It’s a question I get a lot when someone notices my “pen name.” And I always give the short answer: “I have two middle names and since I have a very common last name, I figured ‘D.M.’ was a good way to make it stand out.”
But there is more to the story. Yes, I do have two middle names: Dolores Mae. But my parents didn’t randomly pick those names when I was born. Like many people, my middle names were inspired by a grandparent. Dolores Mae was my grandmother on my mother’s side. Unfortunately, I never got to meet her. About three years before I was born, she died of leukemia. This coming December 23rd will be 34 years since her death.
This woman has intrigued me my entire life. I’ve always loved hearing stories about her. On the surface, she was a simple wife of a farmer down in Iowa, raising four kids who were all given names with the letter C. But if you dig a bit deeper, you’ll find a woman with a heart for Jesus, loved her kids and grandbabies and had the gift of hospitality like no other. She was ready for company at all times, with the coffee pot always on, and sweets in the freezer to pull out whenever someone came through the door.
Her and my grandpa had a special kind of love that people dream about for themselves. They were separated by WWII when Grandpa had to fight in Europe, keeping in touch with just letters. Grandma kept a scrapbook of their time apart. She was like any young lady in love, writing down song lyrics that reminded her of her man. Kind of like young girls would do today, but only on Instagram. There was one song in the scrapbook called “Carolina Moon.” I found a 1929 recording of the song on YouTube and the lyrics are super sweet. (Give it a listen: https://bit.ly/2Cp8Cuq ) This scrapbook probably kept her sane through all the years they were separated by war. It’s no surprise that they were married less than a month after he was discharged.
Even though I’ve never met Dolores Mae, she’s everywhere in my life. Most recipes I grew up eating and now feed to my family are hers. (Her chocolate chip cookies are legendary. And then there’s Klinkers, you know what I’m talking about McCarty family) The lullaby that my mom sang to me and that I now sing to my kids was hers (It goes to the music of the hymn “Love Lifted Me). The two most precious ornaments on my Christmas tree right now were hand painted by her and have her name on them. I have a crocheted blanket in my living room that she started but never got to finish. My aunt had to finish it. A milk can that once belonged to her and Grandpa on their farm now sits in my living room. I plan on keeping that around even after the farmhouse chic style goes outdated.
If someone were to ask me “If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?” No surprise that I’d choose my grandma. But I don’t want to just have dinner with her, I want to help and watch her make the dinner of her most loved recipes. Maybe even see how she makes her cinnamon rolls so I can show my mom how to finally make them. I want to watch her gift of hospitality because it’s an area I struggle in. I want to tell her that her and Grandpa’s love for Jesus still carries on. That her kids and grandkids have carried that love across oceans and to their local communities, through musical talents, through writing, to special needs children, one of whom is her great-grandson.
So, that’s Dolores Mae. A simple but extrordinary farmer’s wife who loved Jesus, and that love carried over to everyone around her.