluctant acceptance. It was all probably staged but Dorothy bought the act hook, line and sinker. In much the same way I bought Dorothy’s performance. Tell you what, if Bassey had one tenth of Dorothy’s ability, I can see why she was so popular.
If men liked Dorothy, Dorothy liked men. She only tolerated other women; except for her sister and the mother she worshipped. Dorothy’s mum had been a small large woman; a homebody. Dorothy’s dad was a womaniser. Dorothy’s sister never forgave him for what he put her mum through, whereas Dorothy admired her old man.
She visited his sheltered accommodation twice a week, picking up shopping, doing his laundry, making sure he was eating and slipping him a few quid for a couple of pints and a flutter down the bookies on a Saturday afternoon. In many ways, she was the son he never had. She was certainly a chip off the old block.
Dorothy married quite young. Her husband had a serious accident when they were courting and I think it bought out her maternal side. Some years later, she met the second love of her life; Tom, a big strapping man’s man. It was love at first sight on both sides. He wanted them to run away together. But Dorothy was sensible. They both had families; kids. How could they ruin so many lives? In the end, she convinced him to do the right thing – a 25 year long affair.
I know what you are thinking, but actually I’m with Dorothy on this one. What the eye don’t see, the heart won’t grieve over. Dorothy prevented more heartache than she ever caused. And when she finally did break someone’s heart, it was not the one you think.
Dorothy and Tom’s magnificent obsession was worthy of F. Scott Fitzgerald; a love story to put Erich Segal in the shade. If love never means never having to say you’re sorry; then keep your gob shut. The only soul confession is good for, is a selfish soul. Leaving someone worse to make yourself feel better is not love. It is not even decency. Your guilt is your burden. Deal with it. If you can’t bear what you do then perhaps you shouldn’t do it.
On a lighter note, here is another remarkable coincidence. Just as I had the same name and was the same age as her son and she the same age as my mother, Tom’s wife was called Dorothy. Make of this, what you will.
Dot made me roar laughing with tales of Tom, who she ran as thoroughly as the rest of us poor dumb men. When they first started going out, she said to him. ‘If you think I’m carrying on in the back of your car you can think again!’ and made him book hotel rooms. When she realised how much it was costing him, she told him rent a small furnished flat as it was much cheaper, and it also saved the expense of nights out.
‘In the early days,’ she once confided, grinning, ‘I saw Tom three days a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Then it was my husband Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. I couldn’t wait for Sundays, I was bloody knackered. It was my only night off!’
When I knew Dorothy, they were down to Friday night in the flat and every lunch time. No, nothing so strenuous I’m afraid. Every day she brought sandwiches and a flask of coffee, which they would eat in his car with her chattering or, more often than not, arguing. There were no long comfortable silences with Dorothy. If it was his wife’s birthday, Christmas or an anniversary coming up, she’d take Tom up to town to pick out a card and present for his Dorothy – as she coyly referred to his wife.
After we’d worked together some dozen or so years, Dorothy contracted lymphoma and took early retirement due to ill health. On the day she finished work she came back from lunch and told me she’d broken up with Tom. She left this tough giant of a man crying in the car.
‘But Dorothy,’ I protested, ‘why…?’
‘I’m not sneaking out of the house behind my husband’s back!’
But nothing! Dorothy was implacable. She never saw Tom again.
I fared better. But then, I was her son. We kept in touch for all the years it took the cancer to finally kill her. The chemo hit her hard. It left her heart so weak, they couldn’t give her anymore. During that time I had moved away, so it was only phone calls, birthday and Christmas cards, and thank God for Interflora!
One day her husband phoned to say Dorothy had died. ‘She was a little old woman in the end,’ he told me. ‘You wouldn’t have recognised her.’
Stupid isn’t it. After all these years I’m still filling up. But you know what, I’m glad I never saw her. Dorothy was no little old woman. Dorothy was a glamazon, a monster, a fiend, a friend and a thoroughly guilty pleasure. She was also the woman who met me in the corridor one day as I was coming back from a meeting, took me in the office, sat me down, and said…
‘There’s just been a phone call love. It was your brother. Your mama’s dead.’
She offered me a cigarette (I’d just spent 6 months giving up) and a cup of tea; then held my hand waiting for whatever came next.
A few months later a colleague said Dorothy went into the general office as soon as I left and gave them a grisly blow by blow account, freely inventing those details she felt I had overlooked in my grief – such as wailing like a banshee. Maybe they wanted to get her into trouble, but I howled with laughter. How can you resent someone for being so totally and unashamedly themselves? Bloody Dot eh? What a liberty. I felt better than I had in weeks.
As a writer I realise that you can’t make up a character with as many contradictions as Dorothy. If she was in a novel there would be no room for anything else. And in the end I think that’s what this is all about. This remembrance is not just for my Dorothy, but all our Dorothys. For like it or lump it, one way or another, we are all friends of Dorothy.
I don’t know if there is an afterlife. But I do believe nobody really dies until they are forgotten. Though Dorothy was as seductive as Cleopatra and as frightening as Attila the Hun, history won’t remember her because history never knew her. In the great scheme of things she did nothing of note. And that goes for all our Dorothys. So if that’s the case, why are we now thinking of all the remarkable things they ever said or did?
©Paul Andruss 2017
Have you had a Dorothy in your life ?. I had one but she was called Betty and like Dorothy was actually quite tiny when she too off her six inch heels.. But she taught me a lot about life from the age of 14 when I started working in a souvenier kiosk along Southsea seafront until I was 18. Once met never forgotten.. tell us your story in the comments.
About Paul Andruss
If I were a musician I would be Kate Bush or the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson; but without the mental issues or dependency on prescription drugs. For Brian not Kate! I can talk about anything except myself, so let’s talk about my work.
I’ve written 4 novels, Finn Mac Cool, and the (Harry-Potteresque) Jack Hughes Trilogy. ‘Finn Mac Cool’ and ‘Thomas the Rhymer’ are available for free download. Hint! Hint!
11 year old British schoolboy, Jack Hughes, sees a fairy queen kidnap his brother. With friends Catherine & Ken, Jack embarks on a whirlwind adventure to return Thomas the Rhymer to fairyland & rescue his brother
What’s been said about … Thomas the Rhymer
‘Fans of Harry Potter & Narnia will love Thomas the Rhymer’
‘Thomas the Rhymer leaves you feeling like a child curled up in a comfy armchair on a wet & windy afternoon, lost in a good book’
‘Spellbinding! An ideal Christmas read for young & old alike!’
Download Free from Paul’s website: http://www.jackhughesbooks.com/
Connect to Paul
Please find the previous posts from Paul in this directory.. you won’t be disappointed.
My thanks to Paul for this wonderful story of a woman who knew how to make an impression and who once met would not be forgotten.