A neighbor, Betty, passed away this week. She was elderly, almost ninety, but always engaged in her community. Betty was the oldest member of our Book Club. She was a slow but avid reader, and she’d read the entire book and discuss it in depth. If you hadn’t done your own homework she’d call you out. And believe me she had strong opinions. She didn’t have an electronic reader like most of the younger participants. She had a library card. We always set our reading choices for three months ahead and the minute Betty got the list she’d call the library. Sometimes she’d be the 200th person in line for the book. Whenever I had a print version I’d always share it with her. She was always grateful.
When Susan Elizabeth Phillips came to town, we read her novel, Call Me Irresistible, before going to the event. Betty came with us to the discussion in Rancho Mirage. I’d told her, we in the romance writing world always called Susan, SEP. For months afterward Betty would talk about the night we went to hear SEP speak. : ) That’s me with SEP, showing off her book.
I invited a writing buddy author, Lynne Marshall, to be our guest at Book Club a couple of years ago. We did a holiday event at my home, and then discussed her novel, One For the Road. Lynne is in red, standing behind the couch, and Betty is seated, in red, toasting the event with a glass of wine.
Betty loved Lynne’s book. She later asked me if I had any more. I had a stack of Harlequin Mills & Boon medical romances Lynne had authored. They were the perfect size for Betty, and she loved reading them. I’d worried at first that the sex scenes might not be well received. No such problem. She’d wink and smile and say something like, “She was a fiery little heroine, wasn’t she?” Then she’d laugh loudly in her gravelly voice. I never did get my romances back, but I don’t mind. I just loved the way Betty always referred to her as Lynne, not Lynne Marshall. That’s how it was with Betty. Once she’d met you, you became an instant friend.
I’d pass her house on my morning walk and Betty would pop her head out the door to say hello, often times still in her nightgown. She was a smoker, and every evening she’d sit in her front room watching the news, and the street, and having a cigarette and one cocktail. She said the trick to staying healthy was to stop at one. : ) She still drove her twenty year old car right up until the end of her life, was very independent, always engaged in some activity, Bingo, Bunco, community special events, and holiday parties, and she dressed in a fashionable way yet one that was reflective of her years. I admired that about her. If I get to live that long I hope I remember to model myself after her and live every day to the fullest and never, ever, think I’m too old to join in any group.
Miss you, Betty.