Mallory Dunlop thought her father was getting better.
Earlier in the week, on that Tuesday of November, his health started deteriorating. Her mother, Julie Wallace, was constantly wearing a face of worry, and so Mallory, who was 17, was also worried, although she tried to hide it from her younger sister, Camille. Suddenly, everyone in the house was wearing masks and the girls were asked to stay away from their father, who was quarantined above.
By Saturday, Mallory felt her mother feel some relief. There was a lightness in his voice. Her face was relaxed, and sometimes she smiled. So, Mallory was relieved, too.
Even when her parents left that day for her visit to urgent care, Mallory wasn’t too concerned. His mother insisted that he go, and he agreed. Mallory stayed behind with Camille as her father was driving alone in the car.
How sick can he be?
‘It was all on the line’
He was a big and strong man, Lewis Dunlop. He was 51, six-foot-three and 280 pounds in strength and could have a laugh worthy of his stature. Even his job was bigger: He ran a garage in Elyria, Ohio, which his family had been in for 74 years, fixing semifinals. He was busier than ever during the pandemic. Trucks needed transport, and he was the point man to keep them moving.
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Lewis had been Mallory’s softball coach for the past eight years, and from the day she was born she had it wrapped around her finger. Fatherhood was her calling, says Julie. “From the moment Lew found out I was pregnant, it was all in. After Mallory was born, he was a crazy father the minute we got home.”
Lewis insisted that school come first, but he was also a fun dad. He loved to surprise girls with day passes at Cedar Point, the amusement park, and spent hours training them in his many softball skills in his yard.
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“As a father, my father was everything he didn’t get as a kid,” Mallory says. “He was always there for me. Once, when I was six or seven years old, I told him I wanted to go to Disney World. That I just had to go. The next week, we were on a plane.”
Oh, and this story: One time, she was in school with really bad menstrual cramps. First he messaged his mother.
“My mom’s message was, basically, ‘Take it hard.’”
Then he messaged his father.
His response: “On my way.”
“Yeah,” says Mallory, nodding her head. “I was a daddy’s girl.”
Julie says that Lewis was always a germaphobe. When the pandemic struck, he did everything he could to keep everyone in his class safe, including him. He feared what would happen to his family if he got COVID.
“My senior year of high school was the worst year of my life,” Mallory says. “We were all so careful not to get COVID. My education, my dad’s work, his dream of taking over the family business one day – it was all on the line. “
At work, they required face masks and temperature tests, and installed plexiglass to limit contact with customers. If someone felt sick, they had to stay away and get tested. For ten months, the precautions worked.
Then one person lingered, and Lewis Dunlop, who was just weeks away from qualifying for the vaccine he desperately needed, came down with COVID.
Symptoms began on Tuesday. Immediately, Lewis is isolated in the bedroom, and was so concerned that he might spread the virus to his family that he asked Julie to cover the room’s air return vent with cardboard. His boxer, Waldo, was Lewis’s only constant companion.
As of Saturday, Mallory believed her father had outlived the deadly virus.
She believed him even on that Sunday, November 29, 2020, until around 4:30 pm, when she stepped outside and came in.
Her sister was running down the stairs crying.
Waldo was walking around the house, confused and barking.
And her mother was screaming from the bedroom. “Call 9-1-1! Call 9-1-1!”
Julie Wallace and Lewis Dunlop had known each other since high school, but they didn’t fall in love until years later, when they played on a co-ed softball team after work. She was a journalist for the local newspaper. He worked in the garage of the family he hoped to one day own.
Julie wasn’t fooled by her gruesome exterior. “He erupted with a big splendid laugh,” she says. “He was a big softie, despite his size and chirping.”
In 2002, he bought a house. The next year, Mallory was born. Seven years later, they welcomed daughter Camille.
Lewis was determined that his girls would know how to play the sport he loved. For eight years, he coached Mallory’s travel softball team. As soon as Camille could toss a ball, she joined him in almost daily practice in his yard. Mallory, her mom would like to tell you, is an exceptional hitter. He told me this on a Zoom call from his car, at Camille’s practice.
Julie and Louise talked several times a day, no matter how busy they were at work. “For me, he was my person,” she wrote in an email. “I told him everything, we talked about every decision.”
He also tried to know more about his world. “I was proud that he was really following politics and taped all the Sunday morning news to familiarize himself with the issues and began reading my electronic version of the Washington Post. He read about current events. I was hungry for knowledge. There’s going to be a lot of intense political debate between Lew, Mal and I here because none of us keep an eye on everything. Looking back, I didn’t realize how terrible those evenings were.”
For Lewis, a father’s worth was measured partly by how well he knew the longing of his children’s hearts. As Mallory approached graduation, she and Lewis spent countless hours talking about where she should go to college, which schools had the best softball teams.
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“My whole life, except for one season, my father was my coach,” she says. “It was something we were going to decide together.” After much discussion, he made his decision.
There were many reasons for Mallory to end up in a different college, but the worst is what a teammate wanted to say after Mallory called up the courage to share that her father had died of COVID. Were.
We’ll get to that.
‘We couldn’t do anything’
On Saturday, November 28, Lewis agreed to go to an urgent care, where he was given a COVID test and told to take Mucinex. His phone got dinged with a message alert at around 4.30 pm on Sunday. It was official: He had tested positive.
Whatever relief Julie was feeling on Saturday lasted until Sunday. Lewis’s complexion had changed, and he seemed weak. At her insistence, he agreed to return for urgent care. He helped her get dressed and was leaning down to tie her shoes when she suddenly felt him leaning against her back, hard.
“Lew,” she said, “you can’t breathe on me.”
He fell on her back.
“He had just left,” she says. That’s when she started yelling at Mallory to call 9-1-1.
“I saw my father turn blue before my eyes,” Mallory says. “I’m crying and yelling on the phone, ‘He’s dying! He’s dying!’ The dispatcher kept saying, ‘Help is on the way.’”
Julie knew she had to put Louise on her back. He and Mallory pushed the bed against the wall to make room for him, and then dragged his feet to bring it to the floor.
“Eventually we got him on his back,” Mallory says. “The dispatcher gave us instructions as I did chest compressions and mom did mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.”
When she heard the siren from afar, Julie shrugged her chest so that Mallory could run downstairs to open the door and direct the firefighters upwards.
From that moment on, Mallory’s memory is a bundle of moments. Watching firefighters prepare to enter a home with COVID. Don’t hug neighbors as you walk them away, telling them not to come near, “Because, COVID.” His uncle asked him to stay on the phone until he got there, as he didn’t want him to feel alone.
She remembers a doctor at the hospital saying, “We couldn’t do anything.” The nurses were staring at her, not mercilessly, as she walked down the hallway of the hospital. Her boyfriend and her parents rushed to the hospital. Her uncle held her and her sister tightly, as her mother tried to keep her distance. Julie placed her lips on Louise’s mouth while performing CPR. When they needed each other the most, they had to quarantine their daughters. It seems like a small miracle that Julie never got COVID.
And Waldo, Mallory remembers. For about two weeks after her father’s death, Boxer sat outside the locked bedroom door, waiting for Louise to let her in.
‘I try not to cry in front of them’
Soon after Lewis died, Camille looked at her sister and said, “Who will take me to softball practice?”
“My role changed overnight,” Mallory says.
For the past three or so years, Mallory had worked in a restaurant to make ends meet. Now she works to help run the family. (The garage his father used to run in his family for about three-quarters of a century, closed after his death.)
“Whenever I talked about college, I could see the worry lines on my mother’s face. Right now, my father’s life insurance is paying for it. But I don’t know what I will do when it is over.”
She was talking to me on Zoom from her dorm room at John Carroll University. It was here that he decided to go after withdrawing his commitment from another school and ending his plans to play college softball.
The decision came in stages. She was struggling with how to attend the school her father had helped her choose. This was going to be his adventure, with Lewis always in his peripheral…