Mom passed away last week, but she didn't go quietly. Always one to challenge tradition, she left behind a legacy as an independent and feisty woman that will be remembered fondly by her family and friends for many years.
At the age of 50, she took up motorcycle riding...not just a recreational scooter, but a full on road bike that she rode cross country every summer until she was in her 70's. The bike was so big that if she dropped it, it took several people to help her get it upright. She especially loved being the "cool" teacher roaring up to her middle school classroom when the weather was good, while her students lined up at the window to watch her arrival.
Her students loved her. She was tough on them, but she loved them and they responded with respect and adoration. Her lessons went far beyond the subject matter she taught. She taught them about the importance of living an independent and productive life. Many of her students continued to stay in contact with her long after they had grown and had children of their own.
Her snow white hair struck a strong contrast to the ever present red she preferred in her clothing and accessories. Red was definitely her color. Her house was filled with it. Even her motorcycle and helmet were red! It reflected her love of life and her need to be in the center of the action.
Even as she aged and required the help of a full-time caretaker, she clung tightly to her independence. When she had to sell her beloved motorcycle, she took up 4-wheeling in the Arkansas mountains. She required little in the way of comforts, preferring instead, to live a simple life away from the fast-paced life of the city. Nothing pleased her more than spending a weekend with my sister and her friends "off the grid" at a cabin in the Ozarks.
Toward the end, she became cantankerous and hard to get along with, and yet, we forgave her. No matter how harsh she sometimes acted toward adults, she always had a kind word and plenty of patience for the children. She was, after all, grandma to the entire community. Many people did not know her by any other name.
When Grandma Dorothy left us, she left a vacant spot in all our hearts. But memories have a way of softening over time. Because of her legacy, we will fill the empty spot with fond memories every time we think of her. But most of all, when we feel defeated and ready to give up, we will remember her love of life and how hard she fought to hang on to it.