When the chief barber retired, Doris took over the first chair. She knew everyone, said her grandson, Jeffrey Grim.
“When she was in the hospital, her respiratory therapist said, ‘Did you cut hair?’ and she was like, ‘Yeah,’ ” Grim recalled in an interview, describing Doris’s hospitalization for covid-19 this summer. The respiratory therapist then said, “ ‘My dad used to take me to you when I was a little boy.’ ”
Doris Bender died of complications of coronavirus on Sept. 3, in Room 4107 of Meritus Medical Center Intensive Care Unit in Robinwood. Jacob had died Sept. 1 in the same hospital, also of covid-19, in Room 4109.
Jacob, who was 83, died at 2:36 p.m.. Doris, who was 81, died at 2:34 p.m.
“Two days apart, two minutes apart, two rooms apart,” said Grim, a PhD candidate at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. “It’s really hard to lose both of them at the same time. My family will never be the same. And they were old, but I think we would have had a lot more years with them, if it wasn’t for covid.”
Grim said he isn’t certain how his grandparents contracted the virus. He remembers that the couple came into contact with someone who had the virus, but tested negative shortly thereafter. In August, Doris began experiencing heart attack-like symptoms.
“When they took her to the hospital, as protocol they did a covid test and found out that it was indeed the covid that was attacking her lungs and heart,” Grim said.
Jacob, who Grim called Pap-Pap, tested positive two days later, on Aug. 14. He was home for two weeks after Doris was hospitalized, but then his condition grew worse.
“All of a sudden, he just went downhill quickly” Grim said. “And we really think that because Grandma was such a caretaker, she wanted to make sure he passed before she was ready to go.”
Grim said that after Doris died, the family found a notebook where she kept count of how many newborn hats she had made for the hospital: 3,241 in all.
Before the pandemic, Doris enjoyed going out to play Bingo with her daughter Theresa on Wednesday nights and playing a Japanese card game called Hanafuda on Sundays, Grim said. She hated staying home during the pandemic, and even called it “jail.”
The couple tended to their garden, where they planted vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, and squash. Grim said when Doris was in the hospital, the doctors told the family she was delirious and was talking about her cantaloupes being ready. But when Grim visited the garden afterward, he found “two perfectly bright cantaloupes.”
Doris would have turned 82 last week. The family didn’t come together to observe her birthday out of safety concerns. But Grim and his brother, Josh, bought anthuriums, a tropical flower their grandmother loved, to put on her grave.