Goodnight, Mrs. Doose
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
I called her every Sunday for our weekly chat where I would report on the news in Glenwood, along with the state of our family union.
Our conversation opened and closed the same way every time.
I would begin, “Good evening Mrs. Doose!”
And she would say, “Kimberly!”
Our conclusion: Everyone needs an exclamation point after their name at least once a week.
I called her Mrs. Doose because she taught school for 26 years and since she had instilled an incredible passion in me for reading; I considered her my best teacher.
And I, of course, was her star pupil.
Sometimes we talked about our old family house on Grand Avenue because she knew that that house held the best memories for me, like when I was a papergirl for the Glenwood Post and I would go home after school, roll my newspapers and load them into a newspaper bag that wrapped around the handlebars of my 12-Speed bike.
Now I know what you must be thinking: That sounds like an accident waiting to happen. And it was, but now you know why there was an inordinate amount of City Market inserts scattered from hell to breakfast along 13th and Grand in 1978.
My route included parts of Grand Avenue, Pitkin, Colorado, and all the Meadowood apartments across from Glenwood Springs High School.
And since my nine-year-old brain had a tendency to transpose numbers … well, I don’t have to tell you how that turned out.
This was back when we knew practically everybody and if my customers didn’t have their newspaper on their doorstep before supper they called Mrs. Doose direct.
It never occurred to me, until recently, how unpleasant her dinner hour must have been, fielding phone calls about my shoddy delivery service.
Mrs. Doose was the matriarch of six generations in Glenwood and New Castle.
Our family came here in the 1880s and worked as coalminers. So in 2005, Mrs. Doose decided it was time to have a family reunion.
After the event, she and I had one conclusion about party planning: Sometimes there just aren’t enough Martinis.
But Mrs. Doose learned to live with life and its curve balls.
Her husband and my grandpa, “Little Max,” died in 1970 at Ski Sunlight and here’s what happened: He skied down Blue, unfastened his skis, walked onto the Sundeck, and fell over dead of a heart attack.
Our conclusion: That’s a heck of a way to check out.
So we spent a lot of time together when I was a kid. She tutored me and made me read everything aloud to her, which included the Glenwood Post, street signs, menus from the Village Inn, instructions from Ogilvie Home Perms, and a book series I strongly disliked called, “Fun with Dick and Jane.”
So you can imagine my amusement a few years ago when I saw a cartoon in The New Yorker that showed a kid reading “Fun with Dick and Jane” aloud to his father and below the caption read, “Hey, who writes this crap?” So I called Mrs. Doose, described it to her, and we had a good laugh over it.
When she lost her sight, I called and read stories to her, and one time, when I took her out to lunch and had to read the menu aloud to her, we realized we had come full circle together.
Mrs. Doose, who was 94, preferred I relay information to her like a good, objective reporter, so that’s how I know she wouldn’t mind if I told you the next story.
I must, however, preface with the story by telling you about her teaching philosophy.
Mrs. Doose was a strict disciplinarian in her classroom because she believed it was critical for her kids, as she called them, to get a solid foundation in reading, writing, and arithmetic early on so they would do well in school and in life.
Anyhow, the incident happened in 1974 in her first grade classroom when a male student ignored her request to get into line. After the third request, I watched all 5 feet 2 inches of the invariable Mrs. Doose walk over to him, grab a fistful of his shaggy hair, and pull him across the room into formation.
I never forgot about the episode, and then, in 1999, as I rode my bike through Two Rivers Park, I saw that same kid, now in his 30s, hit a home run during a softball game.
Now you can imagine what a relief this was for me. I mean, after seeing her drag him across the room, I had worried about him for 20 years, you know, that he had been permanently damaged in some way, but it appeared to me he turned out fine, so naturally, I reported the sighting to Mrs. Doose and she was grateful for the progress report.
She died on Tuesday.
Here’s what happened: On Friday afternoon she said goodbye to the three of us who were sitting there with her and it was as if someone had rung the last school bell of the day. The Teacher had just dismissed her last class.
Then she went to sleep and never woke up.
My conclusion: That’s the second best way to die.
I guess it feels like the end of any good story, you know, where you are strangely satisfied, yet somehow it feels incomplete – like there should be one more scene.
Then I realized why I felt that way.
You see, I wanted to read one last sentence aloud to Mrs. Doose.
I wanted to read from a book I had written and I wanted her to sit next to me in the Springs Theater and when the writing credits rolled I would read my name right off the screen to her.
But our story wasn’t meant to end that way.
For some reason our story wants to end here, within the pages of the Post.
And so it does.
Goodnight, Mrs. Doose.
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