They say, “nothing is certain but death and taxes.” Fewer things are darker or gloomier either. But Dana and stories of adoption managed to shine another bright light into a conversation that involved both.
It took a while to track Dorothea down this year. In 2021 she happened to be the tax expert we were “randomly” assigned to for the filing of Dana’s mother, Carrie’s 2020 taxes. Dorothea was an absolute delight to have met and did a wonderful job helping complete the tax returns. We certainly wanted to continue the relationship as long as possible into the future.
We say as “long as possible” because Dorothea is eighty-four. She’s been doing tax returns for over three decades. “I love helping people with this ‘miserable’ certainty in life”, she said with a sincere and beaming smile. The next hour we spent with her looking over all Carrie’s 2020 tax documents, proved her point.
When Dana sat down in Dorothea’s small cubicle, all the warmth and welcome from last year was still alive and present. Dorothea, sat in her swivel chair cocked halfway between the computer screen and Dana’s customer chair. She extended her hand, but quickly remembered the conversation from 2020 and stood to give Dana a big hug. Their connection was deeper than a simple tax-client.
Dorothea looked as young and energetic as ever. Despite adding another year to the previous eight-four, she hadn’t lost a step or a joule of energy. Her bifocal glasses sat precariously on the edge of her nose and were tethered to her neck by gracefully arching sparkling straps. She slipped seamlessly into her accountant role and pulled up Carrie’s return from the previous year. As the return was uploading, Dana was reaching into her purse for the Sacred Selections 400 Card.
As Dorothea saw the return pop open on the screen, she pivoted her chair back toward Dana. As soon as they faced, Dana handed her the card. “Before we get started, I’ve got to show you this”, Dana extended the card and expected a quick smile and short conversation to acknowledge the beauty and impact of 400 smiling faces and their dramatically changed lives. What happened next was a complete and unexpected surprise and reaction.
Dorothea, glanced down at the card while Dana explained. “Dorothea, we hit 400 this year!”
She stared at the card for a couple of seconds, and immediately clutched it to her chest. Dorothea, pulled the glasses off the bridge of her nose, and looked up at Dana, tears were streaming down her face. “Oh my”, was all Dorothea could get out before she broke down into what Dana describes as “the ugly cry”. Sobbing uncontrollably. It was awkward, other agents and clients began peering around their cubicles, curious and concerned. Dana wondered what they might be thinking, “Wow somebody has a horrible tax bill.”
Within a minute, Dorothea managed to get her emotions under controls and began a short explanation for why the card hit her so hard, close, and emotionally. Many years ago, she and her husband found out she was carrying a sixth child. An unplanned or expected addition to their previous five. Her sisters and sisters-in-law were, “appalled” at the situation, this was simply “way too much for her to handle and afford. Her husband was at best, deeply stressed over this. The cumulation of these forces and emotions led her to schedule an appointment at the local women’s clinic. It was early in the pregnancy, at least early enough for Dorothea to rationalize it wasn’t a “real baby” yet.
“I actually did go the clinic for the appointment”, Dorothea explained but as I was “gowning up” I saw a silver basin on the counter beside the bed, next to a sink. It was stained with streaks of blood, and partially filled with a reddish-pink fluid.” She knew immediately, it was the blood of some unknown child whose life was ended in the last hour or so. “I was horrified not just at the sight but at what I was about to do”, Dorothea’s streams of tears returned but she managed to keep her emotions in control. “I got myself up, dressed and walked out, passing several questioning, protesting nurses and staff in the hallway.”
Dorothea and her youngest daughter had a brush with death. It was clearly and remained a dark place and a dark day. She healed but never forgot how close they’d come. Years later after countless moments of reflection, Dorothea lead her family, husband, and daughters to find ways to give back helping women and children who find themselves in similar or related dark places. It was part of her penitence as well as her passion.
Staring at a card with 400 smiling children and realizing the situations and stories that connected their lives to hers broke her down. She rose again from her dark place to the shining light place that she saw in these faces and in the joy of her passion for helping in similar ways.
Dorothea stood up once again from her ergonomic swivel chair, Dana rose too, and they embraced. They both wiped the tears away and sat down. Back again, to the other dark and certain place…taxes.