Ode to Linnie — “Baby Sister”

(From Left:) George Dormody, Nancy Hoffmann (pony tail is hidden), Linda Dormody, Mike Doherty
(From Left:) George Dormody, Nancy Hoffmann (ponytail is hidden), Linda Dormody, Mike Doherty. Skating on the Wilmette Village Green, 1954.

Linda Dormody is the “baby sister” my mom never had. She was born when I was 3, and when my mom dragged me over to meet her (she was 1 week old and useless), I sneezed (from allergies). Linda still claims that’s why she’s short, although I did NOT sneeze ON her, as she maintains.

George’s ambition was to be a concert pianist. Linda would have loved to play any sport, except girls were excluded from all of them. She was the “mensch” of the family, and my mother adored her, having been very athletically inclined herself. We had so much fun together, running the neighborhood!

Now she has just had 3(?!?) heart attacks, and is watching her long-time partner die. Marsha Spector has diabetes, and it’s winning. She also has COPD and is losing ground every day. For years she had both under control; but they have caught up with her and she has months (at best) — or weeks — to live. Linda cannot take care of her, so she has live-in help, which adds more stress to her overburdened heart.

I told her today that she will always be my little blonde sister, with a hair clip to keep her bangs out of her eyes, and her favorite color is “buh-loo“. Linda thinks that was a long time ago; but it was yesterday to me. From 1991-2008 (give or take), she and Marsh took care of my mom all those years she was in Evanston, and I couldn’t have done it without their love and help. They also played with her: taking her to dinner, concerts and drinks, and calling her “Mrs. H”, while they teased her unmercifully (my mom gave it back in spades).

We bonded as kids because my mom cleverly created a “dish-drying exchange” whereby a few of us moved one mom to the left after dinner and dried dishes for a neighbor mom. We could bond with them in a “grown-up” way and it was actually fun to dry dishes in another house, in those days before dishwashers. Until they moved to Winnetka (in 1958?), we were constantly in and out of each others houses, as if we were siblings.

My heart is breaking for her today. She has rallied for Marsha’s sake, as Marsha is coming home from the hospice today. But Linda has really lost interest in life and I don’t know what to do for her. She doesn’t want help or visitors, and I don’t blame her. Due to a severe back injury (about 5-6 years ago?) she is virtually immobilized, and is living on the edge of a giant “gator preserve” near Naples, FL, in a lovely home she and Marsh purchased only a few years ago.

She can’t golf anymore; and I don’t know if she can even drive (that was Marsha’s responsibility after Linda’s injury). As mom said, we are going through another (final) phase in our lives: the “dropping-like-flies” phase. Only it’s way too soon for Marsha, who just turned 65 (Linda isn’t even 65 yet!)

I’m crying for both of them right now, even as I write.

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