Everyone called her Betty Boop. Her real name was Betty Ethridge and I met her almost 10 years ago in Yuma, Arizona. She was our neighbor and friend. She was everybody's friend. Betty was married to Walt and I often made a mental note of how Walt looked at Betty. I always wanted a man to look at me the way Walt looked at Betty. Walt loved Betty more than life itself. Did you ever meet a couple and you couldn't say one name without the other? That was Walt & Betty. I've often told Gene that he's my "Walt" and I sure hope that I'm his "Betty".
Betty was blonde, tall and slender and she always wore yellow. She was a terrible cook and I sometimes thought maybe she did that on purpose, as in "oh, don't let Betty cook". She tried though! I'm not talking out of turn here ... she knew she couldn't cook and she was okay with that. You have to love a woman who is okay with herself. She had other gifts. Betty loved to tell jokes. She had a favorite one that involved Mother Green. I can't tell it here because it's Rated R and the real truth is I don't remember the whole joke, only the punch line. She could remember jokes and only told the funniest of the funny. Betty also could dance. I met her late in life but I'll bet she and Walt tore up the dance floors back in Missouri and Kansas City when they were younger. I recently watched a home video I made of Walt & Betty in Yuma. Walt was playing "Kansas City" on his guitar and Betty was shaking her booty with my dad. "I'm going to Kansas City, Kansas City here I come. They got a crazy way of loving there and I'm gonna get me some."
One summer several years ago, Gene and I traveled across the United States in a pick-up truck and we stopped in Gallatin, Missouri to visit Walt & Betty. It was in August and the weather was sultry. I remember sitting out front and listening to the tree frogs sing at their place. They took us down to the local historic prison and we had lunch in Jamestown, an Amish community. On the morning of our departure, Betty made french toast for us. The fact that I can remember what she cooked should speak for itself. I'll leave it at that. (giggles)
When my mom died, Betty offered to be my surrogate mom. I was honored. She put her arms around me and I knew she loved me as if I were her own.
We got the news of Betty's death in a card hand-written by one of Betty's dear friends who lives in Kansas City. She said she had found my address while going through Betty's "recent mail, Christmas cards, and address book". I can't remember the last time I wrote to Betty but it wasn't soon enough, I know that. I try to write notes to people in my rolodex a time or two every year but sometimes the days and months and years get away from me. Even though we haven't seen Walt & Betty in a long time, we think of them often and sometimes when I look at Gene, I can't help but think of them. Our hearts ache for Walt.