Everyone’s Grandma Betty

Every once in awhile, God places angels right here among us. Grandma Betty, as she is affectionately known, was indeed an angel. I recently read a quote that said, “Your smile is your logo; your personality is your business card; how you leave others feeling after an experience with you becomes your trademark.” Betty shared her logo with everyone with whom she crossed paths, and one always felt better after spending time with her. She had the ability to make everyone feel loved and appreciated. She made others feel better about themselves simply by being Betty. That is truly a gift.

Going out shopping, to an auction, or to dinner with Betty was always an experience. She knew everyone, and it seemed that everyone was her cousin. Her family seemed to blanket Perry, Breckinridge, and Hancock counties. I often wondered if all of these people were actually her cousins, or if Betty just had so much love in her heart that she wanted everyone to feel like family.

I still remember the day I first met Betty. We had just moved into the house across the street from her, and she and Dorothy, another neighbor, came over to introduce themselves. That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.Over the years, Betty became part of our family. She was a second mother to me, offering her wisdom and love whenever it was needed, even times when I didn’t know I needed it. She became a grandmother to my daughters, sharing her love of baking and of laughter with them. They loved walking across the street to Grandma Betty’s. I loved having someone who would share both my joys and my tears. No matter how down I might feel, talking to Betty always made me feel comforted. And when I had good news, she would end up being more excited than I was.

About 18 years ago, when my daughters were young and I was working full time as a hairdresser, I began to consider going to college to become a teacher. It was an intimidating decision, and I wasn’t sure I could pull it off. Betty encouraged me, never doubting that I could do it, and shared her stories of nursing school. She let me know that she would be there for me, and when I finally began classes, she even kept Addie while I went to school. It was during this time that Addie started her coffee addiction. “I just give her milk with a little coffee in it,” Betty would laugh. Addie and Betty had their routine; Betty let Addie watch her shows on Nickelodeon, cooked her better lunches than she would ever get at home, and they would swing. We all have such fond memories of the swing in Betty’s yard. And her yard…that lady could grow flowers. I will never look at an iris without thinking about Betty.

She took great pride in her flowers and in her home. She and I shared a love of decorating and of antiques. We’d go to a shop where she’d purchase some treasure, usually saying, “Don’t tell anyone how much a paid for this!” Every time I went to Betty’s house, something was new or rearranged. Her table was always set, and there was always candy on the bar for all of her kids. One always felt welcome in Grandma Betty’s home.

Betty spent her life helping others. Whether it was raising her six children or nursing ill patients, teaching school children or rocking babies at daycare, so many in our community were made a little better by a hug or kind word from Betty. As we all say our final good-byes, we need to take a piece of that with us and love fully just as she did. We need to pay attention, and when someone needs a lift, provide it. We need to make every child who crosses our paths know that he or she is loved and cared for. We need to encourage those who come behind us on this journey to chase their dreams, just as she chased hers to become a nurse.

And we should all thank Betty’s children for sharing their mother with us. She was so proud that each of them had gone to college, and she was proud of the caring adults they all became. So thank you, Donna, Doug, Debbie, Lorie, Lisa, and Janet. Your mother was a gem and she will be missed by so many. We all have an emptiness in our hearts, yet our hearts are also more full because of the love Betty shared with us all. Until we meet again…

 

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2017…Bring it on!

2017 is upon us, and as is typical, I like to take time to reflect upon the previous year, and make plans for the upcoming year. I don’t make resolutions; they are usually broken. I do try to set some goals for myself, but I make them something I can manage. I set goals throughout the year, so it’s nothing out of the ordinary. Even on days I am off work, I set little goals like finishing laundry, getting photos in albums, or taking some time to read.

2016 was a decent year for us. Morgan and her family moved back home after living in four states in as many years. I ran three half marathons, one of which was with my daughter Bethany. My husband began a new job and is now teaching in the same school as I. Nothing extraordinary happened, but nothing devastating happened either (except Trump getting elected, but I won’t go there).

As I was driving to visit my mother today, with my five year old grandson in the back seat, I thought about my goals for 2017. I turn 50 in 24 days. I was not bothered when I turned 30 or 40, but 50 is a little tough. I find myself questioning my clothing choices…You’re almost 50; should you really wear those leggings? You’re almost 50; you should consider more practical shoes…You’re almost 50; maybe you should cut your hair shorter. So, my first goal is to accept 50 as just another number, to wear what I want, and to get in shape. My next goal is to run stronger, to prove that just because I’m 50 doesn’t mean I can’t improve; 50 doesn’t mean I have to change who I am. I’ve gotten slower the last two years, especially after knee surgery, but is that just an excuse? I intend to find out. My friend Mary Jane and I plan to train harder for our half marathons that will take place in the spring. I want to be in the best shape I can and not let 50 be an excuse to let up on exercise.

rhett

With Layne chatting away in the backseat, I thought about a more important goal: making great memories for my grandkids. I thought about the precious memories I have of my grandmothers, especially my Grandma Allen. What I realized was that those memories have nothing to do with things or money. Grandma Allen was poor by today’s standards, but I never knew that. She never owned her own home; she made her own clothes; and she lived a very conservative life. Until I was 16, Grandma lived in a garage that had been converted to an apartment. I loved that little place. It had a little bedroom, bathroom, small living room, and a kitchen, and it was perfect.

The only trips Grandma took were to visit my uncle in Texas, and he paid for those trips. She had a handful of toys for us grandkids to play with, and she saved her thread spools and greeting cards for our entertainment. My cousins and I would build great towers with those spools, and would attempt to stack greeting cards creating card houses. I don’t remember my grandma ever buying me anything or taking me anywhere, except one summer when she took my cousin, Marcia, and me to visit family in Kentucky.

Marcia and I were city girls, so this trip with Grandma was  quite the adventure. We spent a week on Christine’s farm, and a few days at our Great Aunt Lillian’s farm. We explored their homes, built a tree house out of odds and ends, and easily entertained ourselves. We had no electronics, but we had the best time. Grandma didn’t need Disney World to make great memories for us.

The memories I have with my grandma are of her  spending time with me. She would make me grilled cheese for dinner and popcorn for a snack. I slept with her in her bed, and she always complained about my kicking her all night. I went with her to the laundromat and the grocery store. She didn’t buy lavish gifts or take me to museums. She didn’t buy me a treat every time we went to the store. She didn’t have to. Her time and her love were all I needed to create those beautiful memories that I hope to create with my grandkids.

We feel very blessed that Morgan and her family are here so that we have the opportunity to spend time with her kids. Gary’s daughter and her family live in Virginia, so we are lucky to see them once a year. We both really miss just getting to know her children, and being able to spend time with them. I hate that they won’t have memories of us being in their lives as they’ve grown up.

Layne is five, so he is at that oh-so-inquisitive age. I bet he has said, “Hey, Nana…” 100 times this week. “Hey, Nana, why are there trees?” “Hey, Nana, how did they make that gym floor?” “Hey, Nana, what was your dad’s name?” And as a Nana, I cherish every single Hey, Nana. I hope he and Rhett always want to spend time with us. I hope they remember the little moments, like our walks to see the horses or going to basketball games together. I hope they grow up to be better men having spent time with us. I hope they will always say, “Hey, Nana?”

Bring on 2017. I am ready to be an fun-loving 50 year old nana! Bring on those hot flashes, wrinkles, and age spots. I won’t let them hold me back from being the best senior citizen I can be. Happy New Year!