Mondays with Betty: Lessons Learned from A 94-Year-Old Perspective

The world according to my great-aunt.




I’m OK with Monday. It’s a great time to avoid the crowds and get things done. About a year ago, when my great-aunt, Betty, moved in with my aunt and uncle, they asked me to look after her on that most dreaded of days.

At 94, Betty is mobile. She takes long walks throughout the day, and her overall physical health is sound. Until last year, her mind was sound, too. But Betty still knows who and where she is, who I am, who her family is—even if everything else is held together by a loose string.

This past April, Betty’s sister, Ida, passed away at 98. Their relationship was the epitome of sibling love. On her fifth birthday, Ida couldn’t get out of bed. She was diagnosed with polio, and the doctor had doubts that Ida would live to see her 10th birthday. He was wrong.

A dutiful younger sister, Betty assisted Ida in every way possible throughout her life—and that included helping her run her beauty salon. A waifish redhead, Betty even turned down a marriage proposal so she could care for her sister.

On our inaugural Monday together, I asked Betty what she wanted to do. “I don’t know,” she answered, blowing her nose for the first of at least a 50 times—a tic she’s developed.

When I was young, I’d join my mom for outings with Betty and Ida. (Betty would slip me $5 bills in the backseat.) So I started suggesting the places we used to go. “Wherever you want,” she said with a sweet smile.

We headed to my favorite breakfast place. “The coffee is weak,” said Betty, pursing her lips and pushing away the mug. “I forgot my reading glasses. Can you read me the menu?”

In doing so, I mentioned only the stuff I thought she’d like. She picked the last item, making me wonder if she was listening at all. Her meal arrived, and she stabbed at the thick slices of French toast, staring at the ramekin of butter.

“What the heck is this?” she posed.

“It’s cinnamon-infused butter,” I said.

“Ridiculous, if you ask me,” she shot back, removing it from her plate.

Later, we roamed the King of Prussia Mall. “These are all rags. I wouldn’t wear them if they gave them to me,” she said.

“OK, Aunt Bet,” I said. “Where do you like shopping?”

“John Wanamaker’s, Strawbridge’s, Peck & Peck—they made the good stuff.”

I asked her if she had any friends she’d like to visit.

“They’re all dead.”

“There’s a senior group that meets at the library we could …”

“Nooo.”

Our day over, we said our good-byes.

“When will I see you again?” she asked.

“Monday.”

“Monday. That’s the day I see you,” she said, nodding.

Beyond today and tomorrow, most everything else is unknown for Aunt Betty—or as odd as that ramekin of cinnamon-infused butter.

Katie Bambi Kohler is a dog-loving humor writer living in King of Prussia. Visit her blog at cheesesteakprincess.blogspot.com and follow @chzstkprincess on Twitter.

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