I miss Betty.
Some of you who have been around the ‘Bloomr for awhile knew Betty, and many more of you know of her.
Like all of my favorite women, Betty was a study in contradictions: she was tough, tender, stoic, ever-hopeful, stubborn, adaptable, brash, shy, opinionated, open minded, completely realistic, and full of faith. She was such a loyal friend. Betty had her eyes wide open about the human condition, but luckily for me, she put on grace-colored glasses for the people she loved.
I miss her big goofy grin and her loud laugh. I miss her fussing at Russ about giving away too many CDs and keeping his cases so messy when she worked his table– and I especially miss how mad she got when she thought he had been slighted in any way! I miss her unflagging enthusiasm, unbelievable energy, and unfailing support. I miss her common sense and wisdom. I miss those dang personality trait profiles she quoted while she busily diagnosed everybody around her at the drop of a hat– and was usually dead on! I miss how much she loved my husband, my children, Momma Lloyd, LindaB, and so many other dear friends. I just miss HER, that indescribable essence and life force that was our Betty.
On Labor Day weekend, right before the girls and I headed out to Arkansas (and right after Madi crunched my car fender– how Betty would have LOVED that story!), I climbed into the driver’s seat and then suddenly remembered that I hadn’t gotten the mail in a few days. I asked Charlotte to run to the mailbox for me, and I took the armload of stuff she handed me and unlocked the front door so I could drop it off and sort through it when we got back from Arkansas.
That’s when I saw the package with Betty’s name written in the return address.
I sank down to the floor in my foyer and just stared at it. Betty’s daughter Robyn had told me she had come across a package for me when they sorted through her mom’s things, but I had all but forgotten about it– and here it was, sitting in my lap, getting baptized in the big fat teardrops that were running down my face and dripping off my chin. I just sat there like that for a few minutes. I almost didn’t open it, I almost left it on the stairs or put it in the car to deal with later. But my curiosity got the best of me, so I bit at a corner of the heavily taped box with my teeth until I could rip the brown paper down in a long straight line and take the package out. There were several small boxes inside wrapped in Christmas paper, and a white envelope with Betty’s handwriting on it fell into my lap. When I opened the card, the first line I read made me laugh out loud– it said, “Now this is NOT a Christmas present, so don’t fuss at me!”
Betty was a giver. There have been several times over the years when something showed up unexpectedly in my mailbox– some thoughtful remembrance like a sweet little statue, or something practical and lovely like a green Vera Bradley makeup bag. You could never really out-give Betty, but I DID get her good a couple of years ago at Christmas time. I found a jeweler on etsy.com who made a line of sterling silver necklaces and hand-stamped words on them. I chose a round locket that slid open to reveal a secret compartment and had the jeweler engrave a private, personal message from Russ and I inside. I totally surprised her, she never saw it coming, and I think she really loved it– she was uncharacteristically self-conscious when she thanked me, and finally blurted out, “It means more to me than I can tell you.” I smile every time I think of that. I wonder if she was buried in it… but I’ve never had the heart to ask.
I opened Betty’s ‘not-Christmas’ presents to me. They were classic “saw it and it made me think of you” Betty gifts; several things had fat little chickadees on them since she knew how I felt about watching my birdfeeders. I cried, and laughed, and cried– and then I tucked them away, at least for now. The idea of Betty carefully choosing each one of them and getting them all wrapped and ready to send to me so many months ago… well, it kind of undid me. I know that she faced the uncertainty of her condition and the possibility of her death with the same strength and pragmatism that she faced everything else life had ever thrown her way. I can just imagine her getting all of her Christmas shopping completed WAY in advance (like she did for her beloved Momma Lloyd every year), “just in case.” It humbles and honors me to know that I was on her mind– and list– even though I made her promise two years ago that we would not exchange Christmas or birthday presents because it was just too much to try to keep up with. That’s our Betty, sneaking one in one me when she knew I couldn’t talk back!
There was one little gift that I didn’t tuck away. I tried to. But once I held it in my hand and unconsciously lifted it to my face to rub its smoothness against my wet cheek, I couldn’t bear to let go of it. I carried it out to the car with me and put it in that little compartment between the front seats. It’s ridden around like that ever since until a few days ago when I transferred it to a zippered pocket inside of my purse. Now whenever I need to I can slip my hand down and wrap my fingers around it like a touchstone, a talisman. I like to think that maybe some of her, well, ‘Betty-ness’ will rub off on me– magical thinking I know, but if anybody could reach from beyond the grave and give me a shot of courage when I need it, it would be Betty.
She wanted me to know that this is how she sees me, but actually, this last gift from my dear friend describes her to a T. And yes, it makes me ache every time I remember her– but in the sweetest way imaginable.