Friday, July 02, 2010

Odd moments with an odd person....

Betty is an odd little woman, who I am guessing is between 65 and 70 years old. She lives within walking distance, and when she first started coming to the church next to our house, about 20 years ago, I became friends with her and did my best to encourage her in her newly found faith. I spent a lot of time at her house. She also called on the phone frequently. I recall quite vividly one phone call when she was upset about the color of her urine. It was rather pale and this alarmed her. I had to reassure her that it was probably just because she had drank a lot of water.

For many years Betty lived in a an ongoing “rough patch”. Her adult children were frequently in major messes, and life with her husband was difficult. He was a chronic alcoholic, and she talked to me a lot about it. About her life and how hard it was living with his disease.

He drank a pint of flavored vodka on the way home from work every day and finished off a 6-pack or more of beer throughout the evening (a 12-pack on the weekends). I guess this was enough to self-medicate, but not enough to make it impossible for him to go to work. So, fortunately for her, he held on to his job for many years, long enough to retire, in fact. But he died last year at 67 of a variety of causes: he had emphysema from years of smoking, cirrhosis of the liver from years of drinking, and cancer of some sort.

We were all rather worried about Betty after he died, wondering if she would be all right once her husband was gone. Betty has always seemed a little “simple minded” to us. We were never sure if she is just a little “slow”, or if she is really very smart but simply uneducated  -- “ignorant” (but not stupid). She is a character, no doubt about it.

In the year and some since he died, it seems Betty is getting along just fine, thank you very much. She seems to be thriving. In fact, I would not be surprised if the death of her husband came as a great liberation for her in a sense.

On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday it is my turn to pick up the box mail at the post office because I am already in town for the aerobics class, and I always arrive at the post office at about 9 am. As it happens, Betty also arrives at the post office at about 9 am to pick up her mail.

Betty is a tiny, skinny little woman with a very loud voice. I am wondering what it is about older women who live alone -- whether widowed like she is or just "alone" like another woman who comes into the post office frequently and does the same thing: They become obsessed with getting their utility bills in the mail and then paying the bill.

I saw Betty every day this week.

On Monday, Betty grabbed my arm as we left the post office together, “WELL, HI THERE LEE AWNEE,” she bellows. (She has never pronounced my name correctly). And she goes on to tell me, with much enthusiasm, how her light bill was only $45 dollars even though she had run the central air. 

I smiled at her, trying to show some enthusiasm for the fact that her bill was only $45, how good it must make her feel to have enough income from her husband’s Social Security that she can live comfortably and pay her bills. Inside I am thinking about issues of life and death.

Then on Wednesday, there she was again. Again, she repeated to me about her electricity bill only being $45, and how she had teased the clerk at the counter about the bill was $180, and now she was fretting a bit about her cable bill, because it had not arrived. She laughs and says, "Well I guess I can't pay the bill if I don't have it," and she is just bubbling over with good cheer about these bills and paying them, and says, “Now you have a good day Lee awnee, and off she goes in her white pick-up truck.

And then a few minutes later, when I pulled into the parking lot at the local market, there she was getting out of her truck at the Dollar Store next door and hollering a greeting at a man she knew who was also going into the Dollar Store.

Again today I saw her at the post office. This time though she did not discuss her utility bills with me. She just greeted me, “You have a nice day now,” she says, and off she went.

We need like-minded people in our lives, kindred spirits to share common experiences, people who we can talk to and bounce ideas off of, and just enjoy ourselves.

And I think we also the Betty Churches of this world to challenge us... to keep us real... a measuring stick to see how well we are progressing in our daily walk, how well we respond to people who are different.... Another friend who also knows her says, “We need the Betty’s to remind us that dogs have fleas....”

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