06 May, 2008

My Friend Betty

Betty died this morning. Of course I would have known that she was sick had I actually delivered the library books last week when I was supposed to, but my life got in the way and she fell ill and went to the hospital, so that when I went today (and towed along my best friend and her precious 2 1/2 year old to visit some "Grandmas") she was gone.

Talk about feeling like a heel for not delivering the library books on time.

I have been volunteering for the library since 2003. I think it's been that long. I deliver books, to a few others previously, but consistently for the past 5 years 5 YEARS! to Betty and her friend Marie at an "old-folks" home nearby. Marie is still alive and kicking. She told me not to cry. She reminded me that Betty was 91, and that she had a great life. and it's true, she did, but I will miss seeing her and hearing her stories and watching her take joy in my daughter and share concern for my son.

So here, for the record, lest I ever forget such a beautiful human are some things about Betty.

  • Betty was a smart woman, clearly using every year of her life to gather more information and hone it for precision communication. She was quick in conversation and more recently when she began to forget some words, she wrote them down, so she wouldn't get frustrated. She just carried her list, adding words as she lost her ability to recall them without the aide. I told her that made her pretty smart. She told me it was a pretty annoying thing to not be able to remember the word "muffin".
  • Betty was beautiful, and it was obvious, even at 91 that she had been an athlete, and not surprising at all that she didn't stop playing tennis until she was 82.
  • She was an artist, painting large canvases with all of the joy that color brings; the blues of the coast and the flowers of the field. Though her canvases grew smaller over the years, her love of color grew bolder, and her hand more free. I enjoyed every painting of hers I ever saw.
  • She loved my little girl, and was so, so pleased when I became pregnant with Lucy. She was so thrilled when she found out that Lucy was Lucy and not Lance or Lucas. And her eyes twinkled every single time I brought Lucy to see her.
  • She marveled at my husband's role in our family, ever impressed that he both went to work every day to provide resource for our family and managed to change diapers and bathe children when he came home. She said quite often that I had clearly chosen an amazing mate. (It is nice to be externally reminded sometimes.)
  • Betty had a great sense of humor, or at least one that I appreciated because she laughed at all my jokes, and was wry and dry right back to me.
  • She hated being old, which comforts me knowing that she doesn't need to suffer through it anymore. She was never in poor health that I saw, not really, but she was bored with an active mind and a body that wouldn't jump and leap as it had in youth. Since she couldn't run about as she had, she read, sometimes 20 books in a month.
  • Betty reminded me of my grandmother Lotte, a woman I miss every single day of my life. I felt so privileged, so lucky, to be able to have met a second woman who had so many qualities I admire.
  • She was a good friend to Marie, and ostensibly a loving mother, who raised three very independent daughters.
  • She was a good friend to me, always speaking frankly, openly, asking direct questions about Jake and always offering suggestions or encouragement.
  • Betty loved hearing stories about Jake's successes, and she always, always, asked about this health and development if I did not offer the information.
  • She loved beauty and color and music and filled her life, and even her small room with all of those things.
There are lots of things I will never know about Betty. She wasn't really my grandmother. I just borrowed her for a time. I somehow doubt her family will even contact me, although I left my information. I was just the library book delivery girl to their mother. They do not live near here, so they don't know that we visited once a month for nearly five years, that she knows so much about my life, that she encouraged me to have another child, even knowing that it was a scary, possibility that I would have another child with special needs. They don't know that she wept when she found out that Lucy was "just fine", and got weepy when Lucy said "Hi Betty."

They don't know that she gave my daughter a first birthday card and that we exchanged Christmas gifts. They probably don't know that Lucy and I made special trips to the flower shop for Thanksgiving, and Christmas, Valentine's, Easter and Mother's day, where Lucy picked out flowers or plants to give Ms Betty and Ms Marie.

It doesn't matter that they don't know those things, as long as Betty knew that we loved her, and I think she did. I hope she did.
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