Gero-Punk Update: Betty

In my most recent Gero-Punk dispatch, I wrote about Betty and Jake. Well, I have an update to share.

When Happy and I were on a walk on the last cold, sunny day Portland has seen for quite some time, I followed an impulse and headed down Betty’s cul-de-sac, hoping to spot her car and thus determine which condo she lives in.

I was hoping to find Betty.

As we walk towards the condo complex I notice – again — that there aren’t any cars in front of any of the condos and I fear that this is another thwarted mission to try to locate Betty. Then I suddenly realize that each condo has a garage and I figure that most likely the residents park their cars inside their garages, which means that I may never find Betty unless I happen to spot her driving down the street and I chase after her car.

But I am undaunted.

I decide to use my intuitive powers to suss energetically which of the four condos Betty lives in. As I approach the first one on my left, I think it might be the right one because of the care with which the occupant has created a welcoming display of plants and objects by the front door. But as I draw closer I see that the name on the door is an unfamiliar male name. I remember that Betty live alone, so I cross the first condo off my list.

Then I stand in the middle of the cul-de-sac and take a look at each of the other three condos, wishing that I might discover which of the three contains Betty. Happy-the-dog is incredibly patient during this process, by the way. I have a spooky feeling about the next condo on the left, that it is Betty’s, but in case I am wrong again I resolve that I will knock on every door and inquire after Betty until I find her.

So we approach the second condo on the left. I feel jangly, brave and shy. I have never been one to just show up at someone’s house.   I don’t just show up at my mom’s place, nor Erica’s, nor Simeon’s, not without asking permission and making arrangements first. And I’m always a bit disconcerted when someone – even someone I am close to and would enjoy seeing – shows up on my front stoop unexpectedly.

I knock on the door, Happy standing next to me. Nothing. I wait 15 seconds or so and then knock again. I hear rustling from within. The door opens and there is Betty!

Upon seeing each other we simultaneously shriek like girls. And then I exclaim, “We found you!” Betty opens the screen door and we hug. And by “we,” I mean the three of us: Betty, Happy-the-dog, and me.

There is a young man who resembles Betty who appears from behind her. He takes a look at me as if to make sure everything is alright and then he disappears. (I find out later this apparition is Betty’s grandson, who is living with her for a few months. Long story!)

Betty says to me, “Let’s go for a walk!” She grabs her shoes and jacket and, saying nothing to her grandson, joins Happy and me for a walk in the park on this cold, clear Friday morning.

We amble for quite a while, catching up and talking about the books we are reading and what we did over the winter holidays; our daughters, all of whom are living adventurous lives; and the hooded mergansers dabbling on the stream. We also talk about Jake and how much Betty misses him; she says she is happy to have some time with Happy, a dog friend who lessens her grief, but only a bit.

We are like two reunited lifelong friends, not park acquaintances with a thirty year age difference. We exchange numbers at the end of the walk, promising to text and get together again soon.

As Happy and I walk back to our house, I find myself wondering about other old park friends whom I haven’t seen for quite some time.

There’s Dave, about whom I have written before. Stunning in his 70’s throw-back track suit, stiff and bent over from the waist — such an awkward upper body — but fleet and sure from the waist down. Whenever we’d pass each other in the park, Dave walking and me running, he’d say, “Looking good!” And I’d say, “Hi, Dave,” to which he’d respond, “How do you know my name?”

And the wizened, toothless Asian man who preferred to do Tai Chi under one particular tree by the casting pond. When we spotted each other I’d wave and smile and he’d yell “Goo Mornin!”

I don’t have any notion about where the two gentlemen might live so I don’t have any means of pursuing them like I pursued Betty. But I’ll keep keeping my eyes open for them.

About Jenny Sasser, Ph.D.

I am a freelance educational gerontologist, writer, community activist and facilitator. I am former Chair of the Department of Human Sciences and Director of Gerontology at Marylhurst University. I joined the faculty as an adjunct member of the Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies program in 1997 and since that time, I've been involved in designing many on-campus and web-based courses and programs for adult learners, including in Gerontology. As an undergraduate I attended Willamette University, graduating Cum Laude in Psychology and Music; my interdisciplinary graduate studies at University of Oregon and Oregon State University focused on the Human Sciences, with specialization areas in adult development and aging, women’s studies, and critical social theory and alternative research methodologies. My dissertation became part of a book published in 1996 and co-authored with Dr. Janet Lee--Blood Stories: Menarche and the Politics of the Female Body in Contemporary US Society. Over the past twenty (or more!) years I have been involved in inquiry in the areas of creativity in later life; older women's embodiment; sexuality and aging; critical Gerontological theory; transformational adult learning practices; and inter-generational friendships and cross-generational collaborative inquiry. I am co-author, with Dr. Harry R. Moody of Aging: Concepts and Controversies (now in its 10th edition!) and first author, also with Moody, of the recently published Gerontology: The Basics, as well as author/co-author of several book chapters, articles and essays. I am on the Portland Community College Gerontology Program faculty.
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2 Responses to Gero-Punk Update: Betty

  1. jlaw56 says:

    I love that you found Betty! While it’s difficult to lose a loved one, it is heartwarming when people (like YOU!) remember the importance of connections!

  2. Helen Fern says:

    A beautiful friendship is about to bloom!! And it’s nice to know I’m not the only one that doesn’t really appreciate unexpected guests!! Nor am I usually an unexpected guest – But this time, you needed to be!! Yeah Jenny and Betty!!

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