Dorothy was not a very good cook but she put her heart and soul into cooking. She would conscientiously cut the vegetables, mix the sauces, clean the meat and make a well balanced meal. But, the meat was always too dry and there was never enough sauce. Her forte was Chinese food and she also tried out many Italian dishes and a few Thai recipes. My children were well fed and I was thankful to come home to a healthy and hot meal every day.
Dorothy was our Filipina nanny whom we brought with us from Hong Kong five years ago and a year ago today, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. We had been taking her to various back specialists for a couple of weeks thinking that she had a pinched nerve and she had even had steroids injected into her back as the doctors thought the same thing. Then, this day last year, I took her to urgent care when she told me about her breast hurting when I was helping her get into bed and that is when the unravelling began. We watched helplessly as she was rushed into emergency spinal surgery as the cancer had metastasized down her spinal cord paralyzing her waist down. The doctors managed to reverse the paralysis but the cancer had grown through the bones in her back and had shattered a few vertebrae. She was in hospital for almost three months in a back brace after that, and she shrank to a third of her former self. The doctors thought that she would not be able to fly back and an air ambulance would be the only option, an option that was not within our means. Thankfully, CMC Rehab worked a small miracle and we had a small window of opportunity to fly her back as she was able to take a few steps with a zimmerframe. A Filipina nurse in the hospital kindly volunteered to fly back with her and we managed to send her back to the Philippines to spend her last 10 weeks at home with her family. We will always be thankful to the Charlotte Medical Center and their staff for their tireless work and caring hearts.
My children miss her terribly and every time I cook Chinese food, they get very quiet and sad and tell me how much they miss her. Even today, as five-year old Chocolate was taking a bath, she suddenly said, "Mamma, a hundred Dorothies......., I miss." It is going to take a long time.
Dorothy and I exchanged many thoughts and feelings those final months. I told her how thankful I was that she came with us to the U.S. to help us. I was especially thankful to be able to leave my children at home with her so that I could go back to work. Without her at home, I don't think I would have had the courage and the will to have left them at a day-care or hire a local nanny at that point. She told me that she too was thankful as the wages she earned here had enabled her to send both children to college and her son was graduating from police school. "And I got to see Americaaaaa!" I also felt guilty as I felt responsible for having kept her from her family for four years. Given her work visa, she would not have been able to return to the States if she had left and so she had stayed here for four years at a stretch. She shushed me and said that she talked to them every day anyway and in fact, in her mind, Vanilla and Chocolate were her children and that was how she treated them. She was here with family.
So, no, Dorothy was not a very good cook, but she was a wonderful caregiver to my children and we will never forget her. May she rest in peace.