2017 has felt like a year of loss, and some of it has been literal. My grandmother, Doloras Shay, left this world yesterday after 92 years. My brother and I passed her hometown of Hays, Kansas on a cross country trip in the ’90s. It was just west of Russell, Kansas, which sported an enormous billboard announcing it as the home of Bob Dole. Hays had no such distinction.
She had a subtle midwestern cadence when I met her, but by then, she was living in Boise, Idaho. She met my newly divorced grandfather Eric Rostock at The Ranch House in Garden City in the 1970s. He pointed it out every time we went by. It had few windows and an enormous white, stallion sculpture rearing up on the roof. Doloras had red hair when they met, and he would call her “Red” for the rest of their life together.
When we moved to Boise as kids, we lived in their spotless split level for a few months. She was a magnificent cook and fastidious housekeeper all while working full time in the administration offices of a local Sears department store and walking both ways to and from work. She never learned to drive.
She was the compass for my grandfather keeping all in order from some bookkeeping for his business to her many home improvement projects to the giant below ground pool in the back yard. As children, we’d help her open the pool by diligently hand scrubbing the winter’s dirt from the plastered sides, but in truth, she did the lion’s share of the work in the entire yard. The landscaping was immaculate, and when you commented on it, her only complaint was that she kept getting ringworm from the cats who pooped in her luscious flower beds.
Doloras had four children of her own from her first marriage. Her son Mike and his wife Diane would become especially great friends to my parents. She never married my grandfather, which was curious to me as a child but less so now. She was a great companion to him, and I fear he’ll be lost without her guidance. Rest in peace.