It was fortuitous. I had gone to a public meeting, where I knew nobody. A charming elderly woman met me at the door and guided to a seat. Before I took a seat, however, I had a short conversation with her. When she knew that I was a newcomer to Washington, in fact to the country, she asked that I stop after the meeting and talk to her again.
When I met her after the meeting, she introduced me to several persons. She seemed to know everybody, and everybody seemed to like her. Clearly, she was a very popular person. When she introduced me to the person sitting next to me in the meeting, I realized it was her husband, Horace. Horace was of medium build, with graying hair and a thin moustache. He exchanged a quick glance with Dove and asked if I would like to join them for lunch. I was free and I joined them happily.
Dove would call me every other day to make sure that I was surviving well in an alien milieu. Horace took me to the large grocery stores, both to explain how the stores were laid out and to suggest easy ways of making a meal. Since I always had a cook in India and did not know my way in a kitchen, they feared I might perish from hunger or malnutrition. In turn, I called them often with picayune problems that seemed large and vexing at the time. In retrospect, I think I was calling them less to solve a quandary than to bask in their affection.
They had two daughters, but both were married to people located in Europe. Dove and Horace missed them, and I might have met the couple’s longing for younger company. Whatever the reason for their eagerness, mine was much greater. Their affection was life-giving at a time when I was struggling to find my feet in a new and different society. They were unfailingly considerate and patiently helpful. Besides, they made me feel wanted.
Horace passed away five years later. It was no surprise, for he was ailing for a while. My relationship with Dove took a different turn. No longer a newbie in Washington, I could now find my way in town with some confidence. Widowed, alone and aging, Dove on the other hand needed some help.
She had her doctor, but sometimes she needed some help in locating the places where all the prescribed tests could be done. She had her lawyer, but occasionally she needed assistance in gathering or completing the documents he asked for. I could help her and I could also drive her to places she felt uncomfortable driving to. Most of all, she turned to me for anything large or small that confused or troubled her, for she knew I wouldn’t assume it was a trifle. From my side, busy as I was, I liked doing things for her. She was special for me and it seemed to add meaning to my life.
Anticipating her resistance, I had unpacked the device at home, connected it and requested a number of people to record birthday messages for Dove. The device now contained messages from her daughters, her grandchildren, her doctor, her lawyer and six of her closest friends. Then I had repacked the phone to make it look pristine.
Now I reopened the package in her apartment, connected it and pressed a couple of buttons. The messages started. Dove was at first incredulous, then stunned and pleased, and then her tears began flowing. The device never went back to the store. Rather, a week later Dove called to say that she did not know how she could have lived years without such a device. What she did not know was that I had urged her daughters to call Dove regularly the initial weeks. What they did not know that my guess was that, if they called regularly the first few weeks, the practice might become permanent. It did, fortunately.
One of her daughters eventually returned from Europe to live in the US and, to my chagrin, took up residence on the west coast. Understandably, she wanted Dove, now ninety, to be near her and her children. Dove left Washington and joined her daughter’s family.
I was left without a mother figure to look after. And, to be truthful, who would look after me. She left a not inconsiderable hole in my heart.