My mother’s true love

My mother’s true love

This story is from my third book of short stories. It will be published in the fall of 2024.

This story is from my third book of short stories. It will be published in the fall of 2024.

With writing, sometimes the true stories are often the best stories. In 1951 my mother attended the University of Washington, located in Seattle, Washington, she was approaching the fall of her junior year. She was in the Alpha Omega Sorority, and she was studying Business.

Near the end of her junior year, she met perchance a fine fellow by the name of Dwight Osborn. He had wavy brown hair and brown eyes, he had a nice smile and a gentle way about him. He was a graduate student, studying Forest Management. He was from New Hampshire, his family owned a 200-acre tree farm near Nashua, New Hampshire. His plans were to graduate and once that was completed, he would go back to the family tree farm and manage the farm for his father. He was on the Varsity crew team while he was attending school. She modeled part time for Nordstrom’s which was located in Seattle, Washington.

They met one day while going to a class. They chatted and got to know each other. They studied and met for, “breakie.” They became fast friends. They tried to go out of their way to get to know each other. I think my mother fell for him instantly. Dwight was kind as could be to her. He respected her. He courted her, he gave her flowers and called on her. They went to Pike Street Market or to a Husky game. My mom loved to watch Hugh McElhanney play football. Dwight was approaching his last quarter at Washington; my mother was getting through her junior year. They went and visited the Seattle Art Museum, visited Queen Anne. They fell in love. They took long walks across campus. Birds seemed to encircle them and flutter about.

Dwight told mom about New Hampshire, how his family Christmas tree farm sat up near Mt. Jefferson, nestled in a beautiful valley. Trees, including oak, fir and spruce dotted the farmland. Wildlife was abundant, deer and pheasant roamed the land. They had a big ‘ol large white farmhouse, a couple barns and shops, a small pond that you could catch trout in and dogs and cats. They had a big turquoise International flatbed truck to haul trees. They had a vegetable garden and hung up their sheets on a close line to dry in the cool clean air. Crows flew around in the garden. They had a big weathervane attached to the top of the barn. The dogs barked and ran around chasing cats in the big barn. The farm rolled through mountains and valleys.

Dwight got around on campus back then with his 1948 Tomahawk motorcycle, it was a fast bike, my mom would hop on the back, and they’d go off in the countryside and have a picnic. He used to race dirt track back in New Hampshire when he was a teenager. His motorcycle got him around campus, he had a small apartment near campus. His roommate Ben was studying Finance. He’d pick up my mom on dates and drive his motorcycle all around Seattle. The Korean war was going on and he was worried about getting drafted. They continued to see each other. He’d pick up my mom after she got out of class and get a quick ride home. He treated her like a queen.

Mom studied business at the University of Washington. She worked for the Washington State Department of Transportation in the summer months. Dwight studied for his Forestry Management degree; they became an item. They met and had sodas at Fat City Cafe. My mother would call home and tell my grandmother about Dwight. He became very popular in my mother’s family.

So, they dated, had study sessions, took classes together, and had their photographs taken together. They were a nice couple. They went dancing. Dwight went out of his way to open doors for my mother and treated her with kindness. They’d meet and listen too local jazz bands, and mom was a big jazz fan. She loved Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington and her favorite, Sarah Vaughn.

In December of 1951, Dwight and my mother were out on a date. Dwight softly and kindly held her hand. He glanced at my mother as the moon shinned in her eyes, “Shirley, will you marry me?” My mother started to cry. “We can get married in your hometown, in Vancouver, we can move back to the Christmas farm in New Hampshire after the wedding!” My mother wiped the tears from her eyes. “Can I ask my mother and father about this? I love you Dwight, I’ll be honored to marry you,” said my mother. He gave her a kiss on the cheek and drove her back to her sorority. They had big dreams.

The next day my mother called her mother, “Oh momma Dwight asked me to marry him!” My aunt tried to listen while my grandmother was on the phone. There was a bunch of commotion, my grandfather came into the kitchen to hear the news. “I love you dear, I’m so excited for you!” She hung up the phone. “What’s the commotion?” asked my grandfather. “Oh. Tony Shirley, Shirley…..why Dwight Osborn asked for Shirley’s hand in marriage!” My grandpa looked stunned. He scratched his head with a puzzled look on his face.  My aunt started to scream, “Yeah for Shirley!” She jumped up and down as my grandmother hugged my grandfather.

My mother and Dwight had plans, they’d raise kids, they’d live in New Hampshire. They’d run the family farm and business, Dwight was sharp, so was Shirley. They planned to have the wedding in the summer, after Dwight graduated. Plans were made and my mother and grandmother started to put things in motion.

When my grandfather caught wind and heard the news, he announced to my mother that if Dwight wanted to marry his daughter, he thought it would be appropriate for Dwight to meet my grandfather and ask for her hand in marriage in person. He was Italian and from the old school. My mother told Dwight of my grandfather’s wishes and happily he said, “Sure!” Dwight called my grandfather the next Saturday afternoon, and they talked for a while. “I love your daughter sir, I’d like her to live with me in New Hampshire where I will raise a family, I’d like to marry your daughter sir.” My grandfather was silent for a bit, “Well Dwight, why don’t you head down here to Vancouver? Why don’t you head down in two weeks, the Saturday after next? Shirley will be here for Christmas vacation; we can have you over for dinner and we can talk? How does that sound? You can stay here for a few days?” Dwight thought it over, “I’ll see you in two weeks sir, I look forward to talking to you sir.” My grandfather hung up the phone and looked at my grandmother.

The week going into Christmas break my mother took her finals and then hopped on the train to Vancouver out of Seattle. She went with her best friend Ginger. Dwight saw them off, it was a Thursday night heading into the Saturday with the big meeting. My grandfather was at the train depot in Vancouver. He picked up my mother and they drove back to the family home. That Friday my grandmother started making dinner in the kitchen and my mother and aunt helped prepare the meal planned for Saturday.

Dwight finished his final on Friday, went home and packed, he planned to take his motorcycle out early in the morning and head south down to Vancouver, he’d be traveling through Tacoma, Centralia, Olympia, Longview and down towards Vancouver. There was no I-5 back in the early 1950’s, he’d be going down Interstates and through small towns, with old roads. He’d pack up and head down south on his Tomahawk.

He went through Tacoma, down the muddy Interstate, he kicked up clouds of dust in the air as he rolled through the countryside. He cruised through Tacoma and headed toward Centralia. Cars passed him along the way as the sunny winter day shined down on Dwight. He had a smile on his face as he headed down the road. He stopped in Centralia to get a bite to eat, at the Olympic Motel and sat near the fire in the pot belly stove that stood on the old oak floor. He ate lunch and made a phone call to my mother. “Hey Shirley, it’s me Dwight, I’m in Centralia, I’ll be in Portland by 1:00 PM or so.” My mother was on the other end of the phone call. “Oh, Dwight, I can’t wait.” Dwight hung up the phone and headed out on his bike, he rolled through Olympia, dark lush forests aligned the roads that took him to Vancouver. He curved along his way south.

As he reached Longview clouds started to roll in as the morning dragged on. Crows followed him for a while as his bike rumbled along. He started to reach the town of Castle Rock, he approached a curve, a curve that made it hard to see around the corner. There were ditches along the road, barbed wire fences stretched on for miles and kept livestock from roaming the countryside. He waved to a few kids that stood along the road.

As Dwight approached a curve in the road, a truck heading to one of the local dairies, while heading the opposite direction drifted into Dwight’s lane, the truck plowed into Dwight and his motorcycle. He was thrown off the bike and landed in one of the ditches along the roadside. The driver of the truck slammed on his brakes and ran to check on Dwight. He was dead, his motorcycle lying in a heap of twisted metal and broken parts. His skull was crushed, and his back was broken on impact and the driver of the truck started to cry and go into shock. There were witnesses. Parts of the bike were scattered everywhere. A woman in a passing car screamed in seeing what was lying before her eyes. Blood was spattered everywhere. They took his coat and covered his head and his upper body. A few cars stopped and flagged other cars down as a crowd gathered. They found his wallet on him and found his license and ID. One of the officers at the scene drove to the closest phone booth and tried calling his phone number, they got ahold of Dwight’s roommate, Ben Macalister. “Hello? This is Ben.” The officer on the other end of the phone explained what had happened, Ben was in shock, he sat down and started to weep, he called Dwight’s parents and sadly, through his tears he told them the news. The family was shocked by the sad news. Mrs. Osborn was beside herself.

Meantime my mother and her family started to worry. No sign of Dwight, finally, around 3:30PM or so the phone rang, it was Ben on the other end. He was sobbing. My grandmother could sense that something was wrong. “Shirley, Shirley……..Dwight, Dwight, oh Shirley Dwight’s dead, he was hit by a truck while he was on his motorcycle, up near Castle Rock.” She went into shock and started to cry, she dropped the phone and ran into her bedroom. My grandfather followed her; my grandmother picked up the phone,” Who’s this?” asked my grandmother. “Mrs. Furio it’s Ben Macalister, I’m Ben Macalister, Dwight Osborn’s roommate.” He explained to her what happened. She started to cry. She thanked him and hung up the phone. She could hear my mother crying. She sat there motionless as her daughter anguished with the news. My grandfather was trying to console her. She went into a deep depression as my grandmother watched over her that night, Poor mom. Her love had been tragically killed. I don’t think that there was a dry eye in that house. Shirley finally called Dwight’s parents, they were devastated. Shirley sobbed for days and went back to school. They had a Memorial and everyone that knew Dwight attended. Shirley cried when Dwight was gone.

Mom went back to school and said a prayer or two sent Dwight’s way each day. She cried at night. The long cold hard months of March and April dragged on. Flowers bloomed through the rainstorms.

Eventually Shirley worked for the State of Washington Tourist Bureau, United Airlines, Pan American, managed two travel companies and became a co-owner including three offices in Portland, she met my dad at United, fell in love and divorced when I was five. It was painful, always was, When I was eight, she had cancer of the face and almost died, pronouncing her dead on the table. She survived. She went through financial hardships and embezzlements that left her having to work until she died at 85, she had a hard life, never marrying after her divorce. I had always hoped that mom would find someone, someone to watch over her. She was misdiagnosed and died of cancer, she died six weeks after they found it. I asked her to show me a sign that she was in a better place, she did show me a sign that night after she died. She confirmed to me that she was in a better place, she did indeed show me a sign. She appeared and vanished into thin air.

So, what I’d like to think is this, purely fictitious, but like I said, it’s what I’d like to think, so what I think is this, that when mom shut her eyes for the final time, that her spirit took her to Dwight, that he took her hand and led mom and introduced her to a much better world that we could ever imagine. That he was there in her time of need and that he led her back to New Hampshire to the Christmas tree farm.

I’d like to think that I was there for her at the end and then Dwight took her from there. I believe that Dwight was my mother’s true love, that if they had gone on in their lives that they would have raised a fine family and that they would have been happy the rest of their lives. I’d like to think that they were there for each other, that their love would have endured, that it did endure through time. The power of love is a mighty thing. I’d like to think the pain and disappointment that mom suffered were only obstacles on her way to a better life with Dwight at her side.

Before mom died, she urged me to visit New England, I spent five weeks car camping through New England. While traveling through New Hampshire I found a pristine quiet place, a beautiful clear stream ran through the land. I found a spot that was out of the way and placed a portion of my mother’s ashes down in the stream. I thought she might want to be closer to Dwight.

I think of what could have been, it was tragic in a way. I guess my hope is that Shirley is with Dwight, working on the Christmas tree farm with her true love.

Amen.

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