Picking up with Bettye’s daughter and me rushing Bettye to the hospital….
There were 10 very rough, touch and go days, in the hospital, where Bettye went from barely being able to get out of bed to slowly and gingerly walking the short path to the restroom and returning to bed completely exhausted. We had to call in favors to get proper communication between doctors, specialists, hospitalists, nurses, aides. We hung on every (often conflicting) word about how Bettye was actually doing. We got used to asking about white blood cell counts, iron levels and how much Bettye ate of her scrambled egg – I knew that nursing school training would come in handy one day! I really don’t know how people in the hospital, who don’t have loved ones to crack the whip, manage. So sad. I don’t blame nurses – they have too many patients to attend to!
After several days of back and forth about rehab centers, it was decided that Bettye would go to a “nice” one that was new-ish and she would continue to improve there. Bettye was still contagious so she was sequestered in her room for another week or so. It didn’t really matter because Bettye was getting better only very gradually. I felt like I was right where God wanted me. I was blessed to be in town. I would spend my mornings cleaning out a closet (read: garage, attic, kitchen cabinet) and then coordinate with Bettye’s daughter to spread out our afternoon visits.
Here is the amazing and inspiring thing about Bettye. She was cheerful and positive throughout the entire experience! She was sweet to all of the nurses, aides, doctors, visitors – remembering everyone’s names, thanking each of them for caring for her. Being with Bettye is a lesson in not only how to grow old gracefully but how to treat people – from the one picking up her trash to the chief of surgery.
Bettye was making big decisions with total confidence. She decided that she didn’t want to live in her 3-bedroom home anymore. She was SICK of cooking! And would be happy never to cook another meal. (This was of paramount importance 😊). She also stated she would not be driving anymore. Some years ago, Bettye had decided that when the time came she wanted to go to a small, family-owned retirement home nearby, where my step-mother lived the last part of her life. Bettye decided she was ready to go there and would just as soon go straight there when rehab released her and skip ever going back to her home where she had lived with her husband for over 50 years and raised her two daughters! At 88, Bettye was moving faster than her daughters and I could keep up but we would give it our best. It was hardest on Bettye’s daughter who lived in town. To move her Mom out of her family home and into a retirement home was a big step – one she wasn’t necessarily sure of. She worried these decisions were being made in a weak moment and things might change when Bettye started to feel better. We weren’t sure, but Bettye was.
So, Bettye’s daughter, granddaughter and I went to work. Even her daughter, who lives in the panhandle, had her marching orders with a list of calls to make. We visited the retirement home and took videos of the available apartments and brought them back for Bettye to see on our iPhones. We took videos of every room in her house so she could select exactly what she would like to take with her. We contacted movers and bought boxes and carried packing supplies from my house, through the hedge, to Bettye's.
Fast forward to Bettye leaving the rehab center, taking it slowly on a walker, with her many new friends sad to see her go. She arrived to her new home, to which - in the interim of three weeks - we had moved all her beloved belongings and set them up to reflect as much like home as possible. To say she was bowled over is an understatement. She immediately LOVED everything about her cozy, new abode, especially her new, huge closet that was big enough to house ALL of her yarn! We toasted her homecoming with champagne and a big sigh of relief.
Several weeks went by when Bettye’s daughter called me and said that she and her sister were worried because Bettye had changed her mind about driving. She felt a little stranded and wanted to be able to go somewhere if she felt like it. They were concerned. They thought maybe they could restrict what roads she should use (NOT US 41 please!). My advice: Bettye is of sound mind and body. It is her decision – not theirs. Yes, if she had an accident, they would feel terrible but we all have accidents and Bettye had always been an excellent and very careful driver. Take her for a test drive and see how she does. They agreed.
After a trip around the block, she was given her keys. What’s funny is that Bettye rarely drives. She had already worked out having friends pick her up to go to the knit shop. Her daughter takes her to doctor’s appointments. She doesn’t need groceries (thank heavens!). But just seeing her aquamarine, diesel Mercedes sitting in the first spot of the parking lot, right outside the door, is a pleasure for dear Bettye. She knows she could go if she wanted to. But she doesn’t want to.
All of this was just a couple of months ago and Bettye is happy as a clam. She has started a knitting group, attends Bible study regularly, sits in the library after lunch each day to work the crossword puzzle and has 60 new friends and neighbors. She is enjoying every new experience – even a kiss from a llama.
I hope each of you reading this has had the opportunity to have a “Bettye” in your life - maybe even your own mom or grandma - to have a dear friend, close by, to learn from, to feel loved by and to occupy a big place in your heart. And if you haven’t, maybe you can be a Bettye to someone else.
I appreciate Bettye’s daughters, granddaughters and great granddaughters for sharing with me and my family their greatest treasure. And I thank God too. Bettye has moved and is settled and so happy. And now there are two houses on Higel Avenue, side by side, with For Sale signs out front. Maybe someone will buy both of them. But most important to me, I didn’t have to leave Bettye after all. And...she is just a phone call away.