I met death at an early age.
When I was around five years old, my parents decided to rent out the small in-law apartment in their large New England home. My mother placed ads in various newspapers and sat back to wait. The phone rang only once in response to the ads. Three or so days after the call, Mr. & Mrs. Dalton appeared on our doorstep.
My mother invited them in for coffee, I went to get my sister, and we all sat around talking eating a Sara Lee coffee cake. They looked at the apartment, decided then and there they would take it, and said they would return in a week to move in.
Sure enough a week later a van from New York showed up to deliver Mr. & Mrs. Dalton along with their few belongings. They were both in their early nineties, and spoke with heavy accents. In short, they were adorable.
My sister was eight years older than me, always off doing something with her friends, so I claimed Mr. & Mrs. Dalton for my own. If I wasn't away at summer camp, at the library, or in school, I was knocking on their door asking if they needed any help. They rewarded me with their stories.
They had escaped Poland before the atrocities of the WW's could affect them, immigrated through the demoralizing operating procedures of Ellis Island, and immediately landed jobs working for a wealthy couple on Park Avenue in New York City. He the butler, she the maid. Oh the stories they told of glorious parties, and the famous people in attendance they served drinks to. Mr. Daltons favorite had been a famous boxer, Mrs. Daltons was Charlie Chaplin. Mr. Dalton had even run into someone that was associated with Al Capone's gang, named Lefty (what else?!). Mr. Dalton continued in a lowered voice that shortly after running into Lefty at a well known bakery, there had been a murder in the city, and he never saw Lefty around again.
It had been their dream to save every penny they could, and someday move to a little town, on a quiet street to live out the rest of their lives. They were living their dream and so happy, still in love after over sixty years of marriage. I never felt more privileged than when they told me they never had the means to have children of their own, but they felt as though I was partially theirs, they didn't mind having to share me with my parents.
After two or so years Mr. Dalton became ill. They first consulted with my mother, the RN, before taking him to see the cardiologist my mother was working for. Mr. Dalton was not well, but would not go into the hospital. He was worried about depleting savings they needed to live on. So he came home with a pile of prescriptions. It was summer. I could do all their errands and be there in case Mrs. Dalton needed a break.
Dawn broke one morning with Mrs. Dalton at our door in tears. Something was wrong with the Mr. My mother was getting dressed for work and sent me upstairs. He was in pretty bad shape was all I could tell, and by the time my mother was dressed, the ambulance she had called for was at the door. I followed the stretcher down the stairs with Mrs. Dalton. My sister and mother were waiting by the back of the ambulance. Mrs. Dalton was not doing well at all either at this stage, and my mother decided she had better take her to the hospital to meet the ambulance, I would go with Mr. Dalton.
The back of the ambulance was crowded so I had to kneel on the metal floor to stay near Mr. Dalton's head. His eyes were half open while he whispered, "Please to tell Mrs. Dalton she is the love of my life, and thank you for all that you do."
He closed his eyes, and he was gone. I remember being so consumed with remembering exactly what I had to tell Mrs. Dalton, that I remember it to this day.
Six months later I would once again take another ambulance ride, this time with Mrs. Dalton. I was ready for it this time. I cried and begged her to stay, if only for a little while longer, but she told me she and Mr. Dalton would finally be together again, and she missed him.
In December of that year a package arrived for me. It had been a Christmas present Mrs. Dalton had ordered for me. It was a cookie jar in the shape of a bear.
I still have it.