Dorothy “Dot” Tadlock and Ann Knight became friends after meeting at the assisted-living center on Jacksonville’s Southside where they both live. After Knight’s husband died in February 2019, that friendship deepened — and grew only stronger as the world shut down within weeks of his death.
The staffers at Elmcroft of Timberlin Parc went out of their way to make life as good as it could be, Tadlock and Knight say. But still, their families couldn’t visit. They were sometimes locked down in their rooms, with just the telephone and the TV. And on that TV they saw reports of thousands upon thousands dying outside their walls.
But in that often terrible time, their friendship became even deeper. They leaned on each other. They ate together. They talked about their families, their lives, about God and the Bible.
They got each other through those dark months. Credit love for that.
“We love each other like sisters, I would say,” said Tadlock, who’s 88.
“Absolutely,” said Knight, who’s 81. “Dot has been my lifeline. I love that woman with all my heart.”
Knight’s husband, Jerry, died Feb. 19 last year, less than a month before everything locked down. He had dementia and heart problems, but at least he didn’t have to go through the pandemic, she said, and she was still able to make frequent visits to see him in the last months.
It was hard for her, but she had the support of her friend.
“She’s my best friend,” Knight said. “She’s done everything for me.”
“Not really,” said Tadlock.
“Well, you have, Dot,” came Knight’s reply.
Tadlock said she was simply ready with whatever Knight needed.
“I tried to be there for her when she wanted to talk,” she said. “I was available. When she needed to be quiet, I was there to be quiet. When she needed to talk about the Lord, which we both love dearly, I was there to talk about the Lord.”
Tadlock said she feels as if God led her to this place and time, for her and for people like Knight and others she tried to help.
“That is where our love comes into play, what we try to do for others,” she said. “At the same time, it’s helping us and our lives too.”
She said she wasn’t scared of COVID-19 — she’s lived 88 years, a good life — but she’s glad she and Knight have already received their double doses of vaccine. Perhaps soon, life will become, as she puts it, “like it used to be.”
“I’m happy,” Tadlock said. “Happy the vaccine will be able to save a lot of people, put us back to a more normal life.”
In a conversation in the lobby of Elmcroft, masked and spaced about 8 feet from Knight, Tadlock mused on how her ability to love has changed over her life. She’s loved her parents and children and grandchildren.
And friends, many of whom are new friends.
“I care more about other people. I care more about the way I treat other people. My life has become much deeper than it was at a younger age,” she said.
Yet she can still get aggravated by seeing people on the outside, flouting virus precautions as if there hasn’t been a deadly virus around for the last year. Inside Elmcroft, that whole time, they’ve tried to be good.
That’s a form of love, too.
“There are a lot of things we have wanted this past year that we will never have. But we do not regret the fact that we did what they asked us to do,” Tadlock said. “We’re very proud of the way we came together. Not only for us, but mostly for our fellow man.”