Doin’ Dunmore: Tale of Two Sisters

gingerbreadBy Steve Svetovich

There is a Christmas story to be told once again this year.

This is a Christmas story that has come full circle after exactly 26 years.

It is a tale of two sisters.

The two sisters were from Dunmore.

The late Irene and Kitty Flaherty were very close at one point in their lives.

The only thing that separated them later in life were two nursing homes – about four miles apart.

Irene was a resident at Adams Manor Nursing Home (now Golden Living) in lower East Scranton.

Kitty was a resident at Holy Family Residence in upper Green Ridge.

It was the Christmas of 1990.

This scribe was working as a social worker at Adams Manor at the time. Irene, 83, at the time, always sat in her wheelchair close to the social services office. I knew her well.

My brother George had a female friend who worked at Holy Family and she knew Kitty, 86 at the time, very well.

We put our heads together and came up with a brilliant idea for Christmas.

Knowing the sisters had not seen each other in years, we decided to arrange a surprise meeting on Christmas Day.

My brother George, his friend and I made the arrangements between the two nursing homes.

The plan was simple. We would pick up Irene early Christmas morning and transport her to Holy Family for the surprise meeting with her sister. We just wouldn’t tell her where she was going and would not tell Kitty who was coming.

My brother’s friend even made the arrangements at Holy Family for the two residents to have a special Christmas luncheon together. It was a great plan.

Caregivers for the two nursing homes made sure the two residents were dressed elegantly for the big occasion.

My brother and I arrived to Adams Manor early Christmas morning as scheduled. We came to pick up Irene, a resident who was alert and oriented, but wheelchair bound, unable to ambulate and had slurred speech due to a previous stroke. She was smiling broadly, wondering where she was going on this special Christmas Day.

Meanwhile, my brother’s friend waited with Kitty Flaherty and administrative personnel at Holy Family. Kitty also had a huge smile. She had no idea what was about to happen.

Minutes later, we arrived to Holy Family and wheeled Irene in to see Kitty. The two residents recognized each other as we drew Irene closer to Kitty. Tears were flowing between the sisters as they embraced.

Tears were flowing all around. Even the staff. And even my brother who is a pretty tough guy.

The sisters embraced and hugged for several minutes. We all took pictures.

It was a special moment. A moment everyone there will always remember. My brother and I rehash it to this day. That is what Christmas is all about. No doubt.

We went back home while the residents had lunch, talked about old times and renewed their family ties.

Following the luncheon, the sisters embraced again and the tears came again as they said goodbye to each other. I will never forget that look of joy they had for each other.

Irene and Kitty talked about it for days in their respective nursing homes. But they were never to see each other again because Kitty died a couple months later.

Irene kept the photos in her room at Adams Manor. Every once in a while she would look at them and smile. She did that until she passed away several years later.

There was one other stop my brother and I made with Irene one year later after Kitty died.

We took her the next Christmas to join the rest of her family at the old Flaherty homestead on Madison Avenue in Dunmore. I remember pushing Irene in her wheelchair to a nice dining room where she was seated at a long table with numerous family members. I remember the high ceiling and chandelier in the stately home. I remember at least for a short moment admiring the home.

Flash forward 25 years. Back to the Future.

Everything comes full circle in life.

Those who know me well, know that I always wanted to live in Dunmore. I almost bought a home on Cherry Street in Dunmore in 1990, but the deal fell through. Ironically, 1990 was the same year we reunited the Flaherty sisters.

But even more ironically, 25 years close to the date we took Irene Flaherty to the old homestead, this scribe unknowingly came upon a familiar site.

Yes, the high ceiling and chandelier were certainly recognizable.

And it was only until after seeing the home three times, my bid was accepted and I read the sales agreement, that I realized the Dunmore home I purchased was the the very same home we wheeled Irene Flaherty into 25 years ago on Christmas Day.

Life has come full circle.

This scribe is in Dunmore now. And that’s where a Dunmore writer should be.

Home is where the heart is.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

And God Bless Irene and Kitty Flaherty.