Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Our Betty

“Oh, I know just the person for you!” Lois Sutherland, a university colleague, told Steve in her slow, gravelly voice. “Betty’s cleaned for me for years. She’s a hard worker and does a great job. Very dependable. I’d trust her with anything. Here’s her number.” And thus began our employment of Betty--a job she kept for 27 years.

One day a friend came by and I started to introduce Betty. Then I realized that, though she had worked for us for quite a while, I didn’t even know her last name. That was pretty embarrassing. We worked on a “cash only” basis, so I never had any need to know her last name.

It’s hard for me to comprehend that Betty was only 48 when she came to work for us. To me she seemed ageless—kind of like a dependable Maytag washer that never needs anything but just keeps on working. Just think—she was twelve years younger than I am now. We have truly grown old together.

Betty’s first year was a year of changes for our family. Josh started to kindergarten at Johnson School across the street. I started teaching in Fort Thomas at Moyer School after teaching in the county for four years. Betty and I didn’t have much of a chance to get acquainted until the next summer when school was out and I was home when she was working. We discovered that each of us had worked at A. J. Jolly School, but not at the same time. Because of the year I taught there, I had a clear understanding of Betty’s 24-mile ride in to Fort Thomas each time she came to work.

It’s been pretty amazing that she has been so consistent in coming to work for us. No matter what the weather or who was sick or changed jobs, Betty always found a ride in to Fort Thomas where I would pick her up at the Fort, since she never learned to drive a car. When possible, Steve or I would also take her back there to meet her ride. When neither Steve nor I was available, she’d ride the TANK bus back to the Fort to meet her ride. At times, tennagers Josh or Kelsey drove her to the Fort.

She was as surprised as everyone else when we showed up with baby Kelsey one December day. So even though she’s known Josh since kindergarten, she’s known Kelsey all her life, and watched her grow up. Who would ever have thought, when she started to work for us, that she would stay with us until both children were grown and gone to homes of their own?

I remember when her daughter Paula was diagnosed with cancer, but I don’t recall the year. I went to St. Luke Hospital to see her and that’s when I met Betty’s family for the first time. We did a lot of praying for Paula, and look at how bountifully our prayers were answered! We were so fearful that she would not have these years she’s had, plus two healthy children and still going strong.

I remember when Betty’s brother died, because she took off one day from work. That was such a rare event! She also took off for her own surgeries, but would be back quicker than I would ever have thought possible.

There were some tough times for Betty when her mother-in-law was living with them, but she persevered. She was never one to shirk her duty.

For the first seven years, she came to our house on Cliffview Avenue every other week. After we moved to Winston Hill, she came weekly, which we greatly appreciated. Her only question when I told her she’d be cleaning a new house was, “How many bathrooms does it have?” She’s been a trooper with all the stairs in both houses.

Betty and I have talked about just about everything two women can talk about over the years. After all, when someone washes and folds your underwear and your husband’s underwear, every subject is pretty much fair game! We’ve prayed for each other and occasionally with each other.

Occasionally, in recent years, she’s actually taken vacation days. Glenn has been so kind as to take his mom and dad to distant places they never dreamed of seeing. New England, Canada, Hawaii. Hard for me to imagine Betty in her housedress and grizzled husband Glenn walking on the beach.

In December, she came walking in just as that big December snowstorm was starting. I had not expected to see her because of the weather, but her son Glenn had brought her in. That afternoon, as the snow piled deeper and higher, her work was finished and she was watching out the front window for Glenn to come.

“Betty, I think I’m going to have to pray you home today,” I said.

“Yes, I was just sitting here praying for Glenn to get here safely,” she said. Just then Glenn called to see if Steve could meet him. And, just as he’d done many times in good weather, Steve took her to meet her ride. He would have braved that blizzard for very few people.

I’m sure if we totaled the number of times our children saw Betty when they were growing up, it would be far more than any of their grandparents. Over the years she became a treasured and trusted friend and family member.

Often my friends would wish they "had a Betty."

We appreciate so much not only the work she did for us, but also her kind and Christian spirit in all she did. She is a part of our family, and we will miss talking to her every week. We wish her well as she moves on to a less busy time of life.

Betty, “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. “ (Numbers 6:24-26)
We will love you forever.

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