If you want a good laugh, just tell Betty a story of someone else's good time or success. She is sure to say, "How wonderful!," then joyously smile. She has made a life of being happy for others. Her openness, genuine love and well-wishing for others is a beacon to those who want to see the good in the world.
She decided early in life that she could count blessings or focus on what was missing. She had eight siblings and learned to can all the family food to help her survive the Great Depression. As the oldest girl, she was responsible for caring for her siblings. She spent the few dollars she earned in full-time work at age 12 buying them the luxury of mittens. Married at 21 and a mother at 23, she cleaned houses to earn money for fabric, taught herself to sew and made her two girls their clothes. A pretty blue plaid dress with a big bow is still a daughter's favorite memory. A doll with the same dress made a little girl feel very special. Her philosophy of "let's try it" and her belief in self-teaching resulted in her becoming a gourmet cook, an award-winning embroiderer, an upholsterer, a seamstress and recently a knock-knock joke comic. ("Knock, knock. Who's there? Sue. Sue who? Sue-prise, it's me!")
One way Betty is "magnificent" is that she is a "grand" grandmother who quit her office job and babysat her grandson Trevor from birth to age 8. She spent hours with word and math flashcards helping build a man with a photographic memory, a dedication to work and a true commitment to family. Character building comes naturally for Betty. After a fall, she once walked down and up a long hill and many blocks with a sprained knee to take her grandson to his weekly lunch at Hardee's. She prided herself on never telling a lie, and she didn't want to go back on a promise to a 5-year-old.
To those close to her, her nickname is "Nanny" (adopted from Kay Thompson's "Eloise" books). She still plays that role at 89 -- accepting with love the style of others even when not hers. Always the neatest of housekeepers, she has learned that any amount of paint a great grandchild spills is just a new interior design. At 89 many of us will be coasting, but not Nanny. When visiting in Connecticut, she pitches in with 4- and 2-year-old great-grandgirls, Whitley and Gabriela. She shows blueberry cupcake recipes, makes scrumptious taffy apples and recently learned a computer game from little Whitley. At 89, Nanny is still learning and giggling with joy when she masters a new skill. Recently, while working with Nanny, Whitley, 4, said, "Nanny, you are always (long pause) GREAT!" Seeing Nanny's smile, optimism and joy in the faces of her great-grandchildren shows us they have inherited the best in the family. When a great-grandchild facing a disappointment says, "You get what you get, and you don't get upset," you know Nanny's logic has entered another generation.
Still living in the Moline home she and her husband built in 1954, Betty inspires with her independence and "can do" attitude. Told she could not live alone after multiple back fractures until she could master a complicated back brace, she sewed straps to it and returned home. She has been the hardest working woman I've ever met, yet downplays her work with, "Don't worry, I'm OK." She has survived cancer, strokes and broken backs, yet was a daily caregiver for over five years during her husband, Albert's, illness. Commitment to family and service to loved ones has been lived daily throughout her life.
It is a gift to sit for hours with my mother and talk. She can make big and small events enjoyable just by listening so well. She brings a sweet patience to conversations. When talking with her, you know you are being heard. You have her complete attention, which is a special gift to the spirit. Everything is more fun when Nanny is there with her positive attitude and smile. Her truly Christian heart is always comforting. If the birds in her backyard could chirp words, they would thank her for the bushels of birdseed she has been buying for decades to enrich their lives. Her giving goes in so many directions.
Enjoying seeing others fulfill their dreams has been at her core. She encouraged my desire for education and degrees and supported all my efforts. It is with pride in my mother that I thank her for the example she set of honor, integrity and hard work. We have shared dreams, laughter, quiet moments among her birds and trees, tears, smiles and kind wisdom. When your mother is the best friend you could ever have, you are very lucky, as is anyone who knows her. She has been a mother for 69 years but if you need her, she is the first to jump up from a rest.
For all the dreams she has helped others realize, I thank her. For her complete joy in the joys of others, I thank her. For her never-ending love of life, I thank her. I have learned many lessons from my mother about love, forgiveness, courage, honesty, work and priorities, and I'm ready to learn some more. Keep them coming, Mom, I owe you a Dom Perignon.
Today is Tuesday, May 21, the 141st day of 2013. There are 224 days left in the year. 1863 -- 150 years ago: On Monday the 11th inst. on Center Ridge in Mercer County,some citizens got out their cannon to celebrate the taking of Richmond. The gun wasoverloaded and burst. No one was injured, but one 30-pound piece went though thesecond story of a house. 1888 -- 125 years ago: The old folks concert at the Harper Theater last night to benefit St.Luke's Cottage Hospital, attracted a large audience. 1913 -- 100 years ago: Unless depredation by vandals in Rock Island parks is halted,special policemen will be assigned to night duty to protect the flowers and other property. 1938 -- 75 years ago: Station WHBF has received a special citation from Washington forits participation in Air Mail Week, which was observed this week throughout the nation. 1963 -- 50 years ago: A 10-year high in employment in the Quad-City area was reachedat the end of the last quarter, according to an industrial employment barometer releasedtoday. 1988 -- 25 years ago: Pee Wee teams will be able to play baseball and softball as usualon Diamond Three at Dorrance Park this summer, but after that, the ball field is doomed.County crews have put the diamond back in shape after heavy trucks marred the playingfield earlier this spring. Illinois Department of Transportation crews drove onto it to makeborings for the relocation of the junction of Illinois 84 and the Port Byron-Hillsdale road.