Remembering Betty and Romance Novels…

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.

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17 Responses to Remembering Betty and Romance Novels…

  1. Cathy M says:

    What a lovely remembrance of your friend. She sounds like someone who knew exactly who she was, what made her life worthwhile, and lived her life to the fullest. Truly a splendid model for us all.

  2. Becky says:

    She sounds like a Betty in every sense. I’m sorry to hear about her passing.

  3. Thea says:

    I agree, a perfect Betty, and you wrote about her well. It’s my guess she would be honored and pleased by your words. She shares all of her attributes with my mother-in-law, heading for 94 and still active in the different desert of Apple Valley (the high/low thing. keep forgetting which is which.} MIL belongs to a writing group and has written four memoirs, working on a fifth.

  4. robena grant says:

    Thanks for stopping in, Thea. I just adore the strong, independent, elderly ladies. I bet I’d love your MIL. And more power to her with the writing. That’s wonderful.

  5. Sweet. Sounds like she was a great lady who will be missed.

  6. Julie says:

    I just spoke with one of my pool class participants this evening, this week she lost a neighbor too, very much like your friend. It was a bittersweet exchange we had, this woman had lived a good long life, like your Betty, and will be missed.

    I’m sorry for your loss, but have to also offer my gratitude. You did such a beautiful job of sharing her with us. Honoring those who go before us is so very important. Thank you!

    • robena grant says:

      Yep, Julie. She had had a very full life. Sometimes lonely i think, because she lived alone for the greater part of thirty years after losing her husband. But she stayed active. That I think was the key.

  7. Marge says:

    That was a beautiful tribute to our neighbor. Thanks for honoring her.

  8. I am so saddened to hear this about Betty. Though it may seem like a couple of years, it was only last December that I came to visit your book club. I had a great time, and you ladies know how to throw a party. Betty was impish and adorable, and it goes to show that a few vices in moderation won’t cut a life short. I hope I am as engaged in my community when I’m her age (if I get that far).

    I am honored that she read and enjoyed some of my books.

    hugs and good memories being sent your way,

  9. robena grant says:

    Last year? Gah! This year has been such a busy one. But you are right. : ) Yeah, Betty was a good old gal, that’s for sure. I know she’s somewhere nearby, and smiling that you came by.

  10. Gina Bono says:

    Thank you for sharing this sweet tribute to your friend and neighbor with us. Betty definitely sounds like a great lady, and her love of books and the way she lived life to the fullest is inspiring!

    • robena grant says:

      Thanks, Gina. I know you would have liked Betty. And you’d enjoy our Book Club. We have such an interesting group and I love what they all bring to the table.